I’ll sew with just about anything I can cram beneath my Heavy Duty Singer, or stick a needle through with the aid of a solid thimble and a lot of willpower. It’s quite difficult to define, but I suppose I’m a mixed media textiles artist.
Rubbish is one of the trappings of modern life – it’s everywhere. And some of that rubbish is beautiful. Wrappers are vivid and waving with vibrancy, tinfoil glitters in thousands of winking eyes and carrier bags float around like the urban equivalent of tumbleweeds.
There’s a strange allure in the junk that surrounds us, in the rubbish and debris that we try so hard not to see. Now, it’s not as magical to have, say, a Doritos packet waft past you as it is a butterfly, but there’s something quirky, fantastic and present about it; something that speaks of the world we inhabit right now, in all of its absurd technicolour glory.
A couple of years ago I decided to try working with this ‘fabric of everyday life’, trying to see the potential in every bit of waste and scrap. I began sewing with fruit netting and plastic bags, collaged pigeons from old newspapers and made hundreds of tiny windows out of old washers.
Since then I haven’t looked back, and creating collages with junk has become as natural to me as breathing. Because junk can be funky, and using recycled materials liberating, not limiting.
I’ve built on this idea by using the ‘litter’ from nature, too. I press fallen leaves and dried flowers, collect seeds, nuts and feathers, and integrate these into my collages along with man-made rubbish. In nature nothing goes to waste; it is reabsorbed and turned into something new.
It is this principle that I try to follow by using recycled materials. In a world in which so much is considered throwaway, and where the disposal of waste is putting such huge pressures on the environment, it gives me hope that something can be done with all this stuff. It’s a weight off my conscience – and there’s certainly less going to waste in my house!
So the next time you go to throw a sweet wrapper in the bin, look at it, squint, and ask yourself this: With just a bit of imagination, what could that become?