News / Arts & Entertainment

Maryland Woman Perfects Art of Recycling Plastic Bags

Artist Turns Plastic Bags into Arti
X
Faiza Elmasry
June 23, 2014 3:01 PM
Plastic bags are so cheap to produce, sturdy and easy to carry that they are the preferred container in much of the world. But they are also a big source of pollution. Artist Allita Irby has found another use for plastic bags by turning trash into art. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Faiza Elmasry
Allita Irby turns plastic bags into art.

About three years ago, the mixed media artist recognized the potential of the plastic bags her daily newspapers came in.

“I was taking the newspaper out and I felt the texture of these bags,' she said. "They were soft and the idea occurred to me. I just looked down and realized it takes three to make a braid. I'll just put a few staples in here just to keep it from unraveling."

She's been using them to create her pieces ever since.

Art of recycling

Beside the beautiful colors and texture, there is another reason she recycles the bags in her artwork. 

“It keeps the plastic bags out of the environment,” she said. “So many times you see the plastic bags on trees, at the side of the road that people have just thrown down. Sometimes these bags find their way into nature, which is very harmful and it can cause death to some animals.”

Before that, Irby used natural materials like dried flowers, botanical and feathers. 

“I'd take these things and I'd bundle them in fabric and tie them up with leather to keep them together," she said.

In all her works, Irby reveals elements of her Native American heritage and identity.  Growing up in Oklahoma gave her a chance to learn and appreciate her ancestors’ art and love for nature.

“Navaho Bundles” is an example. Irby used the bags to replicate a Navaho hair style, in which a long braid is looped and tied almost like a bow. “I took the piece and looped it back onto itself and secured it with a tie and put them on an acrylic painted board and framed in a shadow box."

Another example is “Plaits and Ponytails,” a collection of her work now on display at the African American Museum and Cultural Center in Prince George's County, Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C..  

Museum curator Jon West-Bay says he selected Irby’s collection because of its beauty and uniqueness. He says he likes how Irby weaves together plastic bags to represent braided hair and create abstract lines in her piece. The collection, he says, has attracted people's attention.

“People always think of it as one thing when they’re far away," he said. "And when they get up close, they see it’s plastic bags. And it always sparks a discussion.”

Sharing techniques

Amazed at how she turns trash to treasure, some neighbors asked Irby to teach them how to design and create their plastic bag artworks.  Irby says it was a great opportunity for her to share some skills and thoughts with her community. And her neighbors' feedback is totally positive.

“I think it’s fascinating; it's wonderful," her neighbor Charlotte Hogan said. "I do plan to share with my seniors at my church.”

Aleta Mayer says she's inspired by the artist. "I’ve never given any more thought to what to do with a plastic bag. This is definitely different.”

The idea of reusing the bags fascinates Shirley Watts, a former Girl Scout leader. She announced, “I want to make a masterpiece that I can put in a frame and put it up on my wall and then I know that I did it.”

Allita Irby says it was amazing to see how resourceful and creative her neighbors are.

“I think we’re all artists really, and there is beauty all around us. All you have to do is open your eyes and bring the outside in."

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Enviro-Equipment, Inc. from: North Carolina
June 23, 2014 3:59 PM
Not to split hairs here, but what Ms. Irby is doing isn't recyclingplastic bags, but rather simply using it as an artistic medium. Recycling would be if it was melted down into another product made of plastic.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."