Unexpected Treasures

Unexpected Treasures

Aurora Robson Plastic Debris Sculpture

Aurora Robson, plastic debris sculpture. Photo: Marshall Coles

In her otherworldly wall reliefs, collages, and large-scale sculptures, multimedia artist and activist Aurora Robson creates art from plastic debris that is familiar yet foreign. The Hudson Valley, New York, artist hopes viewers of her work will reconsider the value of trash. 

Alexander Groves and Azusa Murakami, the couple behind Studio Swine, often explore innovative ways to transform seemingly worthless materials into luxurious objects. For their Gyrecraft series, the duo traveled from the Azores to the Canary Islands, collecting debris spun out by the North Atlantic gyre; from that, they made objects representing each of five major ocean gyres. South Pacific Gyre incorporates plastic remnants – which Groves and Murakami melted and extruded using a solar-powered machine – as well as reclaimed hardwood, gold-plated steel, brass, and rope. 

Founded by Rachel Mulder, Thom Moran, Eiji Jimbo, and Simon Anton, Thing Thing is a Detroit design collective and manufacturing studio known for quirky, colorful objects made of post-consumer plastics. For TT + M, the studio collaborated with Chicago designer Michael Savona on a pair of roto-molded decorative letterforms, one of which doubles as seating. 

Janna Syvänoja elevates the value of a rarely coveted material: paper waste. The Helsinki artist creates jewelry, such as this brooch, by adding individually cut pages from maps, catalogues, and dictionaries to a piece of curved steel wire, one by one, until a piece organically grows into a sculptural form. 

There’s a sense of magic and offbeat humor in Oakland, California, artist Nemo Gould's kinetic sculptures. Each one is made from found materials, ranging from musical instruments to outdated bits of technology – and seems imbued with an uncannily lifelike personality. Parlorgeist is rigged to haunt viewers with a swaying head, spindly, oscillating arms, and a single blinking eyeball. 

Yurii Kasao wants us to think differently about leather – and she wants it to be sustainable. So the London designer made a purse out of nothing but jellyfish leather, a design solution that addresses two problems at once: the textile industry’s environmental impact and the overabundance of Nomura’s jellyfish – a serious issue for the Japanese fishing industry, which loses billions each year to seasonal blooms.