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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”