An Adventure in Imagination

July 1, 2003
Penny S. Bonda, FASID

Trash to Treasure:
An Adventure in Imagination

The challenge—dig into your trash cans, at home, at work, wherever. Dig equally hard into your artistic center and turn what you pulled out of the waste stream into something of value. The result: 22 objets d'art made from the most ordinary stuff and transformed into things of beauty or humor or both and put on display at EnvironDesign7 in Washington, DC, last April. Hugely popular, the event, which was juried to add to the fun, is likely to become a fixture at future EnvironDesign conferences.The brainchild of Tama Duffy, ASID and her colleagues at OPX, a DC design firm, Trash to Treasure sought to cast a creative light on a serious problem—the enormous amount of waste that is cluttering our landscape. While the amount of trash rescued from landfills was small, the resulting treasures amply demonstrated that cleverness and determination can help provide solutions. How many of us have thrown away boxes of old business cards? Jennifer Davis, a designer at Einhorn Yaffee Prescott found a better use for hers: she constructed a lamp that was both functional, beautiful and a real crowd-pleaser. EnvironDesign attendees voted it their favorite with the People's Choice award.Another lamp, named the Mini-Moo by its designers Amy Ranson and Richard Gerdes, also of OPX, walked away with the Best of Show award from the judges. It was constructed from those little plastic cream containers that come with coffee, which proved to have just the right opacity for filtering light. Who knew? Duffy's entry, designed with OPX colleagues Jose Gomez and Arlene Dedier, were flip-flops fashioned from discarded wine corks and named Walking Trash, which received the Funky Trash award and caused many to speculate on where all that wine went! In a change of pace, Giang Dinh of the SmithGroup used discarded coffee-stained napkins to create a wall-hanging of almost mystical beauty named Man-Fish, which received the Classy Trash award. Rounding out the named winners was a large hanging panel by Marcia Hart, again from OPX, called Just Passing Through. Made from an old door it was judged special enough to win the Treasured Trash award. Other "treasures" were made from automotive parts, yarn scraps, a used printer cartridge, a tape measure, plastic laminate samples, and even compost and turned into compositions as varied as a collage, a quilt and a kaleidoscope. Shirlee and Claude Singer from Iowa State University used 9-11 tribute articles clipped from The New York Times to create an interactive and poignant piece called Twin Towers—Portrait of Grief. All of the creations were available for purchase through a silent auction held to benefit the Chesapeake Bay, the Mid-Atlantic's most treasured natural resource. Alison Kolwaite from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation received more than $1,000 to help her organization "Save the Bay."For me, the pièce de résistance was a hanging mobile. Its designer, Patty Fries, lives in Philadelphia, PA, near a freight yard. "When I would take my son for a walk around the neighborhood, we would inevitably end up watching the freight trains go by. Eventually we went closer to the tracks where I found a treasure trove of discarded objects, which I then made into mobiles," Fries writes. I liked it so much that I bid on it in the auction. Now pieces of junk from a Pennsylvania train yard are proudly on display in my home—truly trash to treasure! 2003 Trash to Treasure Participants There's nothing trashy about these folks!

  • Eric Schactman, McClure Engineering
  • Jennifer Schutt, Beery Rio
  • Eric Jenkins, Eric Jenkins Architect
  • Dave Taylor
  • Dorette Schaefer, Country Charm and City Chic
  • Etan Doronne, Freecycle
  • Jennifer Davis, Einhorn Yaffee Prescott
  • Catherine Gately, Identity Studio
  • Hope Ginsburg and Carol Derby, The Designtex Group
  • Nicky Hull-Itkin, student, NVCC
  • Marcia Hart, OPX
  • Susan Forth
  • Shirlee and Claude Singer, Iowa State University
  • Amanda Kimbell, Amy Joyner and Denise Arthur, J&J/Invision
  • Giang Dinh, SmithGroup
  • Amy Ranson and Richard Gerdes, OPX
  • Tama Duffy, Arlene Dedier and Jose Gomez, OPX
  • Jill Kowalski, Kimberly O'Dowd and Jennifer Young, Ewing Cole Cherry Brott
  • Patty Fries
  • Rick Rutledge, Beery Rio
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