This month at Local Colors of Utah gallery we are having a group artists' show entitled "Upcycled." Everyone has heard of recycling but what exactly is upcycling? Google the term and you will find a surprising number of related links including this definition: "To reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original." Considering the two-fold effect of shrinking product life spans coupled with incessant upgrade cycles and there would seem to be ample opportunity for creative types re-purpose much that surrounds us. But, from a photographer's perspective, how does one do that? When the show theme was decided upon, that was the exact question I asked myself.
Then it occurred to me: I'm already doing it. Two years ago I started a new presentation of my photography: on tiles. We purchase used or discarded ceramic or stone tiles from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, then adhere them via a multi-step, labor-intensive process involving gluing, sanding, epoxy glaze applying, two drying periods, dremeling, and finally labeling. At the end of seven days or so, we (my wife and I) will have produced 40-80 tiles in sizes ranging from 4" x 4", 6" x 6", 6" x 8", 8" x 8", 12" x 12", and even larger sizes. The tiles are UV, water, and heat resistant and can be used as coasters, trivets, table displays, or hung on the wall (the largest tiles, those 12' x 12" and above, are sold with a-fixed wires on the back).
When we started this new line of Clayhaus Photography products the idea was to present my photography in a new and functional manner at the various art festivals and markets that we participate in. I call it "affordable, functional, fine art photography" and it has been immensely successful. Last year I brought a limited number of my photo art-tiles to Local Colors. For the Upcycled show starting this week, I will bring a few more of the larger hanging pieces.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...now we can add Upcycle to that credo!
As the principal of Clayhaus Photography, Jeff Clay, specializes in fine-art landscape, architecture, and travel images. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife, Bonnie, and their three wild and crazy retrievers.