Reuse, recycle, make art!

Rug made from T-shirts by Vassie Sinopoulos

by Jenny Dembinski

We all do our part to keep items such as metal, plastic, paper and glass out of the landfill by recycling them with our local trash carrier and solid waste center. How about going a step further by re-using those items to create a useful decorative rug made from T-shirts, a striking sculpture out of scrap metal and wood, or a beautiful bowl made from recycled plastic bags? Locally, creative people are mindful of the waste they produce and are searching for ways to “up-cycle.”

Vassie Sinopoulos, a professional weaver who lives in Woodstock, started the Heritage Weaving Studio in the Bridgewater Mill in 2009.  Their mission is to use recycled clothing—T-shirts being their top choice—and make them into rugs.  Vassie now has her own studio in Gallery Place, but she still uses T-shirts and cotton and wool materials that are left over from old projects or donated.

Jay Mead, a sculptor who lives at Cobb Hill in Hartland, was in high school when the enamel art he was creating made him aware of how much energy and electricity went into making new objects.  This was also true when he apprenticed as a blacksmith where coal was used to heat the furnace. At his job coordinating volunteers at COVER, Jay is keeping materials like old roofing, siding, and kitchen cabinets out of the landfill. He is conscious to use as little energy as possible to put them together. His pieces are usually large, a mixture of recognizable pieces of discarded objects cobbled together that look like they might be functional, but not quite. Making its mark on the land, Jay’s sculpture “Dormant” sits on a hill at King Farm during Sculpturefest.

Artist Jay Mead stands in front of a sculpture.

Barbara Bartlett, an artist who lives in Woodstock, created Buddhist Begging Bowls that she wove out of plastic bags. They were displayed at Sculpturefest with a sign saying, “What is the Earth begging us to Understand?” with a list of facts about our over-use of plastic and how it is degrading our environment. The bowls were sculpted to resemble the actual Buddhist begging bowls used by monks in Southeast Asia.  The monks are dependent on the alms of the laypeople to feed their bodies as the laypeople are dependent on the monk’s spirituality to feed their souls. Barbara has also made beautiful, delicate collage and sculpture out of used tea bags. Barbara’s art demonstrates beautifully how recycled materials can be made into a useful object and a lovely work of art as well.

Vest made from tea bags by Barbara Bartlett

From up-cycling to fine art, local artists inspire us. Woodstock’s next generation at Woodstock Union High School are offered a popular class called “Art, Science and the Environment” taught by Susannah Colby. Teachers Katrina Jimmerson (who used to teach the “Green Art” class at WUHS) and Martha Perkins led a group of AP Art, AP Language and Studio III students through an exhibit, “The Solace of Amnesia,” featuring globally known artists at The Hall Art Foundation. The exhibit showed the artists’ response to how we tend to forget how things existed before us as a way to comfort ourselves from the realization that “the planet is in an age of profound environmental transformation.” The students brought journals, keeping track of their response to the exhibit. They will combine their art and writing while creating an environmental work and exhibit this spring.  We wish them well and look forward to the exhibit!

Do one thing: Turn your “trash” into treasure—recycle!











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