December 5th, 2013
Categories: Art, Arts & Crafts, Fashion, Recycling
My client’s American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn, December 14-15, at the landmark Brooklyn Museum Beaux-Arts Court, exemplifies the importance of found or recycled materials in art and craft by some of the country’s most talented, creative artists and artisans.
By chance, so does one of the museum’s current exhibitions: “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.” The artist combines found materials, magazine cutouts, sculpture, and painted imagery in her work. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu’s studio is in Brooklyn now.
Back at the craft show, I’m calling out just four exhibitors of the many I might pick: an artist, sculptor, jeweler and fashion accessories designer. They incorporate salvaged and recycled materials prominently in their creations and are among the 90 artisans and artists who will sell their best the weekend after this one.
Artist/exhibitor Jinsheng Wang writes on his website: “I look at salvaged materials with an open mind. I reformat the sequence or rhythm of things. The old items become new when I take them apart and reassemble them. The purpose and fashion re-energized.” He began working in traditional sculpture, then abstract and today his focus is to transform salvaged materials into art.
Wang, who moved to the US from China 20+ years ago, said hobbies inspire his work. “My art is part of my personal American experience. I became a semi-professional record and music collector and naturally, from my passion, came my Turntable and Bonzai Beebop series. Collecting music also helped me better understand American history and culture. The latter series has a practical use. I restore vintage tube radios making them into amplifiers, adding a speaker so that you can use them to listen to music from an iPod or Walkman.”
Found pieces enhance Nancy Kubale’s ceramic sculptures. On her website she describes the many steps she takes to create her ceramic figures that she fires three to five times, previously handbuilding them in stoneware clay and layering the surfaces with glazes, slips and stains. “Often the work is in pieces after the final firing and is then assembled with wood, metal, fiber and found objects,” she wrote.
On her website Connie Verrusio admitted: “I never throw anything away. I’m a pack rat and a flea market junkie. Where others see outmoded technologies and broken machines, I see jewels just waiting for the right setting.” She described how some 20 years ago she discovered Canal Surplus, a tiny NYC store filled with “bins of mechanical detritus.” She’d leave the store with “a small bag of treasures and filthy hands” which “kicked off a jewelry-making career focused around the beauty of utilitarian objects.”
For her 10-year-old fashion accessories business, Look At Me Designs, Melanie Cohen-Peddle has had one mission: “To create eco-friendly, fashion forward, one of a kind, wearable pieces of art. Every item is handmade from, or embellished with, recycled materials.” This year’s introductions focus on boot accessories from cuffs and cozies to toppers and she also designs hats, tunics, capes, T-shirts and skirts.
These artists are truly inspired by found and recycled materials but aren’t they also making an important statement about the tremendous waste we generate today? Can you share examples of others who identify beauty in salvaged materials? Have you decorated with or worn items incorporating found or recycled materials?