In celebration of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, 2012, Benevolent Media and SCRAP DC presented an afternoon of eco-conscious art and design, featuring a pop-up marketplace of local vendors and interactive workshops led by teaching artists dedicated to inspiring “creative reuse” and environmentally sustainable behavior.
This event was scheduled as part of The Water Street Project, a multidisciplinary “flash” exhibition housed in a temporary art gallery/creative space in Georgetown, along the newly renovated waterfront.
We spoke with each of the vendors and artists to learn more about their commitment to the environment through their craft.
SCRAP DC is a nonprofit organization that inspires creative re-use and environmentally friendly behavior. It recently opened a retail store at 52 O Street Studios, where people can donate leftover crafting materials—from cloth to paint—to be resold at a fraction of the price, making art affordable and accessible to everyone.
James Kerns, artist and owner of CoreHaus recreated his artistic process of unique and functional art by using items he found in the Water Street warehouse space. “Let’s go make a table without getting electrocuted,” he told the audience during his live demo and special presentation, proceeding to turn a discarded coffee table, lamp shade and gas plumbing into a combination coffee table and light. “I collect a bunch of stuff and put it in one place to do whatever I feel like doing with it.” Genius.
Venezuelan artist David Camero, the artistic director of La Compania del Bouffon, demonstrated how to create theatrical masks from 99 percent recycled materials, including bent coat hangers that make perfect frames for attaching cloth. He learned mask-making from the renowned French mime master, Jacques Le Coque. “Real actors never buy masks,” he said. “They have to make their own in order to find their own character.”
Dafna Steinberg, one of the 15 artists exhibiting at The Water Street Project, showed workshop participants how to reuse discarded magazine paper to make sculptures, collages and artistic decorations for their homes. She admitted that she makes paper prisms as a way to jumpstart her creativity. “The more color, the better,” she said. Magazines like TIME have high quality photographs, but since there is usually a lot of text, Dafna said she often turns to fashion and travel magazines, especially National Geographic, for the sheer volume of images.
The artist known as Q started working with collages as a child and gained creative momentum by working with a Rocky Horror Picture Show troupe. Members of the troupe made all their own costumes and required skills that Q refers to as the “Peregrine Falcon version of support,” or being pushed into something, like costume making, without having any prior experience of it. She learned how to sew and incorporated that into her arsenal of creative outlets, including making artwork, furniture and light switches.
Sarah Gingold is the founder of Think Outside the Store, a wearable art studio in downtown Silver Spring where local residents can explore alternatives to store-bought fashion. She showed workshop participants how to create fabric flowers, or “rosettes,” out of discarded bits of cloth, buttons and thread. “Sewing is easy,” she said, “you just have to have patience.”
Los Angeles-based Jen Duncan of Conscience Art sculpts succulent arrangements in pots made out of found objects, secondhand pieces and scrap wood. I am here to protect and nurture this earth and the beings that inhabit it through my art,” she says on her website.
Jen Athenas creates bags, cases and other accessories from vintage clothing and scarves. Athenas said she grew up sewing with leftover scraps from her mother’s work and the idea stayed with her. After graduating from fashion school, she began her own “green” line of accessories called Jen-A-Fusion Fashion Accessories.
Jenny Wren of Jenny Wren Jewelry started out in her career creating traditional beaded jewelry but after sorting through baskets of vintage buttons at Eastern Market, she got inspired to be more eco-friendly. She used the buttons and other secondhand materials to make rings, pins and earrings. “Going green has become a passion not just for my jewelry but for life,” she said.
Janet Lundy of MonkeyDog Studio takes inspiration from nature for her line of stationary. She screenprints custom designs on Moleskin-style notebooks made with recycled paper. “A lot of people love the style of Moleskin, but their notebooks aren’t made with recycled paper,” she said. The “Dangerous Animals” line of notebooks features images of adorable creatures like squirrels and rabbits holding deadly weapons. She said her dog used to chase squirrels in her backyard, and one day she asked herself, “What if the squirrels could fight back?”
Starting with handmade greeting cards for friends and family, Tracy Wilkerson of T2 Grafics launched her own line of greeting cards using recycled materials, magazines and wrapping paper. “Anything is fair game,” she said.
Kate Krezel started her line of Udacha Designs urban holsters for style as well as function. With her own hips a-holstered in her creations, Kate said she “attacks” unloved secondhand jackets and “skins and leaves the carcasses” of roadside couches to source leather for her wares. You can find her holsters at Eastern Market on Saturdays or for sale online.
Yasmin Bowers created YB Green to bring awareness to the need of a glass recycling program in the city of New Orleans. She melts, crushes and designs jewelry out of glass bottles from the city to create beautiful “urbancycled” jewelry.
For more photos, view our Eco Art + Design Depot set on Flickr.
About the Author Claire Sevigny
Claire Sevigny is a freelance writer, social media manager, and jack of all trades. She started working with Benevolent Media during their first annual festival and enjoyed being involved in the local DC community and savored the opportunity to write about social issues. She specializes in events concerning the arts, fashion, and gender parity.