Alison Wonderland Jewelry · In the Studio · Inspiration · On Creativity - Art, Jewelry, Writing

Extremely Beautiful Upcycling – Scraps at the Cooper Hewitt Museum

“Zero waste” is a phrase that improbably makes my heart go pitter-patter. But as soon as I saw that phrase describing the theory behind Scraps, a new exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt, I knew I wanted to go and I knew I would get a lot out of it.

The exhibit looks at how three different textile artists make use of what is commonly thrown away in the garment industry. To me, the most inspiring work was that of Christina Kim, of dosa. She saw the intense amount of work that went into making the intricate textiles used in saris, and couldn’t bare to see it go to waste. This image shows how she literally uses every thread.
Scraps at Cooper Hewitt

Gah, I just love it so much!  I don’t know why I’m so attracted to making something precious out of what’s commonly considered garbage, but this has been so ever since I was a kid. Of course I was born in the 1970s, the dawning of the age of recycling. I grew up in a not especially generous household so I always wanted to make things and being able to do so out of something that was free, or nearly so, made sense.

In this phase of my life, my interest in making jewelry began with a trip to Dead Horse Bay. It’s a beach in Brooklyn that is covered in the contents of a landfill in use from the 1920s to the 1940s. The landfill popped its cap and glass and ceramic shards spewed forth. Some people find the place sad, I found it thrilling to my core. On my first visit there two summers ago, I gathered beautiful shards glass and immediately wanted to know how to wear them; I started taking jewelry classes and here we are.

In a real sense, this was the way jewelry got started in the first place — early humans discovering a pretty shell or stone and figuring out how to affix it to the body. I live in the city, so I don’t find so many shells or stones. Instead, my favorite pieces in my personal jewelry wardrobe are the ones I’ve made out of my urban discoveries.  A necklace I made using a piece of a watch band I found in Washington Square Park:

found-necklace
  A cocktail ring I made out of a melted plastic shopping bag:
plastic-cocktail-ring
Please don’t tell anyone my secret: I  just don’t feel terribly compelled by making jewelry out of only materials that are new and pretty.

In addition to discovering beautiful discards, I also really like the detritus I create. (There’s so much.) From working on these knot bracelets last year, I ended up with little snippets of wire that looked to me like commas, which became these punctuation necklaces

I love the idea that the work keeps building on itself, or from itself. Recycling isn’t a chore, then, it’s just something wonderful.

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