Collaborative project sees a creative reuse forest

Photo by Joey Lopez.
Photo by Joey Lopez.

See the Forest for the Trees is a remarkable artistic partnership between Spare Parts, the Southwest School of Art Teen Program (aka Bee Nation), and AP Art Lab. Members of Bee Nation decided they wanted to make a statement with a project for this year’s Contemporary Art Month (CAM). Under the guidance of Spare Part’s Founder and Director Mary Elizabeth Cantú 15 students collectively envisioned a large tree demonstrating the connection of art to the environment. “The theme of the exhibition revolves around the environment, material culture and waste,” explained Cantú. “Because, it’s not waste until we waste it.” Teen Program Coordinator and international installation, performance, and video artist, Julia Barbosa-Landois guarantees, “you will be wowed by this innovative installation made by local teens.”

Cardboard is everywhere. It’s used to package over 85 percent of all products sold in the United States. Seemingly innocuous, cardboard is the single largest component of municipal solid waste around the world.  Cardboard and paper waste make up 41% of the solid waste stream. According to this informative web article one ton of recycled cardboard saves:

  • 390 kWh hours of electricity
  • 46 gallons of oil
  • 6 million Btu’s of energy
  • 9 cubic yards of landfill space

It’s all about imagination and creativity

 Using over 400 square feet of discarded cardboard and reclaimed materials such as reused cardboard, plastic, paper and found objects from their homes and schools, Bee Nation students created this colorful, decorative tree to ‘uncover the aesthetics of detritus and reexamine their relationship with the discarded.’ Celia realized, “Until we did this project I had no idea the amount of trash we make as a society. It kind of freaked me out.” The student artists worked on their project beginning in January. First came the design and then the construction of the trunk and branches. Truly a tree of life there is a cornucopia of multimedia vignettes worth your while to give up close perusal. “Coming from a home of six people, we always have a LOT of toilet paper rolls. I learned that they can make really cool flower designs if you just alter their shape. That goes for all scraps of trash,” explained Alexis.

Someone said this to me the other day and it’s pretty on point – “Art is about transformation.”

See the Forest for the Trees

 

The resulting installation gives used cardboard a new life that honors its forest origins. “We didn’t know how it would look until it all came together during the installation,” said Bee Nation’s Elizabeth. Amanda Poplawsky, offered her AP Art Lab Studio located at 1906 South Flores for the exhibition. “I love working with youth in connection with social issues and activism,” she states. The above picture shows the tree from the front with closer views of some of the amazing details that went into the artistic construction. No wonder this installation won a Contemporary Art Month Cammie–the R. Mutt Award for Novel media turning something that isn’t art into art (see below photo with Cantú and Poplawsky) (March, 2016).

Cammie Award 2016

Cantú added, “Through this project I hope our artists are compelled to continue this type of art making. I hope these students see how their work can inspire and educate the community. Finally, I hope they understand that it doesn’t matter how young or young at heart you are, you have the ability to make positive change in the world.” This Tree of Life represents the hope for a healthier, more sustainable future. Because, there’s no such thing as thrown away!

 

Spare Parts is SA2020 nonprofit partner and this event was “Awesome Certified.”

 

 

Creative Reuse—getting your art & craft on

The concept of creative reuse aka upcycling, remaking or repurposing is not new.  According to Grant Johnson, author of “1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew,” materials reuse has been around since medieval scribes scraped off and reused parchments, and the ancient Greeks melted down older bronze statues to make newer versions. Creative reuse, in its current incarnation, combines artistic expression with ecological responsibility served with a side of thrift.

In the hierarchy of what to do with our stuff, reduce should be the first action—quit buying so much stuff! Reduce means choosing to use or purchase things with care to reduce the amount of waste generated.

reuse pyramid_small

Reuse is different from recycling, where the products are broken down treuse 1o its component parts and re-manufactured into new products. Creative reuse is also different from conventional reuse, where the product is used in its original purpose again.

Recycle means the conversion of a waste to form a new product.

Disposal is the magical ‘disappearance’ of all other trash to the landfill where most of it never, ever really goes away.

 

So have we piqued your interest to learn more about creative reuse? Wondering how to get started? The San Antonio Public Library is always a good resource for ideas and inspiration. Here’s a list of books complied by one of their helpful librarians.

“Modern upcycling: a user-friendly guide to inspiring and repurposed handicrafts for a trendy home”

“Reclaimed textiles: techniques for paper, stitch, plastic and mixed media”

“Vintage reuse 2made modern: transforming timeworn textiles into treasured heirlooms”

“Creative recycling in embroidery”

“The Salvage Sisters’ guide to finding style in the street and inspiration in the attic”

“Trash formations east”Johnson book

Quoted in the first paragraph, Grant Johnson’s book is full of marvelous art work pictures with corresponding materials list.

Several other hands-on avenues are also available. Leading the charge in San Antonio for creative reuse is spare parts founded by Mary Elizabeth Cantu in 2010. spare parts offers cultural and environmental sustainability, affordability and accessibility to the arts through education. A large variety of workshops and projects at schools and community wide-events are held throughout the year. Attending an event or volunteering with the organization can impart insights and instructions.creative reuse art table

In addition there are many “maker” organizations and events popping up around town. The ‘maker culture’ invites people of all ages to be creative in a plethora of venues including—technology, DIY projects, artistic expression. Many of these projects are creative reuse. “Make San Antonio a creative hub for makers of all ages” is a good example.

Argentinian artist Elisa Insua calls her creative reuse art “immortalizing meaningless trash into works of art.” We agree.Elisa_Insua_-_WS_-_Herospace

10 Ways to Reuse Clothes

I always say that my favorite craft store is the thrift store, and my favorite supply is clothing. You won’t find such colorful material to work with at a better–or greener–price. Here are 10 ways to reuse old clothes.
thrifted-sweater-blanket1. Patchwork Sweater Blanket

Turn a collection of patterned sweaters into a cozy throw.

theredthread_NeonCoilBowls_main22. Neon Fabric Coil Bowl

Use t-shirt yarn to make your own storage.

tshirt-yarn-weaving3. T-Shirt Yarn Weaving

Or hanging wall art.

recycled-jeans-planter4. Recycled Jeans Planter

Use a pair of old jeans to make these clever planters.

workoutbag2125. T-Shirt Workout Bag

Turn a t-shirt into the perfect carry-all.

rag-rug-title6. Braided T-Shirt Rug

Or use a pile of shirts to make a rug.

make-a-camera-strap-from-a-scarf-intro7. Scarf Camera Strap

Snap photos in style with a one-of-kind camera strap.

cardigan-lampshade8. Cardigan Lampshade

Update an old lamp with a simple cardigan.

plaid-backpack9. Restyled Plaid Backpack

Turn a men’s plaid shirt into a backpack.

slasher-scarf10. Slasher Scarf

Make a fringed scarf from an old shirt.

I hope you’re inspired to reuse those old clothes and will think twice before tossing them out. For more creative reuse ideas visit me at MakerMama.com.