I recently attended the annual Déjà Vu Art and Fine Craft Show in Columbus, and I have to say that I will never look at trash the same way again. Before this show I would have never used the word spectacular to describe empty soda cans, broken crayons, or hair rollers from my grandma’s generation. Having never attended a recycled art show, I was amazed by the magnificent pieces the artists created using once discarded items.

These incredibly talented artists took pre-existing materials, reinterpreted them and gave them an entirely new life as recycled art. I was in admiration of the quirky and beautiful ways these artists used Upcycling to turn everyday trash into creative treasures. I loved each exhibit but I need to tell you about some of the artwork that really caught my attention.

Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft - Columbus, IN
Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft - Columbus, IN

Michael Hapner, aka the Cornbelt Cowboy, paints hundreds of spots and dots on everything from lamps and guitars to bicycles and saddles. The title of each piece is named after family, friends, current events, and life experiences. His passion lies in reducing the amount of trash in the landfill. He told me that he is famous for saying, “If you are going to throw it to the curb, I’m going to pick it up.” Hapner said his most popular items are his polka-dotted bicycles with saddles for seats. These whimsical bikes sell for $5,000 and he sells them by the dozens to art lovers as far away as Asia.

Lorie Maschino turns unwanted spoons and forks into beautiful jewelry. She creatively combines beads and sparkly jewels with various pieces of flatware to create gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. My mom was so in awe of one of the bracelets that she bought it after just one look.

Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft - Columbus, IN
Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft - Columbus, IN

Flatware was a common theme at this year’s art show. Several artists put their own unique spin on how to make spoons desirable. One such artist had visitors huddled around his table the entire day. Gary Hovey began sculpting wildlife out of stainless steel flatware eight years ago. One of his most popular pieces, a gorilla, was created using more than 1,000 forks and weighs 105 pounds. Gary said his favorite sculptures are modeled after wildlife, including bears, elephants, and game fish. Where does he get all of his flatware? From his number one fan, his dad. Every month Gary’s dad visits numerous garage sales and flea markets and mails Gary a 50-pound box of flatware. In 1994, Gary was diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease. Rather than viewing his debilitating disease as a burden, Gary focuses on the therapeutic nature of his work and says art gives him motivation to persevere.

The mother-daughter team of Karla Gauger and Audrey Barnes got their start in Upcycling when Karla’s son joined an environmental club in college. Karla said she got the motivation one weekend when her son brought home hundreds of soda cans to take to the recycling center. Today, Karla and Audrey create a wide range of products from aluminum cans, including earrings, headbands necklaces, and bracelets. It’s hard to imagine that these beautiful pieces were once someone’s trash.

I am now a major fan of recycled art and plan to attend the Déjà Vu show every year. I love the unique perspective these artists bring to the world! This show has inspired me to take a second look at those items I once thought of only as trash.

Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft - Columbus, IN
Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft - Columbus, IN

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