Art and Inspiration Highlight Tools and Materials

WASTE, A Plentiful Art Supply; & Some of the Artists Who Use It

My First Bike by Bill Adkins

Here at The Reform School, we love to visit art supply stores. Oh, the delicious temptation of papers and inks, tools and brushes, cutters, brayers, threads, fabrics, paints – it’s an endless list.

There’s another endless list, of the stuff that goes out of many houses every week to become trash – to make its relentless way into air, soil, water, and the food chain of every organism. I am always interested in ways to divert that flow, and also interested in artists who find creative uses for unwanted materials either before they become trash, or afterward.

Let’s give ourselves a visual treat and a burst of inspiration by watching some of those artists on YouTube…

Tyrell Winston making mosaic using cigarette butts he collects from the street

Tyrell Winston makes art from such unlikely stuff as used-up sports equipment and even cigarette butts he sweeps up from the streets. The cigarette butt idea appealed to me, because I deeply hate seeing those on my street, but I despair at the thought of trying to clean them up – there are millions!) Seeing this piece by Winston, thinking of the smell, and how unpleasant it would be to handle those butts… I have no desire to imitate him. And yet I admire the idea.

enlargement of fragment of Deniz Sağdıç mosaic

Deniz Sağdıç works in multiple media. One of her goals is to change society, to make it possible for people to see potential usefulness in what they now see as trash. For an exhibit at Havalimani Airport in 2022, she created large portraits that viewers mistook for paintings, until closer inspection showed they were actually assemblages made of rubbish – bottle caps, or computer parts, or cables, or plastic bags. In 2023 she founded Sustainable Art House in Istanbul, which is a completely self-sustaining and waste-free gallery/studio/community space.

Unique knitted piece by Maro Kuratani

Maro Kuratani was educated as a fashion designer. When she saw the amount of waste generated by making her designs, she felt she couldn’t continue in the field. She feels she has a responsibility to make beauty from what is useless. She left her job and began to use the un-wanted yarns to make unique wearable art. She also teaches others to value, find, and use these materials.

Sculpture by Washed Ashore artists, made from trash salvaged on the beach

Angela Hazeltine Pozzi walked on the beach in Oregon when she was grieving the loss of her husband. Finding trash where she needed to see beauty inspired her to action. From that inspiration came the non-profit Washed Ashore. It’s a gallery / education center / art studio with a wide outreach, showing these remarkable sculptures and informing people about plastic waste in the ocean.

“Junk art” sculpture by J. W. ‘Bill’ Adkins

J. W. ‘Bill’ Adkins began making what he insists must be called ‘junk art’ when he retired from work in construction. With retirement, he had time, skills, a shop, tools, and a lot of left-over, waste materials from former jobs. He began to play around with these, and the results are whimsical, colorful, and lively works of art. His Santa Barbara studio, The Loft, houses many of his works, which he says always have something wrong with them – that’s what he likes, because if he didn’t like imperfection, he wouldn’t like himself.

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