Category Archives: Lighting

Artist Spotlight: Beth Hinson of Junkyard Gypsy

What is assemblage art? That is a question I was most intrigued for Beth Hinson of Junkyard Gypsy in Albemarle, NC to clarify through her interview. She is an avid collector of all things, breaks them down and reassembles them into interesting pieces of artwork. Some are funky, some are creepy, some are cute but all of her work operates from one simple principal: items that others deem trash are really a gold mine of treasure to her! Read on to see how she is committed to a better planet and how her art contributes to that mission everyday.


Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

Well, I recycle old, assorted bits and pieces to create assemblages that resemble people or animals.

What was the motivation behind the creation of your assemblage art?

I had boxes and boxes of “stuff” that I couldn’t bear to throw away, as each piece seemed to have a history or story behind it. Most of what I use has dings, rust, holes, whatever, and to most people that would make it useless, something to throw in the trash. But every time I would start to load a box in the truck to take to the dumpster, I would spy something that seemed to be a treasure. As time went by, and more and more stuff accumulated, pieces started to acquire a life of their own – especially when a clock would chime unexpectedly, or the sun would hit a piece of silverware.

Where do you acquire the pieces that go into each design?

Oh, almost anywhere, but the dumpster is my favorite place – I get a thrill out of rescuing something that’s about to go to the landfill. I’ve made friends with the workers at the local dumpsters, and they often save things for me they think I might like. Now that I’ve started making the assemblages and selling them, friends will sometimes drop by with their “trash” to see if I want any of it. I’m also usually part of the “clean-up crew” at estate auctions, buying things at the end of the day that no one else wanted.

Why is it important to you to use salvaged pieces in your designs?

It’s really the whole premise of my art – rescuing lost treasures. Sure something might have a ding or a bad patch – but don’t we all? It’s just my little way of trying to fight back against our disposable society.

What is the creative process behind your art? How does an idea take shape?

My creative process involves a lot of staring – I’ll line up pieces I’ve accumulated and just sit and stare at them a while. Eventually this cracked croquet ball seems to like that vase, or this lonely doll head tells me she likes that candlestick. And sometimes pieces just fall together into a fun shape in the box.

What inspires you as an artist?

Almost everything, but especially nature. I always feel close to my maker when I see a beautiful sunset, or a field of wildflowers. That inspires to keep everything I can out of the local landfill.

How long have you been selling your art?

I’ve been selling about a year – making and giving gifts long before that.

Do you remember the feeling of your first sale? How has that feeling changed after selling for so long?

Gosh, yes, I was soooo excited – I could hardly believe that anyone would actually buy one of my little creatures. It’s still a thrill, each and every time, and I love to hear back from folks who have given one of my creatures a home.


What does the Green Movement mean to you?

Just simply for each person or each family to do whatever they can do to minimize the danger to their surroundings. We don’t go all the way with solar panels and electric cars – there is a lot of expense associated with some aspects of going green. But there’s also any number of things anyone can do that are cost-free and that hold significant benefit over time.

When did you first become interested in living and working green?

I grew up as a child of the 70′s energy crisis, so I’ve always had some awareness of the issue – my dad would cover the windows with plastic during the winter, and during the worst of the energy crisis we had no lights on our Christmas tree LOL. But it’s only been for about the last five years that my family has really made a concerted effort to be more careful about our impact on the planet.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

Really, it’s when I think about the generations of my family that will hopefully come after me – my children and their children. I want a healthy place for them to live. I was also fortunate enough to visit Alaska recently – being on a glacier is about the closest you can come to heaven. The fear of losing such a breathtaking, inspirational part of our planet is certainly motivation.

Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?

There are lots of little things we do every day. Just cutting off lights, cutting the oven off before baking time is over, turning down the thermostat, line-drying clothes, driving 55 or below, using curly-q light bulbs, cleaning the air filter, using re-usable shopping bags, re-using aluminum foil and zipper bags, growing and canning our own garden vegetables, raising our own eggs – all simple things, but every little bit helps.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Having a compost pile! It’s a great way to dispose of food scraps and garden/lawn/leaf trimmings, and you’ll have the prettiest flowers on the block :-)

Is there an eco-friendly product you use in your home that you would recommend?

We really like the curly energy-saving light bulbs, and we love the water filter on our tap water – we never use plastic water bottles anymore.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Just getting my product seen – I know next to nothing about marketing. And it’s still surprising to me that there’s a market for what I do – I just thought it was a fun way to recycle “junk”.

What has been your greatest success to date?

The reception I’ve gotten on the Etsy website has really made me feel like an actual artist – it’s been great learning from the other artists there, and applying what I’ve learned to my craft.

What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?

Just go for it – don’t let anyone poo-poo your ideas. If you like it and get satisfaction from it, that’s the most important thing.


Do you have an online presence where your work can be viewed?

Junkyard Gypsy
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: David Bergman, Architect and Lighting Designer

David Bergman of David Bergman Architects and Fire and Water in New York City believes strongly in the concept of well designed spaces that are ecologically responsible. For over twenty five years David has been conceptualizing structures with both eyes on the impact on the planet in the process. He firmly reasons that just because a design or product is deemed green it does not need to be out of reach financially for a client and that choosing green should be the paramount decision to ensure the client lives a long and healthy life in their space.


Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

One of the great (and sometimes difficult) things about having a multi-headed career is that I really don’t have a typical day. At any given point, I may be involved in my architectural projects (designing, researching, site visits) or lighting development for Fire & Water (design, research, production) or teaching (research, writing, grading, speaking).

As I wrote this, I noticed that research was the common element to all three. A hefty portion of almost any day is spent reading articles or books, or checking out new materials or just online searching. I’m not sure whether Bloglines has helped or hindered my day!

Though I risk succumbing to “green fatigue,” the never ending new information, new solutions and new ideas are a constant stimulus.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Oh, there are many. A professional model is the Eames. The range and originality of their endeavors, as well as the fact that they worked together as my wife and I do, is inspiring.
And though my father had his faults, the fact that he was the best at what he did (he was a science journalist, who covered, among other things, the early days of environmentalism) was, when I was younger, both a positive and a daunting example.

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art is innate?

I don’t think I’ve ever given this much thought. For one thing, it’s a really loaded question: what is creativity and what is art and all that? Then I’d have to ask: does it matter where it comes from and whether it’s innate or not?

When did you first become interested in the planning and execution of building structures?

That probably goes back to the fact that, as a child, I had every conceivably building toy: wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, Legos, Kenner “Girder and Panel” sets, etc. And there were the model railroads and the slot car tracks as well as Matchbox cars and trucks that I played with until I was way too old. Mountains and tunnels made of Plaster of Paris and chicken wire were great fun.

I recreated the Matchbox cars collection via the early days of EBay, so I guess I’m still playing with them.

My parents built a house when I was about 12. They had a messy falling out with the architect/builder — lawsuits and all that — so I was afraid to tell them for a few years that I wanted to be an architect.

Are you LEED certified? Can you explain that to us?
Yes, I took the test and got my LEED accreditation in 2004. (Being a bit nitpicky here: buildings can get certified, people get accredited.) LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a rating system for buildings. Depending on how many criteria a building fulfills, it can be LEED certified or silver, gold or platinum LEED certified. And the test for a person to become a LEED Accredited Professional looks at your knowledge both of the LEED system and eco building design in general.
I swore after passing my architectural licensing exam (which is an ordeal, often spanning several years), that I would never take an exam again. Twenty years later I had to break down and take the LEED exam.
What types of passive energy do you specify? How have your selections changed over the past decade?
Passive energy design is often the best way to achieve a green building since it is inherently less complicated and often less expensive. A lot of my work, though, has been in renovation (that’s changing now — more new construction projects) and many passive tools, such as controlling sizes and directions of windows and overhangs or ventilation are pre-ordained in existing structures. In my apartment renovations, light is a major theme and consideration. One recent loft had most of its light coming from one narrow side so the opposite (entrance) end was very dark. Our design opened this up so that the windows were visible immediately when you entered, there were very few full height walls and most those were translucent.
I’m working on a house renovation/addition now in which we’re adding a central two and a half story space that will act as a natural ventilation chimney and help cool the house in the summer, while the south facing skylight will warm it in the winter.


Are there products or materials you spec that may not immediately be viewed as sustainable but hold up better over time thus negating additional manufacturing needs?
I once asked a trade show exhibitor (not naming names, but it was one of the big chemical companies) if his new plastic material had any eco qualities. He answered “well, it lasts a really long time.” This is often the rationale for materials such as stone or, worse, vinyl and other not-so-eco materials. While there are times when durability can balance out other negative aspects, I try not to get myself into a place where I have to make that kind of choice. Today, there are so many great green materials, that there’s almost no excuse for deliberately choosing something environmentally nasty.
What materials do you feel can make the largest impact toward a healthier life by choosing green?
A little known fact is that we spend, on average, 90% of our lives indoors That means that, despite all the emphasis the environmental movement has put on clean air since the 60′s, we need to look even more carefully at the quality of our indoor air. We don’t, for example, want to use materials that offgas toxic chemicals such as VOCs into our homes and offices. Carpets, paints and cleansers are among the products we should evaluate for offgassing and other problems. And I don’t want vinyl in my home (or elsewhere for that matter) because, among other issues, its fumes are deadly in a fire.
How did your clients respond the first time you recommended a green product?
I assume you’re asking about clients who are not already into eco design before they come to me. I usually load the dice by framing the question like this: if we can create a green design that doesn’t add to the cost and doesn’t sacrifice design, are you open to it? Put that way, it’s pretty hard for them to say no.
For my already converted clients, I ask them where their green interests lie: (A) in saving their family’s health, (B) saving money or (C) saving the planet. More often than not, it’s all three.
Where did your first inspiration come from?
Probably somewhere in that mix of building sets and Plaster of Paris and artificial model railroad lichen, making a mess of my parents’ basement.


How long have you been teaching sustainable design at Parsons School of Design?
I’ve been teaching there around 15 years. Though my early courses weren’t about sustainability, I began to sneak some elements into them. Then when the topic started to heat up (around 2001), the chair of the Product Design department, knowing my work and interest in the field, asked me to create a syllabus for a new course. Following that, I developed courses for several other departments as well.
Have you seen an increase in interest from students in this field of study recently?
Definitely, and perhaps more significantly, their “eco-literacy” coming into the courses is stronger than in the past.
I’ve also seen an increased emphasis on sustainability in their theses. I’d like to think that’s at least in part due to the influence of my courses.
Can you tell me about your creative process?
I’d say it goes back to that emphasis on research. What usually happens is a series of explorations in various directions which simultaneously engenders a deep level of familiarity with the specific issues and goals involved while showing which paths are fruitful and which aren’t. In the end, there is often a synthesis of those results and paths that I like, with the result being a solution that seems inevitable when looked back upon.
Were you influenced by the Green Movement?
Of course, though I’d have to say it came in two waves. I missed being a hippy by only a few years, but I still got caught up in the early environmental movement and then literally caught in the 1973 gas lines. I had just gotten my driver’s license, so one of my chores was filling my parents’ cars. It wasn’t so much about price (as it is now) as it was about the lines and availability and rationing. The eco movement on a local level at that point consisted mainly of sporadic protests and paper recycling drives. I recall heading my high school’s “Ecology Club” and volunteering for local wetlands surveys.
My involvement took a hiatus in the eighties. Eco design didn’t exist in architecture school back then, and was barely, if at all, on the radars of most architecture firms. In the early nineties, though, I had started my own architecture practice and then started Fire & Water, my lighting company. In the same period, new materials and new technologies began to be available, along with a renewed public awareness of eco issues.My light fixture designs have often been a result of being inspired by new materials, while anticipating new technology.


What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?
The most visible example would probably be my folding bicycle. I’ve always been a cyclist — it’s one of the best ways to get around NYC. It’s faster than driving in the city, it’s free and you get exercise as well. What a deal!
I switched to the folder a few years ago when I was commuting once a week to New Haven (to teach a course at Yale). I could bike to Grand Central Terminal, fold the bike for the train ride and then bike from New Haven station to campus.
Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?
I mentioned the Eames as a sort of role model. As an eco designer, I admire Buckminster Fuller, who brought a perspective on who and what we and our planet are, and used that perspective to come up with strikingly innovative ideas.
What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?
It’s part and parcel of how we see ourselves and our relationships both to each other and to our environment. How can you be a “good person” (I try to write that unsanctimoniously) without considering how you interact with everything around you?
What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?
The one just finished! I’d like to think my work is a continuous evolution, combining all that research with new experience, so each finished project is better than the last one.


What challenges have you had in your work?
Until fairly recently, it was hard to find enough eco materials and products that didn’t have the granola look or didn’t break the bank. That made it hard to convince both clients and me to use them.
Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?
When I was in architecture school, we used to refer to “xerox architecture” because it was the early years of post-modernism, we were all looking at historical design and there was a huge temptation to tack up photocopies of influences and then, in turn, be overly influenced by them.
There certainly is that risk in the Internet as well, especially in terms of how fast trends spread and how regionalism is falling to globalism, but I think the downside is more than offset by the tremendous value of information availability. (There’s that research aspect again.)
What is your greatest ambition as an artist?
Seeing oneself as a designer versus an artist yields a different perspective on that question. A designer, and in particular an architect, has a different set of responsibilities because of the applied art nature of the work. Our work unavoidably affects people. You can choose not go to a museum to see fine art, but you can’t really choose to see or occupy buildings, or not use products. So I might answer that my ambition would be to have a lasting positive impact — on both people and the planet.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on some rooms in an eco showhouse and having a lot of fun both selecting green materials, borrowing eco furniture from designer friends, and designing some new pieces. My favorite is a color changing LED chandelier I’m designing that will hang decadently over a free-standing bath tub. The chandelier is made from recycled glass “pebbles” and a salvaged bicycle wheel.
And there’s the East Hampton house renovation/addition I mentioned earlier. I convinced the clients not to tear it down and start over, so now I have to show them that we can do as much or more by re-configuring the existing house. The two story “tower” is being inserted into the center of the house where it currently has an odd open air court that’s mainly useful for accumulating leaves. This allows us to create more usable space without expanding the footprint, while simultaneously making that ventilation “chimney.”


What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
This is probably better directed to designers than to artists, but one of the things I often advise my students is to question their assumptions, that truly innovative designs often require going back to square one in order to come up [with] solutions that are more than tweaks to existing solutions.
What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
I don’t think it’s a useful approach to anoint a “top green product” because the issues and, therefore, the solutions are complex. A focus on one product, for instance changing one light bulb to CFL, can lead people to think that once they’ve done that, they’ve done their part.
That said, of course I can recommend my light fixtures!
What is your best going green tip?
We have a rule in our house, which is that we have to have needed something three times before we actually buy it. The point of this, aside from the fact that we have a NYC apartment and hence not enough space, is to address over-consumption and the accumulation of “stuff.”
I’ve borrowed video cameras three times in the past year, so we’re now going to finally get one.
Do you have a website or online presence where people can view your work?
Sure, our website is http://www.cyberg.com/ and from there you can go into either our architectural work, or to Fire & Water, our lighting company, or to Lori’s graphic design work. We also have http://www.swagologie.com/, which is Lori’s new company working on green gifts for the corporate world. While working on events, she got tired of seeing all the wasteful things put into “goodie bags” and other gifts, and decided there was a need for better, greener alternatives.
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight Judi FitzPatrick of Judi FitzPatrick Studios – Photographer

Judi FitzPatrick is a strong believer that everyone can live an eco-friendly lifestyle and she was excited to incorporate these concepts into her photography. Although there may be a stigma that photography could be harmful to the Earth Judi is living proof that not only can someone snap an amazing moment in time, they can share it with the world in an environmentally conscious way.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

A typical day could include yoga or some other spiritual practice, yard work, taking photos, making new inventory, listing and promoting to my online storefront, 3 mostly-vegetarian meals (occasional fish is allowed), reading, writing, walking, knitting, and sleeping. Most important of all – eating some very dark chocolate.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Other great photographers help me to aspire to do it better everyday. A flower, a scenic vista, light streaming through a window, a bird in a tree or in flight give a nudge toward the camera.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Yes, everything we do can be creative in some way depending on one’s approach. You don’t have to be Picasso to be able to create art. The plating of a simple meal can be as artistic as the work of a great painter.

Who or what inspired you to become a photographer?

In the beginning it was my Dad – a passionate photographer who took pictures, developed the b&w film, and printed the pictures also gave me my first camera – a Brownie that had been his. My friend, Bill, helped me to “see” the picture before I snapped it; with his encouragement and hints I finally started to do it well.

Do you self print or send photos to a printer? If they are sent out is the print house local?

Currently, I send my images to a local photo lab. I am looking into alternatives to the C-print process which involves the use of chemicals; there are so many archival quality printers on the market these days that a new one may soon be making an appearance in my studio.

Do you use sustainable products in your work?

The note cards use only card stock made with recycled materials. The same is true for the enlargement backer boards. The plastic sleeves are #5 recyclable and my next order will be for biodegradable sleeves – now available.

Why was it so important to go green?

I feel it is only right that I do my share of keeping the Earth in good condition for the future generations; it seems to me we’ve only got this once chance.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

It’s like this – I don’t think I “create” anything. I think I have the ability to see something that is already there, the camera can then capture and make that something visible to whoever looks at printed image.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

I guess it was the desire to be like my father in finding the right shot and capturing it for all time on film.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I’ve had many years to practice this as I began to live “green” in the 70’s before that term was coined, so the list is somewhat long – when I must drive it’s a hybrid vehicle I own and use, I walk or take public transportation for many activities, I do not eat anything that “walks on land” and my fish intake is minimal (plus not farm-raised if possible), I practice organic gardening, I purchase organically grown produce whenever possible, I take my own reusable grocery sacks for shopping, as light bulbs have burned out they’ve been replaced with compact fluorescent ones, I’ve switched from film to digital photography, I recycle or reuse the tiniest scraps of paper, I save glass jars and use one on top of another for decorative storage and serving, I save and reuse plastic containers for sharing leftovers with guests (rather than use brand new plastic bags or containers). I’ve just started using another tip from this blog – I’m using shredded paper as packing material when shipping non-flat items – a great suggestion, thank you!

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Saving non-renewable resources, keeping our planet beautiful. What we have is limited, we must use it wisely.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Self-promotion for one, I need lots of practice and some methods that will work for me.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

To answer the second part – see the question above. This is one of the methods to help me promote more easily as there is no stumbling over words during a sales call.

In general, the Internet has had a positive impact. An artist anywhere in the world can become known to anyone, anywhere else in the world almost instantaneously – what could be better than that?

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

I would like to leave the viewer with either a smile on their face or a feeling of peace in their heart.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I am actively doing 2 things at this time. First, I’m in the process of organizing and digitizing old film negatives and slides so I can eventually print these on my own printer. Second, I’ve got a couple of new product ideas, using my photo images, that are in the works – can’t say more than that at this time.

What are your long term career goals?

Since I’m 59 years old, long term seems a foreign concept. However, I am trying to become the best photographer I can in whatever time I have left on this planet.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Ansel Adams, Mary Cassatt, Anne Geddes, David Hockney, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keefe, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Zimmermann

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Listen to your own inner voice, don’t let anyone else tell you your art is no good, and make your art every day.


What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

A big one – Toyota Prius, a small one – Earth Friendly Products’ RTU Orange Plus

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

If you own your own home, eliminate your lawn and plant a tree. For everyone – add some houseplants with large leaves to help clean the air inside your home or office.

How would your friends describe you?

I’ve never asked, but I’d guess they would say I’m “different”.

Do you have a website or online presence?

Judi FitzPatrick Studios

Thank you for this opportunity to be featured on The Organic Mechanic. Peace, Judi

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com