A Bit of My Trashy Origin Story
In the fall of 2009, I started collaging one-of-a-kind postcards using nothing but my everyday garbage. I would take the junk mail from my P.O. box, glue more stuff to it, and drop it back in the mail. Sometimes, the postcards would survive USPS, arriving exactly as I'd sent them. Sometimes, they'd show up missing pieces (I never marked them as hand-sort. The machines didn't really like my work.) Sometimes, they straight up disappeared.
Why Trash: Three Motivators
- The first one is pretty straight forward; I had just moved to Chicago. I was working roughly 25 hours at an unpaid internship and buying groceries with cash from part-time work and odd jobs. I wasn't rolling in cash to blow at Blick. (Trust me, I dream about winning a spin-off of Supermarket Sweep in that place.) Making new stuff out of free old stuff was pretty much all I had.
- I hate throwing stuff away. It's not that I want to keep everything I ever touch or own, but I feel extremely guilty contributing to landfills. I know that pollution/litter/global warming is way bigger than one person, but I like to think we could all make a difference if we were just a little more considerate. I mean, I was the president of recycling club in college. *Insert nerdy glasses emoticon here*
- And finally, probably the biggest thing: I do want to keep some things. I’ve been saving magazine clippings and old t-shirts my whole life. For a long time, I had no idea how I was going to use all (or even any) of it. What I did know was that someone else had worked hard to create something beautiful to share with the world, and it felt strange to toss it out just because its original purpose had been fulfilled. Now, I have a large, odd library of materials just waiting to find their second life.
Interestingly enough, this last piece is also the one that turns some folks off to my work. They feel like I'm riding on the coattails of those who created the original piece I'm clipping from. I feel exactly the opposite way; I'm honoring the time, energy, and experience of the creators around me. I wouldn't bother refocusing the spotlight on something they made if it hadn't struck me in the first place.
My old roommate was constantly facing an internal debate whenever she took something interesting to the trash bin. She had two consecutive thoughts, “Would Jen want to use this in a new piece?” and “Do I want it to stay in our apartment?” In order to pass her test, it had to be an exceptional piece of trash.
Thankfully, others are starting to think this way, too. Every now and then, I’ll receive a package in the mail containing a piece of garbage a friend thought I’d like. If someone else takes a second look at an item before sending it to the landfill, maybe I can make a bigger difference than just holding on to trash myself.
Thankfully, my little community of supporters are always pushing me to make bigger works. In 2010, I bumped up from little 4x6's to 12x16's.
2015 TrashCal Features
I started creating bright, surreal landscapes (yes, I know all the images are portrait, but I'm creating a space.) using bits and pieces of my trash library. I'd pick an item to focus on, then build a custom environment for that item. Even though I'm at the mercy of found items, I want the space to feel appropriate and plausible.
2013 TrashCal Features
Around Christmastime 2010, I printed and began distributing my first calendar. It was a gift for freelance clients from that year. Unexpectedly, a handful of folks reached out on social media about purchasing a calendar for their own. I was able to sell as many as I gave away, and came out even on printing cost.