Use it up, wear it out

Up-Cycled Art Show in Yellow Springs

Photo: Sara Gray, slumped wine bottle; photo: Sara Gray.

By Tim Smith

If you’re of a certain age, you may have heard the terms junk sculpture or found art in reference to art objects fashioned from everyday items that have outlived their usefulness. The art form had its origins in France in the early twentieth century. In today’s eco-friendly environment, it has been renamed up-cycled art. The Village Artisans in Yellow Springs will devote an exhibit to this form of expressionism from August 30 through October 3. 

Up-cycled art is defined as art made by taking something that is not typically thought of as art material and using it by itself or in combination with traditional art materials and techniques to make a piece of art. Artists are encouraged to create their works from items they would normally throw away or recycle. A specific subgenre of found objects is known as trash art or junk art. These works primarily comprise components that have been discarded. Another subgenre is known as Trashion, which is basically using trash to create fashion, such as dresses, vests, and other clothes.

According to Pam Geisel, one of the members of The Village Artisans co-op, recent environmental issues have triggered renewed interest in Up-cycled art.

“I think that with the growing awareness of climate change there’s more of a desire to find another use for items that would normally just be thrown away,” she says. “Sometimes you can reuse an object in a new way that gives it a new functionality or a new way of looking at things. It seems that too many things are manufactured for either a one-time use or a limited use and this is a way to not only bring attention to the excess trash we’re creating, but also find a creative reuse of the items instead of just throwing them away.”

The Village Artisans have featured Up-cycled artwork by some of their members, but this is the first community exhibit devoted to Up-cycled Art. It was a natural for the Yellow Springs community.

“We were trying to think of something new and because Yellow Springs is known for its eco-activism, we thought it would be a good fit,” Geisel says. “We also thought it would challenge some artists to think outside of the box as far as what materials to use. I think the public encourages the creative use of objects and people enjoy seeing items made in a different way. I’m expecting to see art made with items that would normally go into a trash can or a recycle bin: glass bottles, tin cans, bottle caps, plastic caps, cardboard, old books, and maybe electronic pieces.”

The exhibit will include a reception on Friday, September 15 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., where the public can meet the artists. Artists from all over the Miami Valley are encouraged to submit their creations. Work can be submitted to the gallery from August 25 to August 29. Submission guidelines and fees can be found on The Village Artisan’s website. 

“There is no jurying for any of our community shows, and all entries are accepted,” Geisel says. “There’s a small fee to apply which goes to cover our expenses for advertising and having a reception. We don’t have a specific number of artists in mind, and we’re more interested in the quality of the pieces submitted. Most of the pieces will be for sale. Because each of our nineteen members have been juried into the shop with a certain medium, we encourage them to enter items in the community shows that are in a different media than what they were juried in with. Many of our artists create in different media and this also stimulates creativity when exploring a new media.”

The Up-cycled Art exhibit is just the latest of the many projects that The Village Artisans sponsors in Yellow Springs throughout the year.

“The Village Artisans is an artist co-op, which means that all of our members pay an annual fee to participate and also work in or for the shop a few days each month,” Geisel says. “When you buy something from an artist co-op, the profit goes directly to the artist, unlike in a traditional gallery where the artists usually only gets 60 percent of the sales price. We like to offer that same experience to the community, a place where they can participate and exhibit without a large commission.”

Geisel and the other co-op members have high hopes for this new innovative exhibit, and feel that the public will embrace its uniqueness and creativity. 

“I think people like to see innovative art, which challenges their thinking about what is art, how is art made, and what materials are used to make art,” she says. “I think people like the surprise factor and think ‘Wow, I never would have thought about making art using (insert material here) and isn’t that cool.’”

The Up-Cycled Art Show will be presented from August 30 through October 3 at The Village Artisans, 100 Corry Street, Yellow Springs. The exhibit is free and open to the public. There will be a reception to meet the artists on September 15 from 6 – 9:00 p.m. For more information, visit, or call 937.767.1209.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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