My mother was a Quaker. Open-minded and thrifty, she lived a simple life of honesty, moderation, contemplation, and industriousness – traits which she quietly passed on to my brother and me.
What does this have to do with design?
The short answer is that at the core of my being, I am strongly and irrevocably drawn to simplicity and minimalism. At the same time, I hate tossing items that might be useful.
Keep in mind, as an artist, the things I consider “useful” differ from the typical definition. My husband, the child of a hoarder parent, finds this very... challenging.
Take, for instance, my most recent nemesis: plastic lids and bottle caps. They're not recyclable in any convenient or meaningful way. They're everywhere! Literally. They litter roadsides, speckle sidewalks, clog up drains and gutters. Once you start looking for them, you can't stop finding them.
As I was becoming aware of this bottle cap problem, it happened that someone showed me a photo of the Great Pacific Gyre – a desert of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, where nothing grows and many aquatic creatures find a plastic-related death. Once I saw that, there was no way I could throw plastic bottle caps away. So, I started collecting.
The bottle caps were large and small, thin and thick, sturdy and pliable. They came in an array of colors. I put them into a basket at first. When the basket overflowed, I started filling a bucket. When the bucket threatened to crest, I began to organize the caps.
I spent several long, happy hours nesting the caps together in order to save space. Then I felt compelled to nest them by size, varying the color for pacing and interest. Some colors, like white, were commonplace, but others – like gold and hot pink – were rare and provided important contrast. As I played with them (all in the interest of saving space, don’t you know…), it suddenly occurred to me: plastic bottle caps become interesting, modular pieces then stacked and organized by diameter. They can ebb and flow in a way that is very ‘50’s space-age. They're colorful and sturdy. Their manufactured nature would be great contrast to the organic and natural aspects of a garden.
I bubbled with enthusiasm over this discovery. My husband raised his eyebrows with skepticism.
I did the only thing I could:
I drilled out their centers, threaded them onto rebar, and turned them into colorful garden sculptures.
Repurposed. Artful. Usable. What more could a Quaker’s artist daughter ask for?