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How Creative Recycling can Keep Our City Streets Clean

As so many cities are experiencing right now, my own city of Charleston, South Carolina is under immense development—and one of the negative impacts is all the trash left behind on a daily basis.

So I decided to do something about it. . . and you can too!

As a self-taught artist, my creative process has always been guided by two principles. First and most importantly, produce art that makes people happy. Second, strive to have a positive impact on the environment by using recycling and upcycling as an art form. Today, my ecofriendly, sustainable folk art is made completely from reclaimed, recycled and salvaged materials collected from the streets and beaches of Charleston.

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I am passionate about being an environmentally conscientious artist, so while I also work in mixed media collage, clay and paint, it’s my found object sculptures that bring me the greatest joy and satisfaction.

Want to do your part with art? It’s easy!

See that shattered, busted and cracked piece of metal or wood lying in the streets? It could be the focal point of your next found object sculptures. Just look around and you’ll see an abundance of items thrown away, left behind and forgotten on a daily basis that are free, plentiful and readily available.

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Every nail, screw, bottle cap, piece of wood, bit of wire or scrap of metal had a story and a purpose before it was discarded. Now these items litter the street, useless and alone, weak and broken.

Yet I’ve found that when I pair these fragmented pieces together, they convey strength. Their interaction with one another is accomplished through detailed layering in a graphic and interesting medley highlighted with bold, vibrant colors to create an unusual balance of industry and art.

When damaged, disconnected and incomplete things come together in an unexpected and imaginative way, a distinct plainness becomes a raw form of beauty. Who would have thought a pull-tab or bottle cap could be repurposed as a fish gill? Or a broken coat hanger serve as the outline of a bird?

By rescuing these forgotten items from the streets, I hope to reduce the need for landfills, and keep pollution out of our streets and waterways. And I challenge you to do the same.

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Spend a half hour located discarded items in your neighborhood or nearby streets, and I promise you’ll gain new appreciation for their artistic purpose. Begin to celebrate recycling as an art form, and encourage others to be better stewards of our environment, too.

That’s what keeps me motivated as an artist.

I hope to make a small difference with my art and educate others about creative reuse. You don’t have to have a lot of expensive supplies to make art. Who knows—your next upcycled metal sculpture might even save someone from a flat tire!

To learn more about Deane Bowers or her environmental folk art, please visit her website.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

Over the years I've shared many different step-by-step tutorials, both here at EE and at my own blog. They range in subject from how to blend colored pencils, to a full-on series describing how to paint. . . read more

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