Clarissa Callesen has been collecting what others pass off as junk for years.
“It is taking discarded items that are somehow not appealing and seeing what magic comes from them,” said Callesen, one of the featured artists at the Recycled Art and Resource Expo.
Bellingham has adopted two days of festivities to embrace the growing fad of green living. Creating art from discarded material goes from studio to showcase at the RARE, hosted by Allied Arts, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, according to Katy Tolles, Allied Arts’ artist service coordinator. RARE is a two-day festival that celebrates creative reuse in the arts and other industries, according to RARE’s page on the Allied Arts of Whatcom County website. At RARE, presentations, workshops and events surround sustainable art, such as Creative Reuse, a presentation where the audience can “discover the variety of passions that draw these artists to the found object,” RARE’s webpage explains.
“I’m really drawn to the rusty bits of junk you find,” Callesen said. “I’m inspired to work with those materials because I think that we miss the beauty in them.”
RARE promotes the idea that art can be sustainable and educates the community about what kind of sustainable art is already being created, said Rachel Simpson, one of RARE’s workshop directors.
Simpson’s workshop focuses on fostering an individual’s creativity and turning older books into personalized works of art. She enjoys digging up pieces of her life that have grown old and transforming them into something new and different.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 2, Simpson will be hosting the workshop which is free to all ages, although a $5 donation is recommend.
Tamara Clammer is a featured RARE speaker and founder of Art+Tech+Trash, a Seattle meetup group. Her work focuses on finding innovative ways to reuse materials. She promotes the recognition of the importance of people making the most of their resources both financially and environmentally.
Some artists are drawn to pieces of trash because of the qualities of aging materials that can spark an artist’s imagination, Clammer said.
“It causes you to think about the materials in a different way,” Clammer said.
“Chaos and decay is a place where magic is born,” Callesen said. “My work is inspired by the forest floor and the decay that is there.”
Often times, after-school programs suffer artistically because of the cost of art supplies, Clammer said. Using recycled materials facilitates creativity for children in these programs by lowering the cost of supplies and making art accessible to youth.
The West Seattle Art Nest, a community art center, has an entire room dedicated to recycled materials.
“All of the materials, with the exceptions of glue sticks and duct tape, are recycled material,” Clammer said. “It keeps the costs low for those running the facility.”
RARE attracts artists with various motivations and muses. For Clammer, that inspiration lies within the familiar childhood feeling of turning “everything into anything.”
Clammer described how she would make a steampunk hat out of a yogurt carton, simply by adding buttons and fabric.
The material can come from anywhere; from trash on the street or friends saving material they would otherwise throw away.
“Most people have a quantity of stuff they automatically put in the recycle bin. If they know someone else might be able to use them, they will store them,” Clammer said.
Clammer will be hosting her free presentation 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 2.
Callesen holds a similar mindset to Clammer when it comes to the financial aspects of creating art. When it comes to creating a piece, cost is always something to take in mind, Callesen said.
“Art can be made from any object. You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars on canvas and oil paints to make art,” Callesen said.
Bellingham has become a hub for artists seeking ways to create financially and environmentally friendly art and helps make art accessible to anyone. The Art Walk through downtown Bellingham, Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth and organizations such as Allied Arts ensure that Bellingham residents have artistic resources no matter their age or income.
“Seattle has a lot of reused places, but they aren’t quite connected in the same way Bellingham is,” Clammer said.