Reduce reuse and make art

Lost and Found makes recycling beautiful

You can walk down almost any back alley in any city and find old chairs broken glass worn clothes and other everyday items that have long since become “junk.” Three local artists however see more than just garbage. They see a possibility to create environmentally friendly art.

Tommy Fleger Lesley Bergen and Kellie Krueger are turning unappealing odds and ends into inspiring pieces. These three Chestermere Art Guild members aim to shine light on reusing old materials as a worthy environmental cause during their month-long collaborative eco and folk art exhibition.

“Something like five per cent of garbage is textile waste and probably another five per cent is furniture waste” says Fleger who is the main force behind the Lost and Found exhibition. “I would like people to change their perception where not everything is trash. You can reuse things and make nice stuff from them.”

Known as “Tommy the Chair Pimp” Fleger puts a unique spin on upholstering furniture a trade he’s been involved with for over a decade. Taking unwanted chair frames Fleger reupholsters them with old clothes he finds during frequent trips to thrift stores. One of his pieces is a chair made up entirely of old ties titled Tied to Work . Another creation inspired by urban punks and childhood delinquency is called Sit Vicious.

“I upholstered the chair as a punk because I was sort of bad at an early age and I can kind of relate to self-destructive behaviour” says Fleger of his one-of-a-kind Sex Pistols seat. “When I go thrift store shopping I have a list of chair ideas and when I find stuff for them I can start building the chair from there.”

Fleger’s collaborating artists and friends Kruger and Bergen have inventive talents of their own to showcase. What ties the trio together is their exclusive use of recycled and discarded materials.

Encouraged by therapeutic walks through the coulees just outside of Drumheller with her husband after his heart attack a few years ago Kruger collects the scattered glass strewn about an old coal mining community. She re-forms the glass pieces into vibrant new windows.

Bergen’s artwork on the other hand takes many different forms. Mostly self-taught as an artist with a mind for travel her contribution to the show consists of interesting hooked rugs created from scrap cloth and other seemingly unusable fibres.

Hoping the public appreciates the lost and the forgotten the exhibition will celebrate a love for the environment and creating new from old.

“When I take something perceived as worthless and I rework it into something of value I feel as if I am repairing myself in the process” says Fleger. “This show is a rebirth for me.”