Monday, October 17, 2016

there's beauty in recycling

Return tree sculpture on show at Centre Court in Market Mall, Calgary, Alberta. October 17 - 23, 2016.

Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation's (ABCRC) new sculpture celebrating the beauty of recycling has just been unveiled...
Sheri and Angela from ABCRC with a tired but happy Cory and Jeff, and Return - a tree sculpture
decorated with materials from pop cans and bottles, milk cartons, juice tins, and every kind of
recyclable beverage container that can be returned to depots in Alberta.

Recycled containers grow
into Alberta flora
Jeff de Boer, Cory Barkman, and I were invited to create an artwork that could help reinforce the beauty and value that comes from recycling beverage containers. Our challenge was to re-use containers from the bottle depot as key components of the piece, transforming the materials into something new.

Project lead and maker extraordinaire Cory Barkman proposed a tree to capture the vision: "So many Albertan's recycle, and the hand makes it clear that by our direct involvement in recycling we are consciously taking responsibility for how we use the earth's resources". The tree is supported by a human hand, and Cory added "The hand shows that such life and beauty is a precious thing to be cared for, and recycling is a way to say 'Thanks, we like it here and want to stay longer'". Trees also live very much longer than people, and Cory concluded that "As this beauty takes root within us, our actions begin to bear fruit and the tree branches become far reaching both to the earth, and to those who live on it".

Foliage, fruit, and flowers decorating the tree were my challenge. I drew inspiration from Alberta flora, with poplar-shaped leaves, and species of violet, forget-me-not, heather, daisy, and, of course, our Alberta provincial flower - the wild rose. There are many coloured berries, and larger fruits—our domesticated apples, pears, and grapes—all made from recycled pop, juice, and milk containers and lids.

Jeff de Boer worked closely on the tree with Cory and I and - as always - solved so many problems, made so many parts, and made the project happen (whilst finishing up his herd of gorgeous sculptures in the new international terminal at Calgary International Airport). Building connections between people, as well as helping to build their skills, has always been integral to Jeff's artistic practice, it is part of how he chooses to build art.

The tree sculpture has new and recycled materials, and we hope it will be enjoyed for many years. Eventually, all materials are returned for re-use or will be recycled - including the artists! The tree is a reminder that everything we use is just a part of a much larger life-cycle, and it is our choice to reduce, re-use, recycle, and finally, to return.

Links and more resources:
1.  The Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation commissioned this artwork as part of a larger campaign - The Beauty Of Recycling - to raise awareness of the value in returning beverage containers. You get your deposit back, and the materials get re-used to make new things. See more details at

2. Alberta Depot gave artists the theme of "Alberta flora" to inspire our designs. The Return tree leaves are shaped like those on our local poplars. I consulted this excellent manual to learn more about Alberta trees, shrubs and wild-fruits: Guide to the Common Native Trees and Shrubs Of Alberta by Inkpen and Van Eyk, Published by The Government Of Alberta.

All of the flowers under the tree are based on the colours and forms of Alberta wild-flower species, though they are obviously not to scale ;)  The reference used for flower details is Wildflowers Of The Canadian Rockies by George Scotter and Halle Flygare.

3. Links to the Return tree artists:
Cory Barkman - see amazing pieces of furniture, lamps, interior artwork and - of course - robots at  Find Cory on Facebook.
Jeff de Boer - internationally collected artist, public art and art community builder, famous for armour for cats and mice. See pictures at  Find Jeff on Facebook.
Christine Pedersen - thanks for checking out my blog, I'm on Facebook too.

4. If you're out and about in Alberta, you have probably also seen gorgeous recycled metal flowers and foliage featured on posters all over the province. These artworks were made for Alberta Depot by Calgary artist Sasha Foster.