Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Aluminium Cloth (detail) by El Anatsui. October Gallery UK

Artworks made from discarded objects hold great fascination for me especially if the pieces are as amazing as these pieces by Ghanain artist, El Anatsui. He 'sews' together flattened aluminium bottle caps to create huge cloths sometimes big enough to cover a wall or the fronts of buildings. (see here)

Many Moons by El Anatsui. Flattened Bottle caps and copper wire.

One of my favourite pieces is Crumbling Wall made from sheets of perforated rusty metal. These metal sheets were actually old graters used to prepare gari, a West African dish made from cassava. The grater is made by punching holes in a piece of flattened metal with nails which leaves a raised jagged surface over which the cassava is rubbed.

Crumbling Wall by El Anatsui. Perforated rusty metal sheets

See more of El Anatsui's remarkable works here.
"Art grows out of each particular situation, and I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up." - El Anatsui

Filthy Rivers, intersecting on a Dying Field by Joseph EZE (photos from Jess Castellote's blog)

These assemblages by Joseph Eze are made from found flip flops. Flip Flops! I admire anyone who can create art from something that is washed up on a beach or accumulating at some rubbish dump. Read more about his work on Jess Castellote's blog on contemporary art in Nigeria, here.

A dark footpath through a garden by Joseph EZE

Snow Flake Wreath by Tamiko Kawata. Safety Pins.

Art made from objects that are banal, plentiful and cheap also intrigue me. Tamiko Kawata uses the lowly safety pin and rubber band in many of her artworks.

Autumn Letter by Tamiko Kawata

Beige on Black by Tamiko Kawata. Rubber Bands.

Red Eye Bull by Richard Swenson

Richard Swenson, a retired physicist opted to restore old John Deere tractors upon retirement and while searching for parts for his tractor restoration he discovered scrap metal on farm junk piles that he could perhaps turn into something. Something became sculptures that are now exhibited in museums. Read his story here.

"When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you're really bringing them to life - a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created." - Louise Nevelson


  1. robyn your 'finds" blow me away! flip flops! amazing. keep on digging! you do find the best treasures! lyle

  2. Now I know what's happened to all the flip flops I've seen abandoned on the beach. Great set of shots and links.

  3. Beautiful.
    That safety pin wreath is just amazing!

  4. These are extraordinary and inspiring. My husband and I often walk the railroad track near our home to find unusual bits of metal to use in some of my encaustics, but these works take found and everyday objects to a new and fascinating level. Thanks for the inspiration today.

  5. I think you have the name of a new museum here, Robyn. What I wouldn't do to be in a space homing this collection! and in a world going towards *going green*, what could be a better theme for raising consciousness than through this kind of beautiful art?! love it all.

  6. Wow Robyn, thanks for the great tour of creative use of cast off junk. It reminds me to think...”I wonder what would happen if I ….used a box of rubber bands in a painting?”
    Your posts are rich with creativity. Thanks for the time you take to share with us!

  7. The metal fabric brings to mind some stately baroque world- I also think of Hundertwasser's patterns.

  8. This post is an absolute revelation to me Robyn - I have never seen anything like these works of art - those safety pins are exquisite. I think it makes one look at rubbish (so called) with entirely different eyes. Thanks for posting.

  9. Another wonderful round-up of inspiring artists. Thanks again Robyn!

  10. Thank you Robyn for sharing these artists with us. I love the idea of garbage becoming art. The first artist with the bottle caps still has my jaw dropped. Do you know how hard it is to type with your jaw dropped?

  11. wonderful and inspiration post Robyn - gotta love the flip flops!

  12. hi robyn, your last quote for this post says it all about these chosen artworks for this post.
    never ever thought rubber bands could produce such a unique work of art.

  13. Some people have are just so clever and inspired. This is a great post. I especially like Dirty River and the rusty saftey pins in "autumn letter." It would be amazing to actually see 'Crumbling Wall' it's quite impressive! I will have to come back and follow the links.

  14. Wow. Once again your posts are so enlightening and blow me away. On my vacation it's interesting that I picked up some Icelandic wool and an amazing dress, but ironically one of my favorite souvenirs were free - rocks from the black lava beaches! It's making me think much more of how acquiring new things (or using new materials) in actuality may not be as pleasurable in the end. (And of course your collectors are wonderful examples of this.)

  15. fabulous post on upcycling and tremendous work, thanks for sharing!

  16. Ah R. Thankyou for taking the time to put this all together. Such beauty created from discarded items.

  17. El Anatsui's work has always excited me. Thanks for this thrilling and thoughtful post Robyn. Great links too...Jo xx

  18. Each piece is so amazing! The quote by Louise Nevelson sums it up perfectly.

  19. Hi Robyn just catching up with your blog and of course it is always worthwhile!

    Love the safety pins, how on earth people can create such wonders!

  20. The safety pin wreath and the rubber band piece are my faves. To hold those humble objects and imagine something beautiful made from them is amazing.

  21. i so admire people who can create wonders out of waste.
    loved the autumn letter :)

  22. I enjoy visiting your blog, this post was amazing thanks for sharing!

  23. Wow Robyn... I love the uniqueness of these pieces... they are so raw to me, so evocative of the artistic spirit... I love them all, especially the way the designs just seem to grow spontaneously... have a happy weekend... Roxanne

  24. Saw this post just after I published my latest - see the "Erpingham Wall"

  25. I love the idea of creating with discards. And the artists you have highlighted here are such good examples of the beauty that can result. I have been lucky enough to see El Anatsui's work in person. It is beyond spectacular!

  26. Hi Robyn,
    I'm a real fan of el Anatsui and appreciate your posting the link to the Fowler Museum. I've had a hard time finding much of his work on line, and to get the podcasts along with the work was fabulous. I'm going to post the link to your site on my blog ( when I do my post on Anatsui.

    Also, I was surprised to see the crow by Jim Kitchen on your blog. He lives near me in western Massachusetts and I get to see many of his fab sculptures displayed outdoors here. Apparently he came to his work as a side interest in the same way that Richard Swenson did.

    And last but not least, your own work is really beautiful, rich and evocative. I looked at it before with the link from Leslie's blog but never commented. Thank you for sharing it. And thank you for giving us parochial Americans a bit of a look at South Africa.

  27. Lyle, I'm remembering all the flip flops that washed up on the beach, every holiday.

    Annie, unusual aren't they?

    Pamela, safety pins are used quite often in art or jewellery here in South Africa but nothing as intricate as the wreath.

    Lia, encaustics is another medium I would love to try.

    Karin, amazing what people think up when they put their minds to it. Did you notice the painting with safety pins seems to have traces of amharic writing.

    Leslie, I'm wondering if the rubber bands would perish over time or if encaustics would prevent that.

    ArtSparker, yes it does remind me of Hundertwasser's spirals too.

    Weaver, it certainly makes one more aware....but now I throw nothing away...which is becoming a problem :-)

    Thanks Kim.

    Katherine, I frequently type with my jaw dropped!

    Thanks Jeane.

    Priya, you better believe it...and a few more where that came from.

    Lisa, there is a great close up of the perforated metal from Crumbling wall if you follow the link.

    Heather, I've been wondering about your trip to Iceland. Good point about acquiring new things. Eventually it is the little things like black lava rocks that hold meaning.

    La Dolce Vita, glad you enjoyed the post.

    HHMN, I'm thinking what you could do with a mosaic wall and a few found objects. Loved the wall on your dad's blog.

    Jo, enjoy!

    Thanks Bindu, Dan and Blu, Kathleen and notmassproduced.

    Stevie, elevating the lowly safety pin to art is amazing isn't it.

    Megha, exactly! I'm thinking of you and your little nut shell books and the tea house pages.

    Roxanne, they do grab one's attention don't they.

    Avus, I loved the Erpingham Wall!

    Seth, lucky indeed. I have yet to see an El Anatsui in person.

    Thanks Nancy.

  28. Yes, it takes an incredible amount of creativity - and courage-- to take everyday mundane throw away stuff and turn it all into interesting, visual wonders. Whenever I see something made from scrap or junk I always think of the possible history behind it all. These are all thought provoking.

  29. Love how you find such interesting bits and pieces of art I probably would never see.
    I would love you to come walking with me too. Hot and windy yesterday, thunderstorms and high winds and rain today... and cold.

  30. Wonderful post, very very inspiring. I love art made from reclaimed items. the safety pins were awesome.

    regards Dave

  31. What amazing art and craft Robyn. Who would have thought such humble and discarded items could be brought to life so beautifully by those who have the vision. I particularly love seeing animals and birds made out of old bits of scrap metal.

  32. such bountiful inspiration ... so visionary ... what would it be like to look at the world right through their eyes ... must be a trip at times.

  33. I usually take a ride by your blog, i like it very much. Congratulations it's a beautifull work.
    I write impressed with Many Moons by El Anatsui, I'd never think before that discarded materials could remind me Klimt's work!!