Recycling technology – creating art

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on May 6, 2010 2 Comments
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Alison wearing a hat that sold to Holly Penfield, the cabaret star!

Alison wearing a hat that sold to Holly Penfield, the cabaret star!

Our guest post this week is from Alison Bailey Smith who creates jewellery and other wearable art from recycled materials.

In 1991, she became Scottish Fashion Designer of the Year followed by Recycling Fashion Designer of the Year (U.K.) in 1992.

I have been working with recycled materials since studying at the Edinburgh College of Art. However recycling and re-using came from both my parents and grand-parents, where televisions were mended and clothes were re-vamped.

These days many of us have lost the art of looking after and maintaining possessions and not succumbing to every whim of fashion. Neither do we recognise the potential in much of what we discard. This could be a reflection of our increasing wealth or that inexpensive products are widely available.

In the late 80’s, I’d been exploring using wire in filigree silver jewellery. At that time my brother was training as a sound engineer for the BBC. He un-wittingly gave me a coil from a radio set and said “Here, you are an art student make something of this”; so I did!

Due to the lacquer on the surface of the wire, I could not solder it together. However by a process of random knotting I created a mesh which had structure as well as pattern.

I placed the small circle of wire on my head and moulded it to my crown adding wire. My father told me there was more wire inside a television and found a source of recycled wire, so this hat became my first. It has been in the collection of the National Museums of Scotland since the mid-90’s.

Over the years I have found about 100 different colours of wire; aluminium, copper, some fine and some so thick it is only pliable with pliers …

I love combining colours. I incorporate sweetie wrappers (candy wrappers) and crisp packets (chip packets) which I cut into thin strips, roll with wire, then coil long rolls into circles which then become hats, corsets or coil pots. This adds a richness of texture and a different pattern to my work.

Recently I have become aware that there is less wire inside modern televisions. I have realised how little plastic is recycled in the UK, and how much plastic we receive into our homes. In a conscious effort to change direction, I’ve started exploring using plastic packaging in my jewellery in a new range called “Junk Jewellery”.

I have been working closely with the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead on their summer art projects. Last year, in addition to creating a Time Machine a la H.G. Wells with the children’s group (which saw my old garden table, a CD rack and old chair transformed into Victorian glory), I worked on a rag rug project with tenants of Wirral Methodist Housing. We used clothes donated by local Members of Parliament, councillors and the tenants to create a rug of a house. It was a fabulous project with lots of love and stories exchanged in the making.

I am currently involved with Jim Smith and Daniel Molyneux at a recycling show in Birkenhead Park (the prototype park for Central Park in New York City which has recently been revamped). The show will involve a few professional artists as well lots of artwork made from recycled materials from various community centres around the Wirral. They hope this will lead to a bigger event in 2011.

Agate Pendant made from TV wire and recycled agate bead from a bracelet.

Agate Pendant made from TV wire and recycled agate bead from a bracelet.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (2)

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  1. Mrs Green says:

    @Alison Bailey Smith: Hi Alison, great to see you again and thanks for the link. Great to see you blogging elsewhere. What a great site!

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