Art you can (re)use

I have a number of artistically-inclined friends who believe that one man's junk is their own personal treasure trove of art supplies. I've reaped the benefits of this philosophy in my own home: My coffee table boasts a top made of used dice my friend collected during his frequent visits to an Indian gaming facility, and another end table sports a mosaic attesting to his love of beach glass.

Another mosaic/collage artist I know isn't content to wait until she drops a plate or rips a sweater to collect material for her work. She shops for other people's shards and scraps or buys whole pieces of crockery or clothing at thrift stores then takes them home to destroy and reform. Her resulting creations are both fun and functional; she's put her personal touch on everything from window frames to light fixtures to planters.

I don't pretend to possess the artistic skills of these two, but my attempts at recycled art have shown me that this is a good medium for anyone who wants to get her creative ya-yas out while giving new life to stuff she'd otherwise be throwing away.

As one of maybe three people left on the planet who still shoots film, I find collages are a great way to turn a bunch of less-than-fantastic images into one far more interesting one. And you can create them in more than one dimension: Now instead of just giving a framed photo as a gift, I'll put together a photo montage on one of those three-for-$2 unfinished wood frames from Ikea. It's more personal -- not to mention cheaper -- than an unadorned mass-produced picture frame, and it keeps my scrapbook rejects from becoming just more recycling fodder.

Obviously, there's an endless supply of materials you can use to create recycled art. So if you're in spring-cleaning mode, look at the junk you're purging from your hall closet for artistic inspiration before you chuck it. After all. 'tis the season of rebirth and renewal.


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