Saturday, April 22, 2023, was Earth Day. Many celebrated by planting trees, cleaning their local streets, and recycling. I spent the month of April collecting small objects found on sidewalks, pavement, cement, grass, bushes, and storm drains while taking walks with my dog, Hefe in the Venice Beach area.
My friend Carrie had invited me to participate in another El Camino College Art Gallery exhibition. The goal of this exhibition was to collect trash from local beaches and to create works of art using what was found. That's how I discovered what I am calling LITTER GLITTER – tiny discarded things and parts of larger things sprinkled everywhere. Much like glitter, as hard as you try to get rid of these objects, little bits will be left behind, because they ultimately have to end up somewhere. Just because we don't see it, it doesn't mean it isn't there.
We don't think and don't worry about these things once we have used them or lost them – plastic parts from containers, razor heads, press-on nails, callus files, cigarette butts, drink tabs, receipts, candy wrappers, stickers, styrofoam, electrical cords, USB connectors, paperclips, thumb tacks, parts to children's toys, bottlecaps, plastic price tag fasteners, elastic from packaging, steel wires from bucket handles, furniture parts, circuit boards, screws, nails, lotion, and makeup containers, and much more...sometimes found broken down into smaller bits and pieces.
After we are done with our purchases or gifts, toss them into a trash container or accidentally leave them behind somewhere, they end up being abused by the elements, footsteps, and wheels. They are pressed into the earth, lay on the surface, or are washed into the ocean.
Where else do we expect them to go? What else do we expect to happen to them? Collecting these small things was eye-opening to me. There is so much that I had been overseeing and ignorant about. But, collecting trash also sparked my imagination. I found that practically anything I found could be useful again.
Many of the standard things that we throw away from day-to-day living could be manipulated rather easily or with more complex techniques to become something that at the very least could be pretty, or convenient again.
I set out to create wearable or ornamental objects with the things that I found. I gave each final piece a name:
DANGER: A hair bow using barricade tape and elastic.
WASTE TREND: A necklace from hardware, glass, rope, and wire from a USB cord.
LIFE: A bracelet from a plastic handle to a callus file, and wire from a USB cord.
MURKY HOPE: A wall cross with the rest of my small findings, including press-on nails, a razor head, wrappers, misc. metal, dental flossers, and more.
The wall cross and bracelet were the more time-consuming objects I made. For the cross, I made a mold using silicone. I then arranged my found objects into the mold, mixed resin, poured the resin into the mold, and waited for it to harden. This helped contain all the pieces in one place, so they didn't end up separately sprinkled out into the world again. It took some sawing, drilling, sanding, heat forming and scrimshaw work to create the bracelet. The artwork on this bracelet is a femur bone with leaves sprouting out of it on one side, and the word "life" on the other.
I understand that we are often strapped for time, energy, motivation, and imagination. It is very easy and convenient to ignore and disregard what we do with the things that come into our lives. If you cannot collect "litter glitter" to make something of your own, at least be aware that it is around and acknowledge it when you come across it. If it can be used once more, please use it. I have a hard time imagining how much of it is actually out there, with so many people on this planet, acquiring, using, and throwing away.