When Australian artist Sean Avery got his first MP3 player, he decided to give his CDs a brand new life.
Avery, a writer, illustrator, sculptor, and teacher by trade, decided to crack and crumble his albums to create beautiful, imaginative works of art instead, like this:
"I love the idea of deconstructing everyday objects and reforming them into organic shapes," Avery said via e-mail. "Materials are cheap and people have an instant connection with the work when they finally identify that it's made from objects they handle every day."
Some of Avery's most iconic pieces of art are plant and animal sculptures made from up-cycled CDs on wire mesh frames.
Friends and fans often donate material to Avery, and he procured his first batch of old discs from his dad's office. But he's not afraid to source materials for his art the old fashioned way, too.
"I like to hunt around scrap yards for stranger pieces of obsolete tech," he said.
Though Avery is also an illustrator, he often lets passion and instinct guide his creations.
Before to starting a new piece, he searches for a variety of images of each animal, but he no longer draws a blueprint or elaborate sketch.
"I used to try and draw my animals to better understand the form, but it sort of sucked the fun out of the process because all I wanted to do was build."
And build he does.
Avery uses simple kitchen scissors to cut out the shapes he needs. Then he arranges them by size and color and glues each plastic shard one by one onto a wire frame.
Each sculpture takes one to two weeks of work, along with lots of hot glue (and caffeine).
"I make lots of mistakes and I burn myself constantly," Avery said. "I find CD shards in my hair, shower, bed and cereal for weeks after I've finished a major project."
Avery constructs pieces large and small for clients and personal projects. His work ranges in size from just 6 inches to large creations a few feet wide. Each one is a vibrant, bold expression that begs to be touched.
And Avery's not the only one turning trash into treasure, either.
In 2014, he represented Australia at the International From Waste to Art Exhibition in Baku, Azerbaijan. At this annual event, artists and makers from all over the world exhibit their pieces made from domestic waste. It's a unique opportunity for conservation and fine art to come together and encourage an important conversation.
Avery's work is the perfect example of repurposing waste to make something beautiful.
The average person creates around 4.3 pounds of trash and waste each day. And nearly 55% of the waste generated in the U.S. ends up in landfills, which are quickly running out of space.
While not all of our personal refuse can be turned into works of art, much of it can be composted, recycled, or repurposed.
Sometimes it's just a matter of taking the time to sort and sift and perhaps to tap into our creative impulses.