Friday, August 19, 2011

Question of the Month--Is Recycling/Repurposing a part of your art?

Our question this month is something near and dear to many of our hearts, so I knew we'd have some passionate responses for this one.

Is Recycling/Repurposing a part of your art?


"Is recycling/repurposing part of your art? " Are you kidding???!!! That's my middle name: Lorraine "Recycling/repurposing-is-always-a-part-of-my-art" Jones.

Yikes. Is it my Yankee upbringing that causes me to be so thrifty (i.e.. cheap)? Is it a fun game to see what I can use again? Is it a challenge to see something in a new light? Whatever the reason, I get the biggest kick out of repurposing things in my mixed media collages. The "free" table filled with everyone's cast-offs is a treasure trove of weird stuff to be used in something! I often don't know why I am attracted to an item, I just go with my gut. And then, lo and behold, a year or two later, that item becomes that certain je ne sais quoi which makes a collage sing. Luckily for me, I have a very small studio with very limited storage space so I cannot collect too much stuff. (I have to admit, I do covet the studios of many of the women in our group- shelf after shelf filled with boxes, jars and bottles of the coolest, wackiest things. Rusty items, doll heads, old toy parts, marbles, ticket stubs, you name it, they have it all!)


I am an avid user of recycled and repurposed materials in much of my work. I do a lot of 3-D pieces, which lend themselves easily to including bits and pieces and scraps of things from past uses. I especially love using found objects -- things I have picked up from the ground or scavanged from the garbage. Even in my paintings, I often use cabinet doors or recycled pieces of wood.


I really love to use reclaimed and found materials in my art, and nothing makes me happier than to create something artful from what others may throw away. My favorite scrappy experience was picking up designer fabric scraps that fell from Carnival costumes in a parade in Paris which I used in pins and stitched pieces. People who witnessed that probably thought me a bit mad, but I still cherish those scraps.


Not being a 3-D artist, I use little trinkets in collages, in my pendants, altered books and cards. I sure collect a lot of stuff though. One day I'd like to try my hand at "Michael DeMenging" something and when I do I've got lots of stuff to play with. In the photo, the little danglies hanging off the pendants are repurposed jewelry.


Most definitely! Few things are more exciting to find than vintage fabric and lace-y pieces. I love to use them for my sewing and stitching projects. Retro prints and linens make great bags, as well as pillows. They are a key component of any fabric collage I would create. There's also a small pile of burlap coffee bean sacks in my work space waiting to be re-purposed.

I'm always on the look out for old chain and small metal bits that can be used to make jewelry; old keys and tags are favorites!


Recycling and repurposing clock and watch parts into my assemblages and found object jewelry allows me to create stories that blend real history, some science and a sense of romance; similar to a historic novel, but in a visual representation. Steampunk has been described as a magical mixture of fun and funky – an altered image of the distant past, filtered through a dream future world that might have been. The term “steampunk” was coined by writer K.W. Jeter in 1987 to describe an emerging science-fiction genre, and has since spread to music, games, the movies and to art. It also has roots in Victorian England, when electricity had not yet been harnessed and steam was a major power source.

My found object jewelry started over 4 years ago as “Heartwings” – recycled pendants that I created from vintage tins. On my treasure hunts for tins, I found myself gathering gears to add to my pieces. The inner workings of clocks and watches have always seemed to have a certain magic attached to them. One day while surfing the internet I came across assemblages created from clock works with the word “Steampunk” attached, and knew I had to add more of the brass clock and watch parts to my creations. My found object jewelry quickly became composed of recycled watch plates, pocket watch gears and vintage watch faces known as “Steampunk Art”!


Yes, recycling is part of my art. I have even gone as far as picking up smashed cans along the side of the road on my walks. I haven't decided what I will do with them but at least I got them:)

My "Barbie Gone Wild" piece is made with all recycled objects.


Repurposing is a part of my art--

It's not so much a choice to recycle but the call of old things. The items I carve tend to be old tool handles, furniture parts etc. I use mainly old wood for the carvings, they seem to vibrate with a past life, it speaks to me. If I listen carefully, it tells me what it wants to become. Knives and chisels cut away to reveal the faces or forms. I strive for cohesive pieces, finding just the right salvage material to combine with my hand carved pieces.


Most of the covers of my books are made from scrap or recycled leather: coats, chaps, upholstery. The pieces often have “defects” in them which I incorporate in the design of the book. And the feel of old leather can’t be beat, soft and smooth. New leather can be so boring!


One of my favorite things to do is scour Goodwill for old interesting bits of fabric that can be used in my art. At first I was looking only for interesting prints that you can't buy in the stores. But once I started dyeing my own fabrics--a whole new world opened up to me. Now I love to find old linens, chenille bedspreads, worn cotton curtains, you name it, they all get transformed in my dye pots. I also continually work with smaller and smaller bits of fabric, building up new fabrics by putting together little scraps and selvedges, which means I hardly throw anything away. To my delight, I have very generous friends who pass on their fabric scraps.


Always. I was raised by Depression babies and most of my beautiful handmade clothes were made from leftover remnants or re-purposed garments. Both of my grandmothers made quilts from fabric scraps. They would be very confused by the "quilt" industry today with all the coordinating fabrics and fancy pattern books.

I keep every scrap of fabric and paper, and many times they become the inspiration for something that I wouldn't have imagined...out of thin air.

I'm always attracted to broken jewelry, stained linens, tattered lace, and worn-out clothing, especially if it has special trim or buttons. There's something very satisfying about giving new life to the remnants and castoffs of yesterday.


I think I have always used recycling in my art, from mud and sticks to macaroni on a string, in our house it was always an acceptable form of art. Today I teach others the value and beauty we can find in cast off items. Some items are free from the street or provided by nature and others are antiques that I try not to spend too much for. Where ever it comes from, I love the challenge of working it into a piece of art that others might enjoy. All you have to do is look down to find a piece of rust or an interesting twig that could be the beginning of your next fabulous art project.

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