Here’s a fun fact: I have a handbag filled with junk: a rusty washer found in a parking lot, various store and restaurant flyers, a couple of rocks and a twig from a walk, ticket stubs, clothing tags, and napkins (clean). While these may seem like a hoarder’s collection, trust me, they’re not. They are inspirations for my recycled art.
I love working with recycled and repurposed materials more than almost anything else, and I’ve done it since I started making art. Nothing thrills me more than taking an item and doing a 180 on it, transforming it into something beyond its original purpose. Most people see a cereal box, but I see book covers. A map is a blooming rose, and a tattered quilt piece is the focal point of a stitched collage. Seeing the potential in castoffs is thrilling, and planning and executing the conversion is the ultimate creative satisfaction. That process gets my wheels turning like nothing else.
I know I’m not alone. Judging from the fantastic recycled art I’ve seen and the innovative recycling techniques that artists continue to develop, there are a lot of people stuffing odd bits in their pockets to use in their creations. Our everything-is-disposable world has no doubt motivated artists even more to rescue items from the trash, or visibly mend what’s tattered and torn. In doing so, they’re further pushing the limits of what art is, what can become art, and what can be used to make art.
The artists who are included in our Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors all bring something inventive to the discussion. Roseane Viegas related a compelling story: She didn’t have access to her usual supplies, and had a creative epiphany while drinking from a juice box: the metallized interior might be perfect for making monotypes. The result is beautiful, vivid monoprints that you can make on your kitchen table.
I’ve been following Jennifer Collier’s work for years, absolutely fascinated with how she transforms 2-D paper into 3-D masterpieces, like cameras, typewriters, sewing machines, and shoes. For her article “Found-Paper Dresses” she transformed found papers into lovely frocks, complete with details such as pleats, piping, and button loops (that’s her dress on the cover!). Instead of tossing leftover grout from a DIY home project, Sandra Duran Wilson made it a textural element in an abstract piece. Candy Rosenberg saved discarded books from a landfill by turning the spines into a spectacular modern Victorian corset. This piece involves tons of cool techniques, including papier-mâché, creating a rusty patina, and more.
In Paperology, you’ll find Kristen Robinson’s elegant shrine made out of cardboard that’s all about texture and details. Debbie Blair raided the toy box to create a bold, wearable necklace made with recycled checkers and other unexpected items.
The issue is filled with so much more great inspiration. We profile Dosshaus, a creative duo from Southern California who fashion whole worlds out of recycled cardboard and paint. Seth Apter kept a journal during his artist residency, and we have it! His insights will fascinate you. Katherine DuBose Fuerst’s incredible dimensional paper clay birds will make your jaw drop. Chris Cozen shows how to create a mixed-media painting inspired by the abstract work of Richard Diebenkorn, and we have lots of studio inspiration from Karen O’Brien in Studio Spotlight (so jealous of her workspace!).
Using this issue as inspiration, let’s start a recycled art challenge—use at least one recycled item per week in your artwork. Better yet, make an entire art piece from repurposed materials, along with your favorite go-to supplies. Excuse me while I rifle through my handbag.