Mia Sabel with her winning work, 'Banksia'. Photo: Mike Hitch

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By MICHAEL HITCH

The Bower Reuse and Repair Centre takes another step towards sustainable living after announcing the people’s choice winner at the conclusion of their ‘ART from TRASH’ exhibition in Marrickville.

The exhibition, held at ‘MakerSpace & Co’ from August 2nd to August 11th, aimed to educate people in the value of what is thrown away and to reduce waste in an artistic context. This year’s winner of the People’s choice award and $500 cash prize, titled ‘Banksia’, was created by student-artist Mia Sabel.

‘Banksia’ is an “experimental lighting concept” that draws from traditional basketry and is made up of crocheted plastic bags, wires and cables, recycled woods and of course… a light bulb.

Ms Sabel said that winning the award was an “honour”, as well as a great opportunity to demonstrate how one person’s trash can literally become another person’s treasure.

“It feels phenomenal. To win an award like this for The Bower with a piece that’s made out of absolute rubbish, in a place full of pieces made of rubbish, is just an honour for me,” she said.

“It was hard. As it grew larger and more flexible and had a mind of its own it became more difficult to work with. I had this vision all along and I tried to shape it towards that vision stitch by stitch.”

Traditions

Ms Sabel also discussed the inspiration behind the piece as a symbol for a loss of craft skills as every generation continues.

“I did it during my textiles course at UNSW art and design. I call it Banksia because it kind of looks like a Banksia pod and originally it was about how craft traditions are being lost through every generation.”

“At the beginning the holes are tiny but as the work progresses the holes become larger and larger to represent how that knowledge is lost.

“My grandma taught me how to crochet and I might not pass that knowledge on to my children.”

The opening night of the exhibition saw a turnout of approximately 300 people with 63 pieces of artwork displayed by 33 artists. The Bower estimates roughly 700 people have showed up to the exhibition during the week.

Artworks presented at ‘Art from Trash’ ranged from sculptures to sketches, raising important issues regarding sustainability and overconsumption. The Inner West Council also presented two judge’s awards worth $250 on the opening night, to works inspired by fast-fashion and food-wastage.

The Bower partnered with the Inner West Council, EDGE Sydenham and MakerSpace to bring the ‘Art from Trash’ exhibition to Sydney from its origins in Hobart, which has had more than 5000 visitors and over 130 local and nationally-known artists present their work.

Sustainability

General Manager of The Bower, Guido Verbist, said that the exhibition succeeded in telling a tale of sustainability and that the event’s first-time success has emboldened The Bower with stronger connections to community and creativity.

“It’s the story about showing people how you can reuse ‘pre-loved’ goods as we call them, because there’s always a good use for these thing,” he said.

“We always have looked at the role of The Bower as an organisation that has to tell the story of reuse, time and time again in different ways and this is a different way of telling that story.

“There is a reuse possibility for items that you think would have no functionality anymore and that’s why we do it.

“We can, by doing this, tap into a new audience that we are less active with or less informed about what we do and that’s a big bonus for us because we see a lot of new faces here. Even the vast majority of artists here have not previously interacted with us which creates a new network and gives us another way to tell the story about reuse and repair.”

Other artists present for the closing night included sisters Anna Mango and Tarja Martin, who presented dresses made from bubble-wrap and other brightly coloured plastic as a statement against the growing fast-fashion industry. Both sisters share a love of stylish sustainability and “jumped” at the chance to combine both passions for the exhibition.

“We pick with pride,” said Ms Mango as she smirked at Ms Martin.

“You know how necessity dictates: a lack of the dollar bills makes you more enthusiastic about diving into trash,” Ms Martin continued. “So really, when you live a low-economic lifestyle, you’re looking after the planet and the next generation.

“We have a love of drag queens, and therefore we have a love of the avante-garde. We love fashion, so it all came together as a memento to wearing worldwide waste. As soon as we heard this was happening, we jumped in.”