I love finding very cool, very fabulous things people are doing in the name of upcycling, and creating something beautiful in the process. Gypsy-Lea Douglas is one such person, who is currently on show at On A Bike Art, The Beth McDonnell Gallery, Kew, Victoria. An artist creating portraiture, using recycled audio cassettes, VHS tapes, vintage radio reels etc she recycles any of these obsolete old tapes into works of art. Starting in 2010, Gypsy-Lea is an artist and a single mother of two boys. Discovering art at the age of 11, she has been expressing herself through art ever since. She began using pencils, sometimes paint, and then moved onto more unusual mediums like tapes. “I studied Art, Studio Arts, Media and Photography at school. They were the only subjects I was excited to attend. I literally slept through maths and english at times. Sometimes I wagged other classes to play in the school’s photographic darkroom” explains Gypsy.
I started making Tape-Art in 2010. I was thinking about old tapes and how they have become obsolete. It seemed a shame to throw them away after all of the effort someone had put into creating them. These tapes brought so much enjoyment to people in the past and now they were just rubbish. I wondered how I could bring them back to life to honour the artists who created them. So I began making portraits, using the tape from inside the cassette to “draw” the subject.
What made you fall in love with the idea?
I just loved the idea of bringing something back to life, instead of throwing it away. I felt an emotional attachment to the tapes, as if they contained a piece of myself or a piece of the artists involved in creating them. I felt it would be a great injustice to throw away someone’s work.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how is this part of your business and own home?
We live in an age where everything is disposable, and I think that’s sad. We are filling our oceans and land with rubbish. We think we are doing the world a huge favour when we “recycle” by putting our glass, plastic and paper into a certain bin, and by donating last year’s wardrobe to charity, but the truth is, we need to take a better look at the first two “R’s”; Reduce and Re-Use. We need to cut down on how much we consume. We need to realise the difference between a need and a want, and weigh up the impact on the earth with the benefits of owning a new product. We consume disposable fashion; what was “wearable” last year is “out” this year. Hand-me-downs are seen as something under-privileged people have. It shouldn’t matter what colour or style or pattern it is; if it’s clothes, wear it. If you have clothes, don’t buy new ones just because they’re “super cute”. Everything comes in single-serve, single-use, and is single-purpose and not built to last. How many appliances do you have in your home? A jaffle maker, a donut maker, a toaster, a popcorn maker, a smoothie maker, a snow-cone maker, a fryer, a dehydrator, a kettle, a waffle iron, a blender, a food processor, a slow-cooker, a pressure-cooker…..People have an appliance for every specific application, when we could use one or two multi-use products.
We consume novelty products which serve no actual purpose. We have 2 dozen different cleaning products in each home. One for this, one for that, one for the other thing. We even have gadgets for our gadgets gadgets! We have single servings of food and drink in individual packaging. It serves a purpose for 5 seconds and then is thrown away.
Instead relying on recycling things (which is a resource-intensive process) we should look at how we can consume less, and use things again. We need to stop with the impulse buys. I’ve seen items on hard rubbish which were brand new and still in the packaging. Ideally, we should stop producing so much junk in the first place. We are consuming our way to the end of the world.
Do you have any tips for other people wanting to create a sustainable home?
When you pick up an item at the shops, consider whether you really need it. Will it last, serve a purpose, and will it be suitable for re-purposing or recycling in the future? If not, don’t buy it. And I promise you won’t yearn for it later; you will probably just forget all about it! And by doing this you will notice so much more money left in your pocket at the end of the week.
Don’t browse the aisles. Go to the shops with a list of what you need, find it, buy it, and leave! Out of sight, out of mind.
If you need something, try to find it second hand, or create a makeshift version out of something you already own. Search on Gumtree or eBay. You’ll be amazed at what you can find, and how much money you will save. My house is like a recycle centre. I buy what I need second hand, and when it no longer serves a purpose, I use it for something else or put it back into the loop to be snatched up by the next savvy person.
When you have no further use for something, FIND another use. If you can’t find a use, donate or sell it. If it’s not fit for donation or re-sale, recycle it. If it can’t be recycled, let that be a lesson for next time you want to buy something; consider where it is going to end up.
A cluttered home makes a cluttered mind. Do you want to fill it with “stuff” or with experiences and memories?
You can see more of Gypsy’s work here