TRASH PANDA: How One Canadian Artist is Turning Cannabis Waste Into A Beautiful New Opportunity

Nearing the end of 2022 we came across a cannabis inspired artist from Eastern Canada that’s putting all that cannabis waste (that we’re used to throwing in the bin) – to good use. A hot topic in legal cannabis has always been focused around packaging inefficiencies, and the artist Spencer Charlton is converting cannabis cases and boxes into beautiful animals with a story and a cause.

Spencer has a history of employment within the legal cannabis ecosystem. Highly educated with herbal wisdom, he uses cannabis to inspire his creative designs as well as in the production phase of turning these dreams into realilty.

We sat down with Spencer to chat and learn about the motivation behind this cool project and get in touch with Spencer at @cratercreater on IG and @crater.crater on TIKTOK.

We came across your artwork shared on Linkedin.  Our goal is to share the cool projects in the cannabis space, the people behind them and give a look into the lives of creatives inspired by cannabis.  What’s your background as an artist and what’s your background in cannabis?

Yes, BIG shout out to Hanna aka lilmisshannabis for that initial LinkedIn share. It’s surreal to get this kind of attention on something that started out as a hobby. As far as my artistic background, it consisted of a lot of exploration of materials and styles. When I was a kid, my introduction to building and creating came about through playing with oven bake polymer clays and toys that required assembly like Lego kits and Gundam models. Through high school, I developed my fundamental fine art skills in drawing and painting through the school curriculum. The most formative years of my artistic journey came in 2010 when I enrolled in the Sculpture and Installation program at OCADU in Toronto. I spent most of my time in the school’s fabrication studios learning how to create with different materials like metal, wood, plaster, rubber, and ceramics. After OCADU I started a few practices out of a workshop I built in the garage. I made and sold woodcut signs, tables and chairs, and guitars. I had to get rid of all of my tools in 2020 when I moved into a condo. Because of my new space and noise restrictions, I returned to drawing and painting, and now papercraft.

My cannabis background began on New Year’s Eve of 2006, the first time I smoked a joint. I don’t remember how it affected me but I do remember it was a positive experience because I was surrounded by friends. I became a daily consumer in 2010, when I was in university. Grey market storefronts were opening up in the city making bud readily available to me. Weed became a very important part of my creative process. My prefered method of consumption has always been smoking a joint but I do enjoy taking bong rips from time to time. I am relatively new to concentrates and have only consumed them through the legal market. 

We read that you’re a Budtender in another interview – How has the budtender life inspired the modern art you’re designing today?

As a Budtender I was in front of the variety of branding styles that exist for cannabis products. I found interest in the uniformity of the products due to the government’s label requirements. I also saw first hand the amount of packaging that would leave the store every day and the litter outside of the shop that I would have to clean each night.

We had a recycling program at the first shop I worked at but the program became obsolete. I collected the packaging with the intention of using it to create art but was unsure about what I wanted to make. It was a couple of years until I came up with the papercraft animals idea during a brainstorming smoke sesh.

It was the Trash Panda that originally caught our eye on so many levels. A topic of discussion in legal cannabis is the excessive packaging and the waste and for an art project that recycles the waste, a Racoon couldn’t be any more symbolic. What was the inspiration behind this piece?

The racoon is the unofficial mascot of my home town of Toronto. I thought it was only right that it would be the first project. During the construction process I realized the importance of the racoon imagery and its relation to trash and waste. The final product ended up being effective in conveying the message that I wanted to express.

How many of these packages were empty because you puff the herb, and how did you get the rest?

I’d say 70% of the packaging used in the Trash Panda project came from products that I consumed. I was saving my packaging as relics of the early years of legalization and for the purpose of tracking what I’ve smoked. The rest of the packaging was sourced through my friends and from digging through recycling bins at dispensaries. 

How much weed do you smoke / art piece on average, and if we took your weed away tomorrow, how would this impact your ability to imagine and create these beautiful pieces?

That’s a good question, never really kept track. For a piece the size and complexity of Trash Panda, I probably smoked at least a half-ounce by way of joints and bowls. The weed helps me zone out and focus when preforming the repetitive steps in the process. I don’t even want to joke about taking my weed away!

But if it happened, not much would change except I’d probably get burnt out faster and pieces would take much longer to complete. When it comes to my art practice, weed has always been a performance enhancing drug.

How many animals are in the pack now, and what’s the name of this collection?

There are 8 animals and counting. The collection is currently untitled but I could use some help coming up with a name.

What is next and how many cute little creatures can we expect to see in the future? 

I’ve got some reptiles an aquatic animals in progress. I want to do a couple of large scale projects in this style once I secure enough labels and funding. I’ll make these creatures as long as I can source the materials. It’s shaping up to be a never ending project. 

Extract wants to adopt the Trash Panda tomorrow. What do we owe you and where do we sign?

The original Trash Panda can be yours for $1200. There could be smaller scale reproductions in the future if there is interest. 

The FLOW STATE. This is when you’ve smoked the perfect amount of weed to maximize creativity and productivity – and it’s rare, but it happens. Do you have a happy spot of being “stoned” that helps boost your creativity to it’s maximum potential?

Definitely! This concept is integral to my fabrication process. I enter my flow state when I’m at around a 7/10. I know I’m at the perfect level when I’m coasting through each step of the process and quickly solving problems as they arise. Then there’s the opposite side of things. When I’m making consecutive errors and getting frustrated, I know it’s time to spark a J and regroup.

Is this defined by any types of weed indica vs sativa, or families of strains, or how do you gauge what’s going to be good for your vibe?

I am lucky that I vibe well with all types of good quality weed. If it’s potent, burns well and tastes good then it’s for me. I’m pretty open minded and always down to try a new cultivar.

Does the weed help you in the inspiration and ideas, the process of putting together the art or the whole damn process from start to finish?

Weed plays a role in the entire process! I like to go on long walks through my neighborhood with headphones on and a tube of joints when I’m brainstorming for ideas. I prefer weed that provides more energetic and cerebral effects for this step. During the actual fabrication process I smoke to clear my head and relax to get into that flow state we talked about. 

Is this the first art project you’ve brought to the Canadian cannabis space and what’s coming next from your inner artist?

Yes it is! I’m going to continue creating art in the Canadian cannabis space because the community has been overwhelmingly supportive from jump. Also, working in this industry has given me a lot of ideas that I am excited to express visually. I still have all of the plastic jars and preroll tubes that I peeled the labels off of. Expect to see them featured in upcoming projects.

Rapid Fire. Here’s where we go hard. [Read in 3x Speed for Best Results]

Wake and bake or 420 sessions, which is the best?

Wake and bake with a coffee.

Eat it or smoke it?

Smoke it because it hits faster.

Staple strains or try something new?

Something new.

THC or terps?

Terps all day.

Legal or legacy?

Currently legal because I’m familiar with the market and it’s more readily available to me but legacy built my lungs and tolerance. 

Rosin or resin?


What are your top 3 brands / products in any cannabis market across Canada right now?

My top 3 go to brands would be Simply Bare and Carmel for dried flower and Persy for my concentrates.

What is 1 thing the government has right with legal weed?

I appreciate the restrictions that are in place to prevent brands from providing deceptive or misleading information about products. 

What is 1 thing the government needs to change about legal weed?

There is too much waste created by cannabis packaging and promotional materials from brands. I would like to see limits put in place on the amount of plastic that is produced by each company.

Where can you get in touch:

Get in touch with Spencer at @cratercreater on IG and @crater.crater on TIKTOK.

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