Saturday, April 9, 2011


: to use again especially in a different way or after reclaiming or reprocessing

After K's soccer game today, B and I went to art and craft heaven.  We pulled into the parking lot of a warehouse, walked inside and were encouraged to take anything and everything we wanted.  At no cost.  This ZeroLandfill event had carpet samples, unwanted binders, tiles, wallpaper and fabric.  It was wonderful.  B and I took turns filling our bags and finally grabbed an empty box to fill with carpet tiles for covering our basement floor in a quilt of carpeted colors.

J found out about this event a few weeks ago and sent me info on it via e-mail.  He thought it would be a great source for collage materials - and he was right.  I'm especially excited to use a set of sheer fabrics that I found.  I can already imagine using them to hide and reveal certain portions of the image underneath.  B was the perfect child to take with me to this event because she is creative to the core.  While looking through upholstery fabrics, I found a book of tassels and fringe.  She was (as expected) excited and said right away, "I can just picture these as part of a carousel."  We brought home every stitch of tassel we came across and I found myself wishing I had told friends who sew about this event.  It was a quilter's dream: tiny pre-cut squares of every shade, color and texture imaginable.  (Let me know if you live in Nashville and want information on this event.  It continues next Saturday.)

As we sorted through our treasure trove of wallpapers, sheers and fringe this afternoon, I thought about how much I enjoy repurposing items.  I think one reason I've been drawn to collage as a medium is the way it allows you to take one thing and turn it into something entirely new and different.  At its best, it turns something useless into something useful, something unwanted into something desirable, something discarded into something beautiful.

I remember walking through an art gallery with an aunt one time and talking with her about Marcel Duchamp and why his art was important.  If you're not familiar with his work, he was an expert at pushing boundaries and was the first artist to take found materials and dub them art.  He called them ready-mades and while I wouldn't want his infamous Fountain hanging in my living room - or anywhere in my house for that matter - he paved the way for artists today who paint on old window frames, salvage tin for sculptures or turn bicycle chains into jewelry.  Much of my favorite contemporary art involves reclamation items that have been transformed into something new.

I partly like art that takes old things and turns them into something else because it is, to me, the essence of creativity.  To take something mundane and see the beauty in it is not only art, it's an act of faith.  Because seeing the beauty in the everyday makes us see the fingerprints of our creator all around.  It makes us take notice of the deep purple in a bowl of black beans drying in the colander or the glimmering white cloud juxtaposed with a sky of muted gray ones.  Choosing to go through life looking for things to reuse is, at least for me, a spiritual practice.  And it's one way we can all choose to be artists.

I think I'm drawn to this practice because I love it as a metaphor for my life.  I like the idea of God reclaiming me to be used in a different way.  Taking the pieces of my life or myself that could have easily been consigned to the landfill and making them not only tolerable, but put to good use.  I like the idea that just like the discarded materials B and I collected today, I can be made into something different, something beautiful.  I don't think God's going to make a carousel out of me, but I look forward to seeing him take my tattered and torn self and turn it into something useful, beautiful and maybe even fun.

B's carousel (with tasseled entryway)

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