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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."