I was talking trash with a good friend recently. It wasn't an incident of one-upmanship or an exchange of snaps; the phrase "yo' mama" was never uttered. My friend, an innovative, environmentally conscious artist, is one of the nicest folks I know. The trash we were talking was literal. We were discussing the Art of Trash show opening April 19 for three weeks at the Maui Mall.
Organized by Community Work Day, Art of Trash is an annual exhibition of art created from recycled materials. Juror Ira Ono says he will be looking for well-constructed pieces that make a personal statement about our fragile island environment, pieces that address the concepts of reuse and recycling. Each year the show gets bigger and better. There's even a band, the Junkyard Dogs, playing rock 'n' roll on junk instruments. Real junk instruments, like guitars and drum sets made from Wesson Oil cans and other reusable rubbish.
But the best part, for me, is the opening night Trashion Show, featuring recyclable couture. It's one of my favorite annual gigs, only this time I won't be there. I have another engagement, one that has me walking on air with an extra big spring in my step. But I'll save that for another column.
So the trash talk got me thinking. Each year, students at Pomaikai School have wowed the crowd with their amazingly creative trashions. Newspapers, packing peanuts, Doritos bags . . . all have found new life as wearable art. I've come to the conclusion that adolescents make the best trashion designers, probably because their youthful perspective helps them see the potential in discarded items more easily than the distracted, jaded eyes of grownups.
Remember gum wrapper chains? It was a pair of preteen girls who reportedly presented Barbra Streisand with a colorful bolero vest made completely out of gum wrapper chains. Supposedly, the diva was overwhelmed by the gift - verklempt, even!- and she gasped, "You chewed all this gum for ME?!"
I chewed a lot of gum and wove a lot of wrappers myself. My chains were exclusively Wrigley's: Doublemint green, Juicy Fruit yellow, Spearmint white. The bonus that came with Wrigley's gum was the inner foil wrapper. We'd carefully peel the thin foil from its waxed-paper backing and use the shiny tiny sheets for a second project - gum wrapper balls, which were a lot cooler than they sound.
We used only the micro-thin foil layer, so this was a long-term commitment. A full five-stick pack was just enough to start with. We crumpled and rolled the foils together into a little ball, then added to it by wrapping single sheets around the ball and rolling it around on our desks. The trick was to use a great deal of pressure, so that you'd have a solid little ball, a handcrafted BB. We each had one ball that we carried around and built on every chance we got. It was like having a pet rock, only better, because you could feed your ball and watch it grow. Mine ended up being as big as a bambucha marble and just as heavy. I could have easily made smaller ones to use as jewelry.
Come to think of it, trashion design, for the home as well as the body, has been part of island life since the plantation era. Rice bag shorts and crazy quilts. Hot pads made by stitching together cloth-covered bottle caps. And who could forget the crocheted Primo Beer can hats of the 1970s?
It's a fine tradition, and these memories have given me a few ideas for next year's trashion showcase. If I start chewing gum again today, I might be able to outdo Streisand's vest. Perhaps a hot little red dress out of Dentyne gum wrappers, accessorized with ball bearing earrings and, of course, a crocheted Diet Coke can hat. I don't drink beer and the red Coke logo on the silver can would go well with the red dress and the silver earrings. And surely, if I think long enough, I can come up with a use for the hundreds of rubber bands I've collected over years of subscribing to The Maui News. I welcome your suggestions. Perhaps we'll strut the runway together at next year's Art of Trash.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.