Why I use repurposed and salvaged materials

Posted by Jarrett Leone on

Whether it is jewelry or sculpture, I love using recycled and salvaged materials, and found or repurposed objects in my work.

For one thing, I love the process of finding the materials. It's like a treasure hunt. I might be sifting through the piles of metal and strange objects at the scrap yard, digging through a chest full of random world coins at an antique store or randomly finding something really cool on a walk around town or hike through the woods. Either way, It's really fun for me.

Another really special part of using pre-existing materials, is the idea that I get to resurrect them. I was reading an article recently in the Huffington Post by Margaret Dilloway. In it, she talks a little about her experience with the Shinto religion. There was one paragraph that really resonated with me:

"Kami are Shinto spirits present everywhere — in humans, in nature, even in inanimate objects. At an early age, I understood this to mean that all creations were miracles of a sort. I could consider a spatula used to cook my eggs with the wonder and mindful appreciation you’d afford a sculpture; someone had to invent it, many human hands and earthly resources helped get it to me, and now I use it every day. According to Shinto animism, some inanimate objects could gain a soul after 100 years of service ―a concept know as tsukumogami ― so it felt natural to acknowledge them, to express my gratitude for them."

I love this idea. It is especially interesting to me when I am holding an old key or a coin, but it applies to all the pipes and wires and metal I use for any piece. I love to think about the constant process of transformation that every bit of energy and matter is continually going through, and it thrills me to think that when I am working on a piece of jewelry or sculpture, I am taking a very active and intentional role in this process. 

Sometimes using pre-existing materials really adds to the creative process. The shape the material is in sometimes dictates what I can use if for and how. It creates an interesting challenge that I have to constantly work around. It keeps things interesting. 

Using recycled and salvaged metal is more costly and labor intensive in the long run. This may seem counter intuitive, but the time and energy spent cleaning up the stuff before it can be used far outweighs anything I save by not buying brand new materials. It's worth it, though. We have already taken so much from the earth, I feel it is important to use what we have as efficiently as possible before taking more. 

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