An exhibit displaying recycled materials repurposed into functional tote bags is the latest in a series focusing on unique and functional art at downtown Phoenix’s MADE Art Boutique.
“Not a Plastic Bag” opened in late September and shows the work of local artists who “put their own spin” on reusable tote bags, program manager Christy Brown said. Artists were given three options: decorate a blank canvas bag, transform old vinyl banners or use materials of their own choice.
Brown said that while it can be hard to afford art, exhibitions like” Not a Plastic Bag” can showcase pieces with more function.
Cindy Dach, the owner of MADE, said the boutique is geared toward providing a gathering place for artists and art lovers alike in downtown Phoenix.
“Our goal is to foster community. We get a few artists interested in the exhibits that aren’t textile artists, who just like the concept of the exhibitions and want to try their hand at something different,” Dach said.
Wendy Raisanen, one of the featured artists, decorated empty chicken feed bags with lace, ribbon, sequins and fabric to “gussy them up,” she said.
Raisanen collected feed bags from her home, where she has three chickens. She said her hens are “little princesses, and thought the tote bags I made with their feed bags should be cute, feminine and pretty.”
Raisanen has made fabric bags since the 1980s. They are “more durable than disposable bags and don’t generate all that trash,” she said.
This attitude of sustainability is shared by many of the artists featured in the exhibition, including Tara Logsdon, who repurposed pillow cases for her tote bags.
“It’s important that people think of the second life of things, instead of just making new stuff. Polyester fibers will live on for 450 to 1,000 years, a life span much greater than that of the object’s original owner,” Logsdon said.
Longevity plays a crucial part in Logsdon’s art. She rehabilitates discarded teddy bears and adopts them back out into the world as part of EKLbearmy.
“My bears symbolize rebirth and bring attention to the mass production and consumption that has become commonplace in our world,” she said. “Plastic bags are another great example of that waste.”
Growth and expansion are also important parts of the artistic process, Logsdon added.
“Artists are constantly transforming things. Art captivates people and makes life more interesting,” she said.
Past exhibits have featured birdhouses, salt and pepper shakers, bookends and cookie jars, Dach said.
“These events spark a creative idea and it’s interesting to see how people respond to it,” Dach said. “The items featured in ‘Not a Plastic Bag’ are all unique and cannot be bought anywhere else.”
The tote bags are for sale at MADE and will be available through the end of October, with the artists receiving 60 percent of the profit.
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