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Upcycling and the Spirit in Materiality

This piece looks so funny to me this small. In reality it is quite monumental, especially considering the materials from which it is made. It is about 4.5' x 6.5' and it is made from humble chicken wire, newspaper and wall paper paste. Yup, you guessed it, this painting is on a papier mache base.

Upcycling is a very interesting concept in terms of using materials that sounds new but really isn't. For hundreds of years artists have been taking simple materials like used paper and making it into fine art and crafts. If you are unfamiliar with the term upcycling, it means taking ordinary materials that could have been viewed as rubbish and making something unique and artistic with them. Some people use upcycling to make functional pieces for their home. It is a transformative process.

I find that working with upcycling, in the form of papier mache is a spiritual. I must gather my materials, sometimes huge craft paper flour bags from bakeries or grocers, and go to the hardware store for the wallpaper paste and chicken wire. Then I go through quite an extensive process to turn those materials into works of art. It can take weeks or even months to reach my goals. I tap into my imagination for my organic abstractions and do spiritual journeying as well.

This piece shown above contains devas, which are a type of nature spirit, land formations from shamanic journeying and the types of lifeforms you find in the middle and upper world of the shaman. There is great satisfaction in gathering more materials for free than spending money on buying them. There is also a magickal quality in using my imagination and spirituality to conjure a unique piece of art, through the process called upcycling.

A few years back, I was a member of a group based in New York called Art from Detritus. All of us were dedicated to making meaningful pieces of art out of throw-away materials or in other words, trash. While working as a part of that group I made this piece but it was too large to ship for our exhibition at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The piece called "Fairy Tale" that I shared on this blog a few days ago was also a part of that movement. It used kitchen rubbish for it's painting surface, such as the pulp cleaned out from my juicer, cleaned and fortified so that it could last for many years.

Upcycling is a way of re-imagining ourselves as artists. It is earth-friendly, sustainable, green and related to recycling, though there are subtle differences. The next time you are about to throw something away, re-think your decision and consider what it might become if you put your imagination to use.

A to Z Challenge--"U" is for Upcycling


  1. Your piece of art is stunning. Clicking on the picture and viewing it up close shows your intricate work and the obvious time it took to create this masterpiece. Now I'm curious - where do you have this displayed? It's too amazing to be in a closet!!! Upcycling is a new term to me but makes total sense. Such creativity and imagination! Love revisiting your posts!

    1. Thanks for coming back Sue and for your compliment towards my work! You guessed it right, it's in a closet. I will be working harder this year to bring my work out and into the open. I will probably go back on etsy for starters. I will keep you in the loop through blogging.

  2. This is such a great piece - on so many levels! The piece of art you have created and shared is beautiful and I wish I were seeing it in it's FULL SIZE. The devas must be nearly life size.

    Your page is so easy on the eyes, too. I really like and appreciate the easy colors and simple lines.

    1. Thanks a lot for stopping by Donna and for your wonderful comments. As an artist the aesthetics of the blog are really important to me. I'm glad you like its design.

  3. Your painting is stunning. I adore it! Just like Donna, I would love to see it in full size. And I love the idea of upcycling. Art is everywhere and can literally be anything. :)

  4. Chrys, thank you so much! I'm so glad you like it. I agree with you regarding sourcing for artmaking--the possibilities are all around us.

  5. I had never heard the word "upcycling" until I started reading your post, though I've heard of artists who are creating something great out of "rubbish."

    I live the combination of colors in your work.

    Thank you for your comment in my blog.

  6. Thank you for the compliments about my work. I enjoyed your post today! Yes, upcycling is here to stay.

  7. I am a HUGE fan of upcycling. And this is why. You can just create amazing things from the simplest of materials. I never would have guessed chicken wire. Fabulous. And the colors are amazingly vibrant. Well done Stephanie!

  8. Ellen G, yes, it's the chicken wire that gives it that billowy quality, as though it is moving in the air, rather than simply being a flat surface. Thanks so much!

  9. I love this, and it reminds me of a local musical group, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayehm, where the drummer uses only upcycled material (suitcase, for ex).



    1. That group sounds really interesting, especially with the use of the suitcase!

  10. The pulp from your juicer? Perfect! How has it held up? Love the colours of this piece and I'm glad to find your blog. I'm off to comb your site now...

    1. Hi Dawn! My pieces in "Mixed Media for the Soul" are made from juicer pulp. This painting is newspaper and wallpaper paste over chicken wire. Thanks and I hope you enjoy!

    2. Dawn, I also love your work on Etsy I also work with the flour, salt, sugar mixture to make papier mache. I'm sure you of all people know that wallpaper paste is used in papier mache Where is your blog again?


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