So, for most of Spring Break I was in Cuba, with the school music department. The cool thing about Cuba is that, because of the US embargo, they are forced to re-use or maintain a lot of their old technology and materials; for example, the Cuban cars. In Cuba, each family has one car that may have been passed down for generations. The car bodies are from the mid 1900s, but they have newer motors and car parts inside. Going to Cuba let me experience a lot more recycled art, which has led me to find some international concepts about recycled art.

  1.  Conservation
    1.  The item is made with something used or destined for the trash. The item can be used for the same purpose as before, or a new purpose. For example, the car bodies were still cars, but I also saw hats made out of old pop cans. The concept is to give the object/material a second life.
  2.  Art/aesthetic
    1. The driving idea being recycled art: trash for one person can be beauty to another. Finding aesthetic value in trash requires imagination and a willingness to try new things.
  3. Awareness
    1. Recycled art is often used to raise awareness for the “throw-away” mindset we have in more fortunate countries, or the damage caused by the objects we throw away.
  4.  Value
    1. Recycled art is meant to be of equal or greater value than it originally was, whether as an art piece or something practical, like a bag or candlestick.
  5. The technical skill concept
    1. There is a lot of technical skill required for this! Multi-media art requires a lot of broad knowledge about materials and their properties, and delicacy in putting them together.
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My desk + some materials for my jellyfish!

Some more specific things I learned was that recycled art is mostly about technical things, such as shaping and holding objects. It is very important to find objects with the right physical properties – or, create your project around your materials if you don’t have time to search for the perfect material. Wire is very useful, because it holds it shape and can be bent into whatever you need. Flimsy plastics, like plastic wrap and plastic bags, are also useful because they are easy to drape over things and are usually transparent or translucent. An alternative I explored with my mentor was crushing and balling up soft plastics to use the fluffy, layered look they have. Though I didn’t have many other options, I think my mentor has been a really good fit for me. Her background in painting, multi-media art, and practically anything art-related makes it a really good relationship between her and I, because she has a ton of knowledge and experience about a wide range of things – from how to cut plastic to building up paper-mache. Another mentor may have been able to help me go more in-depth in a specific area, like working with paper or metal, but I think that the rag-tag assortment of materials I have fits best with my current mentor.

Other than coming up with alternatives and suggesting them, I ask my mentor for alternatives.For example, when attaching my ribbons to my jellyfish, I discussed many different alternatives with my mentor. I brought up the issue of keeping the tentacles to the outside of the jellyfish, and together, we generated these options:

  1. Placing a balled-up plastic bag in the center of the jelly (similar to crinoline on a skirt)
  2. Attaching tentacles from the top of the jelly to the outer edges (like a tent)
  3. Placing a small plastic cone inside the jelly (wouldn’t be as messy as the bag, but less puffy)
  4. Using a little glue on the inside of the jelly to hold the tentacles in place
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Hole-punches for tentacles.
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Tentacles (made w/ wrapping paper)

The great thing about generating so many alternatives is that you can pick the best parts of each option and incorporate them. For instance, I’m attaching the tentacles to the outer edges to make it more decorative, but I’m putting a little cone (top of a water bottle) inside the jelly to hold the tentacles to the sides of the jelly. This leaves the inside of the jelly still relatively uncluttered, so it won’t get tangled in transport. It also makes it easier to arrange the tentacles, because they don’t have to be glued down.

DSCF2851Now that we’re about halfway through the project, I need to look at my progress. Looking back, I realize that finding a mentor so late into my project has slowed me down a bit. DSCF2856To make up for it, I’m dedicating an hour on Wednesdays to working on In-Depth each week. I’m 3/4 done my jellyfish, and a little over halfway done my space junk mobile. I had two other projects I wanted to do before May. One was in accordance with my Environmental issue project, and represented BC’s power system – A sculpture using plugs and a light bulb attached to a fish. DSCF2858Often, people don’t realize that although hydro-power is renewable, it still has environmental effects that need to be mitigated. The other was a hot air balloon candle-holder. My idea was to make a candle-holder out of the metal cans and wire I have in the shape of a hot air balloon, but I would need help cutting and shaping the metal from my mentor. I definitely want to make the first one, but the second one I think I will leave out of my plans until I’ve finished everything else. From seeing the little trinkets in the Cuban tourist shops, I realized I could also easily make with my strange collection of materials was a wind chime, if I have time. But I already have enough to work on.

For the new few sessions, I’m going to focus on my jellyfish to get it done, and begin work on the hydro-power sculpture in my own time. Looking back, I realize that finding a mentor so late into my project has slowed me down a bit. To make up for it, I’m dedicating an extra hour on Wednesdays to working on In-Depth each week.