Service of Salvaged & Recycled Material in Art & Craft

December 5th, 2013

Categories: Art, Arts & Crafts, Fashion, Recycling


Nancy Kubale's "Traveler II," incorporates recycled barn wood

Nancy Kubale’s “Traveler II,” incorporates recycled barn wood

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. 

“Zen Garden,” part of the Turntable series by Jinsheng Wang

“Zen Garden,” part of the Turntable series by Jinsheng Wang

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.” 

Nancy Kubale's "Friends"

Nancy Kubale’s “Friends”

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. 

Connie Verrusio jewelry

Connie Verrusio jewelry

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.”  

Look At Me Designs gloves of recycled materials

Look At Me Designs gloves of recycled materials

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?

Connie Verrusio Letterpress bracelet

Connie Verrusio Letterpress bracelet

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6 Responses to “Service of Salvaged & Recycled Material in Art & Craft”

  1. Kathleen F Said:

    Love the topic and can contribute to it.

    Sandy Stragnell at Hulett’s Landing creates art from scrap metal. Some are large pieces such as dinosaurs that inhabit his property, while other pieces you can hold in your hand, such as the spider fashioned out of part of a goat harness and old nails.

    When he turned 50, his wife threw a surprise birthday party and asked people to bring scraps of metal. Sandy was thrilled. I did a piece on him and his art when I was editing the gardening magazines. He’s exhibited at LARAC (Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council).

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I should write a post about outdoor sculpture on residential property. Sometimes it works for me, other times it doesn’t.

    I’ll look up Sandy Stragnell–would like to see his work. And his wife sounds as creative as he is in her way–GREAT idea for party gifts!

  3. Benvenuto Mosconi Said:

    Many of the grandest and most charming homes in Rome were constructed over the years from recycled building materials going back thousands of years. Even our modest villa on Via Appia Antica features recycled fragments of Roman marble statuary we found when digging the house’s foundations. They are embedded in the villa’s stuccoed outer walls, and their whiteness makes an interesting contrast to the burnt orange colour of the stucco.

    All art is derivative, and it is especially meaningful when it physically includes references to previous times and customs.

    Bravo young artists!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a charming example of the use of recycled statuary to enhance a villa. Italians seem to always have had the gift of creativity regarding design, style, and art–all things visual.

    I need to think longer than the time I currently have regarding your comment that all art is derivative. Breakthroughs brought about by technology—different pigments early on, computers and video today—have impact that change the face of art. There are also changes in perspective as a result of space travel and global experiences—if only vicarious ones—made possible by mobile phones and satellite connections.

  5. Martha Takayama, Tepper Takayama Galleries Said:

    What a wonderfully lively and timely posting. Your craft selections are handsome and innovative as well as politically and environmentally correct. They can be enjoyed with no apologies for the elements of their composition.

    They are aesthetically in concert with the work of New York-based photographer Miska Draskoczy which our gallery has just chosen to exhibit on line in a mini-exhibition (on our homepage) at at

    Images of urban detritus, the overlooked, the mundane, the abandoned and the cliché along with the abused, scarred landscape make up the subjects of these idiosyncratic compositions in the series “Gowanus Wild.” The artist transforms these elements into compositions intense in their beauty, sometimes even haunting or nostalgic in their appeal.

    This is still another form of recycling, although the physical elements may remain until they are modified, or removed. At present we must always bear in mind the possibilities of utilizing for maximum effect what we think we can or should discard.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a creative and valid interpretation of this subject.

    Draskoczy’s images are haunting and beautiful, even though one would hardly imagine that the scenes you so vividly describe–“urban detritus, the overlooked, the mundane, the abandoned and the cliché along with the abused, scarred landscape”–could be considered so.

    When I read your last sentence I suddenly imagined all those DVDs we have on a bookshelf without the equipment to see them and without the heart to toss them. There must be someone who would like them!

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