Rubbish, waste, debris, litter, leftovers. All waste comes with a synonym of names. If you saw waste as a resource to reuse and upcycle rather than something that gets tossed, would you make something from it?
Being resourceful was a crucial part of working in early childhood (see my story here..), and over the years, I’ve had a growing interest in tapping into my creativity. I’m encouraged by artists who have overarching environmental themes to recycle and repurpose and actively see waste as a creative resource.
Three artists – Rachael Wellisch, Diana Boyd and Nicole de Mestre – share their creative journeys about why they create art using discarded waste as the alternative blank canvas for endless artistic possibilities.
Using Discarded Textiles – Rachael Wellisch
The ombre effect from dark blues to whites easily distinguishes Rachael Wellisch’s art. Each hue is hand created from indigo dying, a practice the artist has been doing for over a decade.
As an undergraduate thinks-outside-the-box painter, Rachael was on a quest to source sustainable art materials – checking where the products were made, the source of the fabric, and even painting with indigo. Due to being a natural dye, indigo dying is best suited to linen and cotton. Rachael discovered the enormous environmental issues when sourcing these fabrics. In addition, she found the ethical questions of where, how and when that are commonly asked of textile artists were absent for painters.
Art is a Process
Themes of alchemy, transformation and environmental elements are present in Rachael’s art, who now works predominantly with salvaged, and discarded textiles.
Rachael’s progression from painting to textile reuse started in about 2014. As a maker, she experienced greater freedom for making and felt better about creating things again if a piece didn’t work. Art is a process where there are some successes and some not-so.
Storage is a premium, so the didn’t-work art can be broken down and made again.
Rachael loves the beauty of natural fibres as it’s tactile, can be chopped up, and pulped into paper or reused as a textile. There’s so much flexibility for playing with textiles – to think of different ways to use them.
In the titled exhibition “Polymorphic Magic”, the same material is used, but in different ways – a rug, sculptures, paper, and walk-through pieces. “The idea is that these materials have boundless potential, which is satisfying when you can refabricate it”. This is the transformation of using materials from waste – to transform them from rubbish into something really interesting.
Rachael likens the evolution of her artwork to the environmental issues we face – “we don’t have to do everything at once. Being the imperfect environmentalist will make a difference. It’s worth having a go”.
Follow Rachael on instagram here, as well as head to her website here for exhibition information. Artist approved photo credit from instagram: Rachael Wellisch
Using Found & Foraged Waste – Diana Boyd
The natural environment inspires every one of Diana’s art pieces. Sourced from the beaches and bulk waste clean-ups near her home, the See Ya Sista artist loves creating art from found and foraged waste. Her meticulous work and attention to detail highlight how waste can be a valuable and readily available resource.
Creating has been a constant for the artist. As a child, she started using recycled and foraged materials, happy to use whatever resources were on hand, such as cereal boxes, tin cans, foraged sticks, and gumnuts. This led to further studies in Fine Arts.
Diana’s art palette only features collected, found, borrowed and recycled materials. Pieces are created by deconstructing, manipulating and reinventing. Combining design elements of form, line and repetition with the waste materials invites us to look beyond the obvious and…
…appreciate the beauty in the materials.
Seeing the potential and possibilities in all sorts of waste, Diana sees that even rubbish has a history. This waste becomes the foundation for creating the next chapter in the story.
Diana and Mardi from French for Tuesday team up to provide Creating Art from Marine Debris & Waste workshops for corporate events, team building, family events and adults. Go here for more information.
Continue reading about Rachael Wellisch’s discarded textiles waste journey here and Nicole de Mestre’s creative journey here.
Using Salvaged Materials – Nicole de Mestre
Artist Nicole de Mestre spots an empty tuna can in the middle of the road, squashed by vehicle tyres, weathered by the sun & rain. This tuna can becomes the blank canvas, reminding her of a boat, which transforms into an art story about refugees.
Nicole’s art style has evolved over sixty years of being environmentally minded. Stemming from her parents’ encouragement of the arts and their homesteading influence of composting, gardening and making bread, Nicole felt at ease merging her passions.
Initially trained as a weaver, Nicole would make her own yarn and combine this with beautiful fabrics. Through experimentation, other found objects made their way into the weaves.
The artist’s current style started about 15 years ago with discarded vintage lino from a house demolition down the road.
Feeling cranky about the amount of waste from this one house and falling in love with the lino pattern, the lino (and other bits of wood & stuff) found a new home up the road!
Seeing potential in old things yet not knowing what to do with the pieces until later, the collected house remnants became a giant “quilt”. This was the turning point for Nicole’s present-day art.
The artist delights in rubbish pick-up day, “I like the things that no one else likes – the weathered and the rusted – each piece speaks to the history”.
The Possibilities are Endless
Art is her creative voice expressing the amount of waste we generate and its impact on our planet. Through art, Nicole hopes to share the message with us to not throw away but instead see that something has another purpose, encouraging us to see that “possibilities are endless!”
Continue reading about Rachael Wellisch’s discarded textiles waste journey here and Diana Boyd’s creative journey here.
Small, Deliberate and Imperfect Steps
It’s heartening to know these artists all started with a problem and a vision for seeing the potential in one thing. The steps were small, progression was deliberate, and imperfection embraced – a complementary ethos to living sustainably. If we see waste as a resource to be reused and upcycled rather than getting tossed, take one piece to start with and see where your creative journey goes.
Main photo credit from instagram: Diana Boyd from See Ya Sista
- If sewing is your art, head to this post to discover the best visible mending books to help start repairing your clothes, or be dazzled by Melinda’s couture style dresses from waste
- Spark your little ones imaginative play by choosing these alternatives to single-use plastic toys
- Join one of our Creating Art from Marine Debris and Waste Workshops
- Reuse textiles for another purpose – for visible mending, embellishments and patching. Check out this curated range of embroidered denim patches, plain denim patches and beautifully curated fabric scraps as your blank canvas. All found in my online shop…