Plastic fantastic

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Trash becomes treasure as the star of quirky artworks using found materials

‘I love sifting through bags of unwanted goods or broken jewellery, looking for interesting items of exactly the right colour. Other people’s discards are my treasure!’ laughs artist Jane Perkins.
‘I will use any materials of the right size, shape and colour, including toys, shells, buttons, cutlery, beads, jewellery and curtain hooks.’
Jane crafts her quirky, colourful pieces entirely from found materials, and although shocked by the scale of waste in our society, these ‘throwaway’ items were not chosen to make an eco-statement, they simply chimed with her brand of creativity. ‘I like art with humour or an element of the unexpected.
I use recycled materials because they express something of me. I love the infinite colours and shapes – every shade of every colour is out there in plastic!’
While doing a degree in textiles, Jane produced a collection of hand-stitched brooches made from found objects, which eventually sparked the idea for her larger-scale pieces.
‘While making the brooches, I collected lots of materials which were too big and wondered what to do with them,’ she says. ‘Then the idea of making them into a portrait just came into my head. The first large portrait I made was of the Queen. Halfway through I had a sort of eureka moment – I looked at the work from a distance and knew it was going to work and that this could become my direction.’
Choosing well-known people and works of art to recreate is deliberate, allowing the viewer to ‘get the joke’ when they see such familiar images made using unexpected materials.
After starting with portraits, Jane began reproducing famous paintings, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and The Great Wave, after Hokusai. ‘The organic shapes of the sunflowers lend themselves perfectly to reinterpretation using plastic dinosaurs and animals, and the 3D image echoes the thick nature of the paint which Van Gogh squirted directly from the tube.’
More recently she’s been inspired by wildlife, and says one of her favourite pieces to date is King of the Beasts, a powerful lion portrait with a mane made from hundreds of plastic animals. ‘I’ve always been inspired by Picasso who tried so many different media,’ she says. ‘I love his sculptures from found objects, particularly Head of a Bull, made from a bicycle saddle and handlebars. If he had an idea, no matter how quirky, he just had to go for it.’
• Find more of Jane’s work, together with her blog, at www.bluebowerbird.co.uk.

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