While my hands are busy with the endless work of creating the ornaments for this magnum opus of a tree, my brain is busy with a lot of things including what to make for dinner, did I remember to feed the cat, give the dog water, and why I am working so hard to make ornaments that are repurposed, recycled and made from renewable resources?
Every single thing is not green– there are a few plastic bits here and there. In our culture I don't think I could completely escape them and I haven't found glue yet that isn't pretty much like plastic when its dried. I think I have always been on the recapture and repurpose wagon, way before it became popular. That's what comes of growing up without much money and being very clever, and its a great skill to have, thank you. That, and always wanting to figure out how to make new stuff have been very useful in the construction of what will be over 300 ornaments when done.
I have always loved second hand stores and garage sales. The cultural anthropologist in me regards these places as treasure troves of stories of our world. I just don't have to dig and get filthy to do my archaelogy. I am so curious about how did this stuff get here and why?
Being an art packrat I have always dragged things With No Useful Purpose home to just look at, rocks, sticks, seedpods, shells and pieces of the natural world inspire me. I am the only person whose husband ever looked at her in disbelief when moving house. "Second best rocks? You expect me to move a box of rocks? Where are your best rocks anyway?" I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd spent money mailing rocks home to myself either. He knows when we go on a road trip the floor boards will be full of stuff I pick up. Last summer went to visit my favorite Utah ghost towns, nothing there but old busted glass shards. 5 Trader Joe bags full of glass and a huge box of bed springs later….oh, did I mention we were in a Mini Cooper convertible? (My husband is wonderful and patient if you haven't already figured that part out.)
I do use these things in my work. I create jewelry from the glass and I love handling it and wondering where it has been and how long. The bedsprings I haven't figured out yet, I'm thinking they'll be windchimes sooner or later, but I digress. The point to this tree is to show that you don't have to go to Joanne's, Target, Michael's (all of which I adore) and buy their gorgeous cheap ornaments made in China. Why not?
From a 2008 editorial in the New York Times: "Chinese leaders argue that the outside world is a partner in degrading the country’s environment. Chinese manufacturers that dump waste into rivers or pump smoke into the sky make the cheap products that fill stores in the United States and Europe. Often, these manufacturers subcontract for foreign companies — or are owned by them. In fact, foreign investment continues to rise as multinational corporations build more factories in China. Beijing also insists that it will accept no mandatory limits on its carbon dioxide emissions, which would almost certainly reduce its industrial growth. It argues that rich countries caused global warming and should find a way to solve it without impinging on China’s development.
But just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.
Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.
Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.
Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life."
Did you know a lot of the pollution over L.A. comes from China? I think we have become very spoiled Americans. We want things cheap, cute and now. We are often not willing to pay the price for goods that are made in a thoughtful, carbon-light way. I think the price is hidden and the toll in our environment and on humans around the world is a terrible price to pay, and ultimately we will pay it.
With this tree I have decided to celebrate the beautiful things that are already in the world and turn things that are not so beautiful into beauty. Old glass, old metal, old paper, and lots of German glass glitter.
It has taken me long hours and many of them are hard hours– cutting out old metal with tinsnips racks the back and trashes the hands, solder can burn and glass can cut, but the end result is worth it. Beauty wakes up and walks in the world again. I can share it with hundreds of people who will see the Green, Green Christmas Tree and maybe be inspired to make a few of their own ornaments.
I have put instructions for each and every one in my blog as I go, I hope they inspire your own creativity!