Georgina Humphries talks past creations and the environment
Explore the concept of transforming recyclable materials into craft projects with well-known public artist Georgina Humphries. In her responses to our questions below, Georgina will talk about her triumphs, past creations, and love for the environment.
What has been your favourite past creation or project?
My favourite past creation was my site-specific installation Groundswell, which I created for Bondi Sculpture by the Sea 2018. As the wind rolled through, it would lift the artwork like a wave surging up the hill.
It was one of the largest artworks I have made, spanning over 16m long and 5m wide. It was a huge undertaking because the foundations and structural supports all had to be made specifically for the site and installed temporarily for the duration of the exhibition. The location was extremely windy, so it needed over six tonnes of concrete buried in the ground to hold the artwork down when the sea breeze picked up! The artwork was made over six months, with all the sails custom made specifically to fit the site and supported by a steel framework that were designed in collaboration with Partridge Engineers.
I really enjoyed this project because the location was so spectacular to work at, and I was supported by a Clitheroe Foundation Emerging Sculptor Mentorship. The mentor program encourages professional and meaningful fellowships between emerging sculptors and established practitioners. It was a pleasure to work with Partridge Engineers to achieve such an ambitious temporary installation.
How did you become environmentally conscious?
Going to many music festivals when I was younger, I was astonished by how much waste was left behind, including perfectly good tents, gazebos, camp chairs, mattresses and everything in between. I thought it was such a waste for the colourful and durable tents/gazebo fabric, so I started collecting it for six years. I was never able to collect enough of one colour, which is my artworks are always made up of a patchwork of colours.
Also, during the beginning of my professional art career, working with minimal budgets, it was very advantageous to be using material that didn't cost anything. By repurposing these perfectly good 'throw-away' items, I constructed large scale works without financial constraints.
More recently, during COVID-19, I started collecting old tents and gazebos from community groups via social media and hard rubbish collections as there were no longer festivals happening. It was a great way to keep using recycled materials and connect with the local community, and people love to know their 'waste' can have a meaningful second life as an artwork!
What are your favourite objects to turn into art?
I love anything fabric because I really enjoy using my sewing machine to construct my artwork. Things that are fit for outdoor use always catch my eye as I am a public artist, so my work needs to withstand all the elements, including wind, rain, sun, and hail!
My favourite is pre-loved brightly coloured camping tents and sun shelters.
For beginners at home - I enjoy using simple objects like plastic milk bottle tops and coloured cereal boxes, and if you have a sewing machine, old clothes are fantastic to cut up and re-piece together into a new creation.
Why is it important for us to change the way we look at single-use objects?
Minimising landfill is really important if we hope to reduce our environmental impact. It often seems like the quickest and easiest option to use single-use items and to chuck things out that are broken. But these objects don't disappear when we finish using them; we only end up seeing them in landfills or worse - on our beaches, parks, forests and lakes. Polluting our environment and impacting our wildlife, and only eventually breaking down after thousands of years, long after we have left. Reusing and repairing helps reduce our waste and our impacts on the natural environment that we enjoy using so much, allowing others and future generations to also enjoy them.
Do you have any tips/tricks for finding ideas to use single-use objects in new ways at home?
If you have the space, keeping a collection of throw away objects is a great idea! It can be a fabulous resource of materials for the next time you have an art project, fix it job or imaginative play. Sometimes you can't think at the time what you might use something for, but later down the track, an idea might pop up when you least expect it, and then it's great to have already a collection of items ready to use.
For example, you may need some material for a costume for Halloween; some old clothes would be perfect for cutting or ripping up to make a quick and easy ghost or zombie costume. Or milk bottle tops would be great to make a colourful mosaic for a Mother's or Father's day gift. Recycled materials are also always great for crafting ideas to celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter; they are usually easy to cut with scissors and stick together with tape or glue, which are things most of us have at home already.
More to explore
Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter, supported by the Gandel Foundation, is a purpose-built space for children and families to read, learn and play, with an associated program of activities.
Image: Groundswell, by Georgina Humphries for Bondi Sculpture by the Sea in 2018