Artistic Wonders of Waste

Having just completed my second full year of retirement and getting ready to marry/combine households, my latest hobby has been trying to purge items from my home without generating waste. I’ve gotten quite good at selling, donating, regifting, recycling and repurposing. My main hobby, however, is travel and I’ve noticed a trend in the use of abandoned items to serve greater purposes.

On a recent southern states road trip, we decided to spend the night in Little Rock, Arkansas. There we discovered the non-profit organization Washed Ashore ( which had an exhibit at the local presidential library. Known for its “Art to Save the Sea” and founded by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi, Washed Ashore has traveling exhibits and an ongoing one at the Smithsonian. We were welcomed to the traveling exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Center by this out-door masterpiece – all made of trash.

Inside the center, there was a large collection of art made entirely of debris that had washed ashore. Based in Bandon, Oregon, Washed Ashore’s team builds and exhibits works of art to educate the world about plastic waste in the ocean and waterways. Their goal is to inspire positive behavior changes in the consumption of plastics. They also create some amazing and large pieces of beautiful art.

A tsunami wave of plastic debris in the form of a large diptych created by Haseltine Pozzi.

This exhibit was profoundly impactful. I used to scoop up stuff when sailing or kayaking if I came upon it. Now I’m more sensitive about correct recycling practices and avoiding the use of some plastics all together.

Also at the Clinton Center, we were introduced to the program Curbside Couture which encourages students to create wearable designs from recycled materials. Here are a few photos from the installation of the 2019 contest. Future designers were photographed on the runway and received mentoring from professional designers. Students used newspapers, discarded items, nut shells and even dryer lint to creative stunning outfits. To learn about the Spring 2020 event, check out

We made another stop in Birmingham, Alabama and toured the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Having worked in construction and heavy industry, I thought this place was fantastic just as an example of industry in the US. However, this landmark goes way beyond preservation of the giant pig iron furnaces that stood abandoned for years. In addition to educating on the iron industry, the organization promotes metal arts and photography, holds workshops, concerts and other special events. They also have a sculpture garden, called Sculpture Trails.

If you are ever in Birmingham, I highly recommend this unusual landmark, and check out their web site at

As I wrap up this blog post and re-focus on downsizing, I remember a gift from my Mother. She also used waste as teaching aid. In my case, it was learning the importance of cleaning out the lint trap in your dryer. She gifted me this roll of fuzzy lint as a reminder and it doubles as a pin cushion! What are some of your Wonders of Waste?

15 thoughts on “Artistic Wonders of Waste

  1. Those works of art are really lovely (despite being made of trash). I’m thinking of putting together a southern states road trip and I appreciate the tips. I probably would have put the Clinton Library on our itinerary anyway, but probably would have never thought of the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Happy downsizing! Are you still planning on coming this way later this month?


  2. Truly stunning, what can be done with this waste. But it shouldn’t be there in the first place. I’m glad this art is making people aware and hopefully this can effect lasting change. Great post, Tracey!



  3. Hi Tracey, we will be in Destin, FL at the end of February and Birmingham isn’t that far away. Maybe worth a day trip? That iron museum is fascinating. Amazing what imagination can produce with trash. Now, if we could just figure out how to not put it there in the first place.


  4. Hi, Tracey – The artwork that you have shared here, and your post, are very thought-provoking. I agree with the commenters above — great use of trash, but even greater would be to eliminate much of this trash in the first place! 😀


  5. Hi Tracey, I am visiting from Janis, Retirementally Challenged blog. I had the privilege of meeting Janis this past Summer and just read about her visit with you. You definitely have a lot on the go right now. Purging around my home is a constant challenge. Amazing exhibit “Art to Save the Sea.” I live on Vancouver Island and I am not aware of an exhibit like this. Your photos are wonderful. I agree with the comments how the artwork is imaginative and beautiful, yet a reminder how it shouldn’t be here in the first place. Nice to meet you and I look forward to reading more. Erica


  6. Hi Tracey, I found your blog via Janis’s blog Retirementally Challenged. So glad I did. I love this post. Both for its message about sustainability and as well for the incredible photos of the works of art created from art.That fish is quite something, as is the diptych. And yes, you are right on, it all starts with all of us making an effort to use less plastic in the first place, especially one time use plastics.

    The fashion creations are quite unique. Amazing work. Wonderful to see what some creativity and hard work can put forth.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s