Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Are you going to throw that away?!

K is for keep. As a mixed media artist, i can find a use for the most random, seemingly unusable items. My family has gotten used to this over the years, and has been enabling me as well, almost always checking with me first before throwing away little scraps of paper or a broken toy or some such tidbit most would toss in the trash and then get it on with their day.

Awhile back, i taught my brother a new word - ephemera. What a great word, not only its meaning, but the sound of saying it. Go on, try it. Ephemera.

1: something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural
2 ephemera plural : paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles
Essentially, i keep many things most consider trash. Vintage ephemera is even better, and rarer. i find such beauty in old advertisements, labels from bottles, ticket stubs, and so on, and all these things can be added to my work. In this way, i am reusing items destined for the landfill, and making something more lasting and beautiful out of them. Even the stickers you peel off fruits and veggies are fair game.
A drawer of scraps from past projects, including the transfer from a praying mantis soft block carving i recently did. i'm outgrowing my drawer, and that's after cleaning it out last year and attempting to organize it into a couple binders. Yes, i said i put "trash" in binders; what of it?
The only problem with the need to keep such things is that eventually, you have a lot of it, and it needs a home. This is why, right now, my studio is a bit of a mess. i'm a great organizer, but have yet to tackle this growing mountain of materials and trinkets. i intend to fix this situation sooner rather than later, because as wonderful as it is to have so many materials on hand, it's a nightmare sorting through boxes and drawers and not finding the one thing you're looking for, or even worse, not even knowing what you have in the first place.
See that butterfly on the bottom left? Yeah...i've been toting that around, from one abode to another, for years...but someday, i will need it, i guarantee.
i walk a fine line between "collector" and "hoarder", so i have to be careful. Sometimes i do filter through the piles of stuff and give things away, or sometimes, toss something, if i see that it really can't be used for anything at all, but the latter almost never happens. i always ask myself, Well, what if 5 years from now i'm working on a project and need this very thing? What if nothing else will work for the piece but this? Many items have been saved and never used because i love them so much, no project is good enough for them. It's maybe a little crazy, this need to have but not use, but i'm an artist, so crazy kind of comes with the territory, does it not?
Far be it for me to encourage anyone to start saving every bit of trash they come across - some things are indeed garbage - but think outside the box (har, har) the next time you're holding the empty box your favorite tea comes in. Now wouldn't that make a nice little mini-notebook cover? Or maybe a repurposed greeting card? And if you just can't find a use for it, send it to me, and i'll give it a home.


  1. Anyone who organizes their 'collection' as well as that photo suggests is NOT a hoarder. You are a recycler, a re-purposer, a re-animator.

  2. I think it's fantastic that you keep so many delicate little things, those little touches are one of the elements that give your work its authenticity and warmth. While it isn't a bad thing at all that you have so much ephemera, I also think that every now and then, maybe every few months, you should make a project that uses one of those holy and sacred pieces you've been holding onto for years. You could even make that one thing the focus of the project. It may be cathartic for you to take some of those things that you think no project is good enough for and finally use them in something. Letting go can be beautiful.

  3. Well, really, you could say that you're helping the environment by reusing all that stuff. I do that too!

  4. Blue, i do like to think of myself as a recycler. This world is full of so much trash, and i'm really wowed by the artists who make all their art from actual garbage. By they way, if i had taken a photo of the table behind where i was standing when i took the above photos, you'd have seen a very large mess, i mean, plethora of choices, all "organized" into a nice big mess...

    And you're right, Josh - using those favorite items can be cathartic, and if i use them, i often try to make them the focus of the piece. Generally, i use them for one of the few pieces i intend to keep, so i can always enjoy that item, or in a piece meant for someone i know will really appreciate it.

    And thank you, Not Just Another... Glad you're aiding the reusing cause as well! :)