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Recycling and reusing in textiles

Reusing materials, objects and waste to create textiles is a very interesting process, not only because we are giving a second life to the material but also because it gives history to the new piece, a sense of a past life.
I would like to show you some exciting artists that work with found, recycled or second hand materials in new and interesting ways.
African artist El Anatsui, is a Ghanaian sculptor, some of his pieces are exhibited in the British Museum in London. He has drawn particular international attention for his iconic ‘bottle-top installations’, distinctive large-scale assemblages of thousands of pieces of aluminium sourced from alcohol recycling stations and sewn together with copper wire, transformed into metallic cloth-like wall sculptures in a way that can “draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment”.
Artist Natasha Kerr uses old photos from her own family album and combines them with vintage fabrics and trims to create her distinctive brand of recycled textile art.
The stories embedded in both the black and white/sepia images and the fabrics used give Natasha’s work a depth that is very appealing to the viewer and triggers an emotional response.
Another interesting artist, Susan Stockwell, her work ranges from tiny intricate studies to huge elaborate and complex installations. She uses a combination of sculpture, drawing, painting, collage, stitch and weave to create politically charged work exploring issues of trade, history and ecology.
She uses source materials that may have started life in domestic or industrial settings, but that are common-place and familiar, such as maps and currency. These items are then recycled through manipulation and often fused together using stitch to become extraordinary pieces of art.
Louise Baldwin is a textile artist that also uses recycled materials and found objects. She combines hand and machine embroidery to create collaged wall hangings that she constructs from the waste of domestic packaging.
Louise’s artwork depicts the hectic nature of her own life. She gathers anything she can get her hands on from around the home, including card form toys, medication boxes, biscuit wrappers and layers them, building up the collage as she goes with the sewing machine. There is nothing pre-planned about this process.
Reusing waste and giving a second life to found objects its both a creative and eco friendly way of working. Have you thought of working that way before?

Posted by author: Pere Bruach
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3 thoughts on “Recycling and reusing in textiles

  • At the Fashion Embroidery and Stitch Show at the NEC in March there was a series of recycled clothes eg one made of ties. Although I am on the photography pathway I am still interested in textiles and embroidery and what is happening now. Your posts are definitely rekindling my interest.

  • I think I’ve seen El Anatsui’s bottle-top work in the Tate Gallery too – it was very effective. And I recently saw some work by Alice Fox at the DIS/rupt exhibition in Stroud, where she had worked with discarded objects (eg fragments of plastic bottle, and pieces of nylon rope picked up from a beach), building up stitches on them to form round growths (inspired by the oak galls made by wasps) as an exploration of how nature could adapt in future to the materials we introduce to the environment.

  • I’m a painter using found objects both as inspiration and a raw material. I’ve found it a surprisingly fertile area having been first turned on to it by Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Bradford (currently America’s entry @ the Venice Biennale) . Bradford often uses the by-products of the hairdressing trade (he previously worked in his mother’s salon).
    I think that it is important not to be corralled into ghettos of our own disciplines and incorporating found materials is one potential bridging method.

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