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Upcycling… half the fun is finding the rusty gold!

One of my art forms is “Upcycling”. Believe it or not, there is a difference between recycling and upcycling. Recycling takes consumer materials — mostly plastic, paper, metal and glass — and breaks them down so their base materials that can be remade into a new consumer product, often of lesser quality. Upcycling, on the other hand, is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful, and gives an item a better purpose. I like to call these discarded materials Rusty Gold.

For me, half the fun is finding the rusty gold. The city’s recycling dumpsters are a treasure trove of materials for my upcycling. Oh yes, dumpster diving is lots of fun, although I must clarify, I never go inside the dumpsters; that’s what handy garden rakes and long grabbers are for.

Swap meets, garage sales, thrift shops, as well as, flea markets are also a great way to get my materials. You know that old saying “one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure” — well, that is so true! Friends also are a great resource. They do their part by saving me bottle caps, bottles, jar lids, and corks just to name a few. Some friends will make quick stops along the side of the road to pick up discarded stuff for me to use. Sometimes I arrive home and find at my door a box full of cool bottles, or a box of old tins and broken tools. To me, its like Christmas!

The most fun is thinking outside the box! Recently, I went to the Santa Fe Flea Market with one of my dear friends, and she was amazed how I could see object differently. I picked up the reflector of an old utility light and she said, “but the electrical component is missing” I said “it’s a skirt for one of my characters”. She told me I had a fascinating way of looking at things. But the ultimate fun is the kick I get out of that “aha” look that people have when they figure out the objects that I’ve used in a piece, or the smiles I get when they see my whimsical characters.

So remember, Rusty Gold is all around us, and ready to be transformed into something whimsical!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Your blog is so interesting. When you are making your upcycled “caritas” or tin body characters for instance, do you consciously have a person or theme in mind when you assemble them…or do you name them afterward?
    I saw them at the NM Arts & Crafts Fair – very nice.

    1. Hi Kara,
      Good question! Actually, all of the above! Sometimes, the tin itself gives me the clue on what to make, for instance, I had an old baking powder tin which immediately gave me the idea to create a baker. Other tins, I don’t have a clue until they are almost done or completed. An example of these is big tin of Hungarian paprika which it wasn’t until I was done with it that I came up with calling him Tobán, a Retired Hungarian singer.

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