Friday, June 5, 2009

Upcycling/Recycling 3

Harriete Estel Berman

As a recycling evangelist long before curb side recycling or the current trend to thinking “green,” I would collect all my newspapers, bottles, cans, etc. and find places that would take them back. Magazines can be taken to magazine distributors, hangers can be taken back to the drycleaner, and strawberry baskets can be returned to the store or farmer’s market. This all encompassing concern about excessive waste and its effect on the environment lead me to choose non-traditional materials for my artwork.

My work made a big change in 1989 when I decided to use recycled tin cans instead of purchasing new materials. I had been collecting tins for years, especially tins with unique images or advertising on them. Now they became my primary material for fabrication, although at that time it was kind of embarrassing to use “trash” to construct my work. Eventually, it was gratifying and an amazing revelation to be invited into the first shows focusing on recycled materials.

At this point, my studio is overwhelmed with tins from floor to the ceiling. People send tins from the East Coast and West Coast, from the depths of basements and attics, from friends, my children’s’ orthodontist, curators, and total strangers.

The tins are organized by color, pattern, or subject matter (such as standing women, sitting women, words, candy, chocolate, tea, and crackers, to moth balls, etc.). But it is not just about recycling; the tins also make a statement about our consumer culture and how branding and marketing affect our identity. These are recurring themes in my work. Sometimes the images are very familiar and people can identify the brand even if only a portion of the image is visible.

When I am working on a new piece, I’ll have heaps of “inspirational tins.” It can be overwhelmingly difficult to make all this eclectic found material work into one coherent piece. Successful work comes from being able to edit and simplify; integrating layers of meaning so that the audience is enchanted at every level.

Debby Arem Designs

My husband and I started our business "Three Ring Circuits" in 1992 and like to joke that we were ' green ' before it was really a movement!At the time, my husband had a company that manufactured PC's. Having a degree in Fine Arts and always having had a vivid imagination, I went nuts when I saw the inside of a computer and a circuit board for the first time in my life. I remember thinking " WOW - what fabulous jewelry you could make using these!" I initially tried creating jewelry using boards that had the components on them but found it near to impossible to remove the chips so that the boards would be smooth enough to use.

But then, by a very odd coincidence, we discovered that we actually had a neighbor who at the time manufactured circuit boards and remarked one day that she had to dump the ones that had defects. These were all mainly prototypes for testing before they went into mass production. They had never been stuffed so were as smooth as could be! Rather than see them end up in a landfill, we stepped in and obtained them and that's when our business was launched. One of our first big accounts was the Smithsonian's Air and Space museum gift shop here in the D.C. area. We now can be found in other museum shops across the country such as the Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Since 1992, our business has expanded way beyond jewelry to include many green office products such as clipboards, pencil boxes, key chains, rulers, business card holders and bookmarks. We also sell a number of home decor products such as magnets,clocks, picture frames , sun catchers, and fan pulls.

We're always adding new items! We welcome wholesale accounts as well as custom orders as we always love the challenge of trying to create something new. Knowing that we've saved so many circuit boards from being destroyed and knowing that we've succeeded in 'repurposing' them into something new ( decorative, functional or both! ) has been very rewarding. Over the years, the response from the public has been wonderful! And seeing the looks on peoples' faces when they realize that what they're holding was once destined to be a circuit board in a PC, is always a kick!


  1. Love recycling! I have spent years being teased about recycling cans. It's good for the environment and I buy more pop with the money!

    I recycle/upcycle/revamp as much as I can. As long as it's reused, it's great!

    My manfriend calls me the "Trash Lady" LOL, but he contributes to my stash!.

  2. Some clever artists here...

  3. I love these shops and their stories. It's interesting to hear how other people recycle and how they started.
    I'm amazed that so many people send tin cans to Harriete, that's really nice.

    I finished "Anne of Greene Gables", have you seen it?
    (I don't like sushi either! haha)

  4. I love reading about all the awesome tings that people make out of "trash." I wish more people would see the opportunities that recycled materials present.

  5. Oh my gosh - I love these two shops!!! I have tin...I'm going to have to send it on! LOL FANTASTIC and so talented!!! Both of them!!!

    Have a wonderful week-end!!!

  6. I had heard of Debby, have reviewed her before, and her work is SO very geek-chic. Those pencil holders are some of my favorites but her jewelry items fascinate me too!

    Never heard of Harriete before, will definitely spend some time in that shop. Her philosophy on branding & recognition is so astute.

    Fantastic designers you have here! I must get a link to you on my eco blog, you always feature such awesome environmental things :-) Have a super weekend Audrey!

  7. oh, what great picks to feature! I love upcycled art/ clever!

  8. Hey Audrey, just a quick note to let you know I just awarded you the Kreativ Blogger Award over at Random Lunacy. Hope you enjoy & put it up on your blog too. Always love reading you :-)

  9. Yeah for recycling! I would love to chop up all the neat old tins and make things with them, but sharp things are not my friend... Good on ya!

  10. Hi Audrey, you have an award on my blog!

  11. love this too! :0) This is what happens when people pursue their passions - good stuff ;)


Thank-you so much for commenting! I love to hear from you!


Design by Custom Blog Designs/FreeStyleMama Creations