Upcycled Art Is The Next Green Thing
From potters to painters,from fine art to cottage crafts, upcycled art is the newest trend-- taking the notion of simplicity and conservation to new and greener pastures.
Upcycling, for those not familiar with the term, means taking discarded items which would normally end up in a land fill and finding a new use for them. It is distinct from recycling. I'm not talking here about plastic bottles that get melted down and turned into park benches or newspaper that gets boiled back down into pulp and turned into environmentally friendly paper toweling. That is recycling. Upcycling does not involve changing the original items into a new form. It means giving them a new lease onn life by upgrading them to another purpose entirely than that for which they were created.
Artists and craftspeople have been doing just this for years, of course. We've all seen the dress made out of beer can pull rings and hand bags fashioned from old license plates, but this is a little different. These green, upcycling artists and craftspeople seem to be aiming more at good usable design and real beauty rather than notoriety and shock value. Hare are some that stand out.
Barbie Jewelry by Margaux Lange
Brooklyn based Margaux Lange is one of my favorites and a case in point. She's taken Barbie to a whole new level and given new life to old dolly body parts in the process. Her wonderful jewelry( see pictures above) is fashioned entirely from old Barbie dolls-- well Ken and Midge too-- but you get the idea . Check out her website for more information. The jewelry has a sardonic as well as a nostalgic quality which some find a bit disturbing, but it is elegantly designed and beautifully made and I'll tell you one thing-- your Margaux Lange brooch or bracelet will definitely get noticed.
A New Kind of Bicycle Seat
Andy Gregg, founder of Bicycle Design Furniture has been creating contemporary seating from recycled steel and aluminum bicycle rims, handlebars, and frames.since 1990. End tables, coffee tables, coat racks and most of all chairs of all kinds are part of his collection of green furniture.As you might imagine, his designs are very popular with cycling enthusiasts, but are so cool that they appeal to the rest of us too.
These elegant recycled bike designs are frequently part of museum exhibitions, have been written up extensively ,and are widely sold in shops and galleries internationally. You can also buy them from a variety of sources online. Check everything out on thebikefurniture.com website. You can even get a discount on your order there if you have some old bike parts to donate to Andy. How green is that?
Plastc Bottles Repurposed
Aurora Robeson turns trash into artistic treasures. Her materials are junk mail, litter, and waste including plastic bottles which she turns into amazing sculptures like the one pictured here. Entitled, Spiked Cell, it is from a new series of hanging sculptures that illuminate from within using solar powered LEDs. At night, this piece gives off a subtle glow. It is fashioned from used plastic bottles and rivets.
According to her website, Robeson has diverted 30,000 plastic bottles from the trash stream in the past year alone and turned them into art. Her resume is impressive-- solo and group gallery shows and a clutch of grants and awards-- most recently, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for Sculpture. I'm thinking she deserves it all not just for creating such beauty out of found objects, but also because of those 30,000 plastic bottles that won't end up choking sea birds to death in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch She is a wonderful example of this upcycling movement in art.
Robotic Sculpture from Discarded Electronics Parts
Ann P, Smith makes whimsical little robotic sculptures from broken electronics and machine parts which are sold in shops and galleries and also in her own Etsy store online. Each little robotic creature is unique and they are all just sooooo charming. Her work is growing in popularity. Recently she has received recognition from Wired Magazine (US), PBS Boston, DPI Magazine in Taiwan, Architectural Digest (Germany), GQ Germany, and The Discovery Channel Canada.
A graduate of The Rhode Island School of Design, Ann lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island. You can contact her through her website and, of course you may purchase her work from her online store
Upcycled art has become popular with home crafters too. Small entrepreneurs and home sewers are making a business out of turning beautiful re-usable fabrics, ribbons and laces into decorative items for the home. I've run into a number at local craft fairs and on Etsy and Ebay.
Here's an example: These pussycat pillows are made from felted wool and djuponi silk. The wool and silk are totally recycled, trimmed with ribbons and lace and hand embroidered to bring new life to a discarded wool blazer and a pair of silk curtains-- a fabulous example of upcycling.
If art imitates life then this trend bodes well for the green movement and also seems to be heralding the end of the crazy consumerism that has characterized American society for the past half century. Going green is not just about recycling tin cans and turning down the thermostat. It's a trend in art, jewelry, home décor and indeed a paradigm shift in our thinking. As Martha would say. That's a good thing.