Art – with Trash – Making Treasure

I’ve always been a magpie, collecting ‘stuff’ that might come in useful one day.  Everything from bits of ribbon, fabric scraps, broken china (handy for a still life painting), wrapping paper, news papers, bubble wrap, cardboard…….I can’t walk past billboard posters without trying to pick a little bit off.

This habit used to drive my husband bonkers.  Every overseas holiday we ever had would result in an extra bag required at the end of the trip just for my new collection of crap.  Foreign newspapers (always great in a collage) doilies, cafe napkins, interesting pebbles if we were near a beach… all ended up coming home with us. 

I think most artists are the same as we are versatile and creative creatures always devising ways to use whatever we have to hand in the most interesting way possible.

My compulsion for collecting has even affected my choices of goods when supermarket shopping.  I’m not looking at the products so much, but more what they are wrapped in.  

I’ve discovered that the bakery isle contains a wealth of wonderful mark making tools!  Most of the tray-bakes, millionaires shortbread and Jammy Dodgers are housed in plastic trays that have very interesting dimpled bases, and fresh cream cakes are often packed in extremely tactile containers.  When used as a ‘stamp’ to apply paint, wonderful patterns are created.  Stamps made from the plastic trays holding meat cuts have often found their way into my landscape paintings and create a lovely, textural ’just ploughed’ effect.

During the summer it was an arty friend’s birthday, so I presented her with some of my favourite stamping materials.  

What is ‘stamping material’ I hear you cry!  Well, I use various textured surfaces made from general waste to add interest to my paintings.  

So, I made up a little bag containing pieces of various said waste materials, old polystyrene/plastic meat trays (she’s a veggie so very well washed of course), plastic fruit netting, and biscuit tray bases.  My friend was overjoyed to receive my special gift of what most would have just seen as rubbish. 

Like me she could see the potential of using another medium as a tool to create wonderful marks.

Recently, I met up with another friend for a coffee.  In the midst of catching up she suddenly became very excited as she’d remembered that she had a present for my new studio.  

Even the waitress was hovering in the background, caught up in the anticipation of the special gift and two very excited customers at her table.    My friend produced from her pocket a piece of waste plastic,  (a non-slip drawer liner from Ikea).  It has an unusual texture and I was visibly delighted.  Sadly the waitress slunk off, very disappointed and probably thinking that she had the privilege of serving two extremely odd women in her cafe that day.   She missed the sheer joy on my face when I saw and felt the perfect little ridges on the plastic.  

I was already imagining the marks it would make, and had been after something with narrow stripes for ages, but hadn’t yet discovered the perfect meat tray.

So, as well as the obvious recycling material usage message, some of these things can be instrumental to a great piece of art and a ray of sunshine to bring a smile on a darker day maybe.

Oh happy days!