2015 has turned into “the year that Ruby became a sewing machine hoarder collector.” It all started when Wanda Wastenot wanted to sew something using my boring old JC Penney sewing machine (a cheap portable machine that someone gave me over 30 years ago — I used it to make quilts and stuff when I was a fiber arts student at the UW, but it was never an inspiring sewing machine) and we discovered that the machine wasn’t working. So then our friend Carl S showed me how to get some of the dust out and give it some oil, which it desperately needed, since it had been sitting, unused and neglected, for quite some time. Getting that machine to run again made me think about sewing again, which I haven’t really done in quite awhile. I decided I needed some inspiration, and thought a treadle sewing machine just might do the trick, so I mentioned to Lulu Let-It-Go that I wanted one. Well, it just so happened that someone had just told Lulu that she had an unwanted treadle sewing machine that she wanted to give away to a deserving artist. Next thing you know, I was the proud owner of a White Rotary treadle sewing machine that needed some work, including a new belt, to get it running, which is how I met Molly of In Fine Time, who repairs and resells old sewing machines. She got the treadle going, but I have to confess, I still have not sewn anything on it yet … meanwhile, I started reading about vintage sewing machines and fell in love with the idea of something so old being so solid and well made and useful, and the next thing I know, I have acquired a Singer 66 that was made in 1913 and a Singer 221 Featherweight that was made in 1950, plus a 1960’s Singer Fashion Mate 237 M-A that I thought might come in handy, and, more recently, an older Brother sewing machine that seemed like a good idea. So many sewing machines — what to sew?! Hopefully 2016 will be the year of sewing projects!
There are two excellent group exhibits here in the Pacific Northwest that showcase art from recycled materials, and both are ending soon:
Saving the Environment: Sustainable Art exhibit at the Schack Art Center in Everett (April 23 – May 30, 2015) is an ambitious group show that spans a wide range of ways that artists work with recycled materials.
So as this is an end-of-the-year post, we thought we would reflect on this past year while looking forward to the next. For me, Ruby Re-Usable, the thing that stands out the most is Trash Fashion. I am eagerly anticipating the Schack Art Center‘s Saving the Environment: Sustainable Art exhibit, which will be up April 23 – May 30; their Trash Fashion Show date is still TBA. Back in November, I had the honor of being the main presenter for the Schack Art Center’s teachers’ workshop, where I spoke about artists in Washington State who specialize in recycled materials. I also taught hands-on workshops on recycled art dolls and Trash Fashion; the latter was particularly successful in generating inspiration for everyone, including moi (one of the reasons I enjoy teaching is that I get some great ideas on how to reuse materials from my students, both young and old alike).
Here are some Trash Fashion links to check out for future reference: Trashion Fashion Show promotes environmental awareness through art in Harford, Ct, Washington, DC, and New York City. Trash-Fashions promotes recycling and reusing through art, design, performance, installation and education.Port Townsend Wearable Art is a yearly wearable art fundraiser and competition happening since 2011 in Port Townsend, WA. Inspired by the success of the Upcycle Style show, Tinkertopia presented an Upcycled Trash Fashion Show in the Old Post Office in Tacoma, WA. Haute Trash creates fashion out of trash for entertainment, education, and empowerment. Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway uses trash fashion to stimulate conversation, action, and education about sustainable living.
The only Trash Fashion show I participated in this past year was Upcycle Style, the show I co-organized with Ms Darcy Anderson back in September; it was a fabulous show and quite the learning experience for us both. Not only did I get to work with some talented designers and models while creating some new trashtastic ensembles, but I had some epiphanies as well (are you allowed to have more than one epiphany at a time?). I realized that there is a lot more that goes into producing a Trash Fashion show than I previously thought (notes to self: need a stage manager along with the usual crew, dedicate more time to working with models on their routines, and renewed respect to Rayona Visqueen of Haute Trash), AND I rediscovered a passion for making jewelry from recycled materials.
The jewelry happened because I needed to accessorize Princess Trashie’s plastic six-pack rings dress. In my design process, I prefer to use a minimal variety of stuff, keeping the materials related to the overall theme of the outfit. In this case, I needed a pop of color to offset all the icy silver mylar and pale white six-pack rings. Since I already had a little silver soda tab bag for Trashie to carry (a gift from a friend, we don’t know who made it), and since soda tabs were part of the cans that were previously in the six-pack rings, soda tabs were the perfect material to continue the motif. It helped that I had a collection of tabs from my sons: electric blue ones from the Blue Sky soda they drink, and silver ones from various sources, including their 5th grade teacher, who gave me his lifetime collection when he retired (why he was collecting them and where he got so many is a different story for a different time). A trip to the crafts store for jump rings and voila! A necklace, earrings, and a bracelet were created, and an Etsy shop was reborn.
I liked the jewelry that I made for Trashie so much, I made a set for myself, only I varied the design slightly. Soon I went searching for more tabs of different colors, discovering along the way that not only do they vary in color, but soda tabs also come in different shapes and sizes. I had purchased my first piece of soda tab jewelry from Maddie the Mad Rad Recycler, who was a middle schooler at the time. She is now in high school and no longer in the soda tab jewelry biz, so she gave me her collection of mostly energy drink tabs (along with some beer tabs from an uncle who worked in a bar). Did I mention that I have two cats who eat two cans of cat food a day? The pull tabs from those cans soon became incorporated into necklaces as well. My friends have rallied to save me their drink tabs, but I am always on the look out for more. You can see (and buy) my soda tab jewelry on RubyReUsable.etsy.com
Since 1997, Michelle Reader has been working to make recycled materials into sculptures, often incorporating mechanical elements such as the working parts of toys and clocks. Her materials come from city dumps, roadsides, and thrift shops, and include both household and industrial waste. “I love the unpredictability of found materials and enjoy the inventiveness necessary to transform them into a sculpture,“ she says. “I try wherever possible to use materials that are reclaimed, things with a history that have been discarded and might otherwise end up in landfill.“
Perhaps her most famous work is this family portrait, known as “Seven Wasted Men,“ that was made from one month of household waste from the family. “The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste each of us produces, but also tells the story of each individual through the things they discard“”a child“™s drawings, a shopping list, a birthday card,“ she says. via Jill Harness/mental_floss
Last Friday, Olympia Dumpster Divers attended the Percival Landing sculpture exhibit kick off party here in Olympia, WA. It was a lovely little reception at the Harbor House, where chips and dips and non-alcoholic beverages were served and ballots passed out for the People’s Choice 2014 Percival Plinth Project.
Several of the thirteen pieces on display are made from recycled materials: Bil Fleming‘s “Basin of Quenched Fire” is a reclaimed sea buoy mounted on a tractor cog; in one of its previous reincarnations, it also served as a backyard fire pan. Don Freas made “OPENING (Ring Dance #9)” out of a scrap length of heavy channel iron, some three inch and six inch pipe, a salvaged sprinkler pipe, and a cast-iron table base. John Vanek used repurposed metal for “Dignity in Labor.”
But our vote for best sculpture (made out of recycled materials, of course) is Steve Jensen‘s “Viking Bot.” We admire the elegant simplicity of repurposing railroad spikes (found by our mutual friend/fellow upcycle artist Russ Morgan while walking the tracks) into a vessel full of symbolism. Steve, a Seattle native, comes from a long line of Norwegian fishermen and boat builders. The image of the boat is meant to symbolize a voyage to the other side, or the journey into the unknown:
My best friend Sylvain did a drawing of a boat. When he gave it to me, he asked if I would make a carved boat for his ashes when he passed. He died a month later and I carved a boat as close to Sylvain“™s drawing as possible. My mother came to Sylvain“™s funeral and was so moved by the boat I had made for Sylvain that she wanted my father“™s remains placed in a similar vessel when he passed. Since he was a Norwegian fisherman and boat builder, we buried the boat at sea, like a Viking funeral. Two years later when she passed, I created a boat for her and buried it at sea with my father. The day before John, my partner of twenty years, passed, he asked me to make a boat for his ashes. His wish was to be buried at sea with my parents. In the course of eight years I had tragically lost and buried everyone close to me.
Since that time I have created funeral boats for friends, family and pets. Art school never prepared me to work with human or animal ashes, but I feel honored to be asked and to have this opportunity. When I work with them, I feel transformed to another time or another place, an artist who has been asked to be both craftsman and mortician.
I began the Voyager Series to help me deal with my own grief and loss, and with hope to provide relief for others dealing with their own sorrow. I made this work as personal as possible because death is such a sensitive subject for many people. I felt that by exposing myself and my family, the viewers of this work might feel more at ease. Hopefully, for those who may be dealing with their own personal grief and loss, perhaps solace and insight can be found in this series.
I created the boats in this series approximately the same size as the actual boats used for burial. Carved in wood, painted, or sculpted, this work is a direct result of these experiences. Death is the one final thing we all have in common. The universal image of a boat in many cultures and civilizations symbolizes a voyage, perhaps the voyage to the “other side“, or the journey into the unknown.
We went up to Seattle the other week with our friend and idol, the Queen of the recycled art scene, Marita Dingus, to see her latest exhibit at the Northwest African American Museum. The exhibition, entitled Marita Dingus: At Home, includes the baskets, quilts, and dolls made from a myriad of recycled materials that were once formerly shown at Francine Seders Gallery, with photos by Spike Mafford of how these objects look in Marita’s home studio, where they are casually combined with her doll collection, outside in her goat pen, or being utilized to hold art supplies. The show is up until May 26, 2014. More Marita Dingus HEREand HERE and HERE, more pics of this show HERE
Well, the weather for the Spring Olympia Arts Walk weekend was cold and damp mixed with rain and a little hail and then some rainbows, the usual Northwest fickle spring … not very conducive for wandering around admiring art. However, since we did promise to follow up on our Earth Day Arts Walk preview, Ruby pulled on some rubber boots and managed to leave Cast Off Art Lab long enough to take a few pictures of art from recycled materials on display:
We were delighted to see this installation in person and to meet Carrie and Jennifer. Carrie even purchased one of Ruby’s repurposed pink plastic bag flower fascinators! The installation will be up at the Washington Center for awhile (not sure how long).
Next we went to Capitol Florist, where proprietor Cynthia Salazar collaborated with Joe Batt to create large nests made from natural materials and found trash:
There were also artists and craftspeople set up on the streets. We ran into Jeanne McCarthy, who makes funky jewelry from thrift store finds, and a couple who makes birdhouses out of salvaged barn boards. At Matter Gallery, the entire place is always filled with art from green/sustainable/recycled materials; we especially admired this canine visitor wearing doggie trash fashion:
Ruby did not take to the streets with her shopping cart full of colorful heads wearing colorful repurposed plastic bag flower fascinators; instead, she hung out at the Capitol Theater Building studios with Three Bad Seeds, Steven Suski, and Arrington de Dionyso. See more pics HERE
ps it was too rainy for Ruby to take any pics of the parade: view it on YouTube
Happy Oly Arts Walk! Olympia Arts Walk brings out the creativity in our citizens, and every year more folks are working with trash/recycled materials to make amazing art. Here is a preview:
Thurston County solid waste educator Carrie Ziegler and environmental health educator Jennifer Johnson worked with more than 700 students to create “Rise Above Plastics: The Butterfly Effect,” an installation made from reused juice pouches, which is on display in the lobby of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. (#81 on the Arts Walk map) More info HERE
Jennifer Kuhns will once again have her mosaics made from salvaged stain glass and other materials in the window of Hot Toddy (#95 on Arts Walk map).
The Olympia Timberland Regional Library has Peeps Art Dioramas, Lincoln Elementary School youth art, and recycled materials sculptures made by youths with Tinkertopia (#70 on Arts Walk map).
Ruby’s studio mate, Amanda Weiss of Three Bad Seeds, transforms old wool sweaters and blankets into not-quite-toys-but-not-quite-traditional pillows (#107 on Arts Walk map).
Matter Gallery always has art from green/sustainable/recycled materials on display (#109 on the Arts Walk map), plus daily comic strips by Chelsea Baker (who utilized cardboard packaging to mount her strips)
And of course, Ruby Re-Usable will also be around for Arts Walk, either at the studio (416 Washington St SE, which is #107 on the Arts Walk map) or, weather permitting, wandering the streets with her shopping cart full of fabulous repurposed plastic bag flower fascinators for sale.
We here at Olympia Dumpster Divers love to receive mail*, especially packages via the USPS (FedEx and UPS do not deliver to us). So we were thrilled when we received a special package from our new friend in trash, Sarah Nicole Phillips:
These are her Curbside Object Status Tags, which is a tag that folks can put on the objects they leave out for trash pickers (here in Olympia, we specifically call it a “free pile,” which is usually not next to a trash can but can be mistaken for a random trash heap by passersby), to help people make an informed decision about the quality of the object. Sarah says “I love trash picking but am dubious when I come across an object that may or may not work. Do I drag that object home only to find it is broken?”
Note that Sarah suggests that you fill out the tag in pencil so that it can be used again! Thank you, Sarah, for thinking of us; we look forward to using these tags once it stops raining so much (soggy free piles are sad, and yes, here in the Pacific Northwest it really does rain a lot).
Tell us your trash stories/send us pics of you using your tags (we KNOW ODD readers are going to want them) and we will post them: email@example.com
*send Olympia Dumpster Divers mail via USPS: Ruby Re-Usable 416 Washington St SE #201 Olympia, WA 98501