You could absorb CO2 out of the atmosphere – more CO2 than forests take in! – AND produce nearly cost and carbon free lighting at the same time!!?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
Do you have an online presence where your work can be viewed?
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.
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 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?
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 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.
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?
Thank you for this opportunity to be featured on The Organic Mechanic. Peace, Judi
Part 1 of what will more-than-likely be a too-long series …
The wind up lamp, designed by Yuko Tagushi, is very cool. It runs off a high carbon tensile steel spring. As the spring unwinds, it powers a small electric generator, producing enough power to keep the light on. When the key winds down, it’s lights out. The only problem is, I have to keep the light on all night. The last time I slept in the dark I dreamed I ate a pound of horrible chocolate pudding. I woke up the next morning with a spoon in my ass. True story.
Our Planet Earth is slowly and surely dying. The abuse to which human beings have exposed the environment in the past few centuries has taken its toll, and the results are not pretty. Already a vast number of flora and fauna varieties have become extinct, and the list of endangered species has become increasingly alarming. Fortunately, there are people who understand the seriousness of the situation and are putting together efforts to save this ailing yet exceptional Planet.
The Old Fashion Way
The lighting of a modern home usually consumes either organic fuel or some other non-renewable energy source. The most common method used for lighting in homes, schools, or any other modern facility is the modest and unassuming incandescent bulb, which is almost 13 centuries old in terms of technology. Way back in 1879 did Thomas Edison commercialize the very same bulb people are using in their home today. In recent decades, the compact fluorescent light bulb has been introduced as an alternative with some level of success, since it reduces electricity consumption and thus, of course, the monthly bill. However, even though these bulbs give out four to five times more light than the same wattage incandescent bulb, and provide an especially refreshing white brightness, they are still not fully accepted by consumers. It is estimated than only about 5% of the total bulbs bought in a year are CFLs.
The drawback in the fluorescent alternative is mercury contained in each bulb, making disposal much more complex. Laws on how to dispose of the CFL bulbs without harming the environment have been passed in 2006 by seven states in the US, namely California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It is however still a very serious concern for environmentalists the world over, since for example one CFL bulb is enough to contaminate 1000 gallons of water. In fact, figures show that about 30 thousand pounds of mercury are spilled into the environment every year, owing to the wrong disposal of CFL bulbs; such toxic waste can easily find its way to tap water with disastrous consequences.
The Advantages of LED
The latest candidate in taking over lighting duties is the LED or Light Emitting Diodes. This amazing advancement was originally conceived to bring electricity into homes of poverty stricken areas and underdeveloped countries. The LED consumes next to nothing in terms of electricity, and only 10 LEDs provide sufficient light for a person to read a book comfortably in the night while its consumption is about 1/100 of what a CFL bulb would have consumed.
One LED light can burn for 50 thousand hours, an impressive performance by any standards. Its light beam is usually emitted perpendicularly to the bulb, yet in order to get the best light one easily could use a dispersing lens. Also worth noting is that LEDs emit little to no heat even when used for hours on end. Both the incandescent and CFL bulbs get increasingly hotter with use. While initially the LEDs were meant for low lighting, especially in rural areas where the voltage fluctuation is rampant, today you will find LED bulbs that can release any amount of light. In fact, the equivalent consumption of LED light when compared to an incandescent bulb is 5.2 watts to 40 watts. The LEDs are about 300% more energy efficient than CFLs and about 1000% more than Edison’s brainchild.
Keeping the most important thing last, the use of LEDs almost completely eliminates pollution from lighting products, and the danger of related mercury absorption into the environment. Even more, there are no carbon dioxide emanations either. This technology allows lighting a house with less than one tenth of the usual wattage (and save big money and energy), doing away with the danger of mercury pollution in the environment, and reducing drastically the level of CO2 shot into the atmosphere, all without compromising on the quality of light. That is indeed a technology worth keeping around for the next 13 centuries.