Recycling is not a new, chic concept.
Eighteen centuries ago, Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria urged others to not throw away items that could benefit one’s neighbor.
“Goods are called goods because they can be used for good, in the hands of those who use them properly,” Clement said.
Back in the present, one person who uses goods properly and with a sense of their value is glass artist Alice Beckstrom. The Richland artist, whose business motto is, “Recycled, Repurposed, Recaptured into Functional Art,” collaborates with local glass replacement businesses by picking up their unwanted materials — miscuts and wrong orders that are too expensive to ship back.
“It’s a win/win for all,” Beckstrom says. “Most recently, with more people becoming aware of my art and the desire to keep as much as possible out of the landfills, I often get emails and notes letting me know when and where old doors or windows are available.”
And what does she do with buckets of broken glass, at her disposal within a 500-square-foot home studio?
“I have always tried to look for new and interesting ways to work and create with glass,” Beckstrom says of her 40-year career as an artist using this varied, variegated, versatile, yet challenging medium. A chance encounter with the creations of California artist Ellen Blakely, whose tempered glass murals span city blocks, inspired Beckstrom to add experimenting with recycled materials to the traditional outlet of stained glass work.
“(Blakely’s art) was unbelievably beautiful, and I recognized then the unending possibilities of tempered glass as a base for a myriad of art forms,” Beckstrom says.
Hours of “practice, practice, practice” in conjunction with “experimenting with no particular expectations” have led to a collection of pieces unique in their style, form, and function, ranging from Krustallos (Greek for crystal) candle bases to full-sized skis. These latter, embellished with broken tempered glass pieces glued across the surface to create a design or message, are especially popular with visitors at the Art Works Gallery in Sandpoint, ID, where tourists fly in from all over the world to the nearby Schweitzer Ski Resort.
This last winter, a couple from Scotland fell in love with one of Beckstrom’s skis, but shipping it back was the problem: how does one package a long, glass-encrusted ski so that it safely arrives at its destination, but doesn’t cost as much as a plane ticket to do so?
“The worker at the UPS store was a skier himself, and he suggested that, since they had all had their skis brought with them, why not just bubble wrap this ski and slide it into their ski bag that they were already going to check at the airlines.
“So, off my ski went to Scotland!”
With gallery and gift shop locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, Beckstrom finds herself scheduling a regular loop around Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, restocking unique work that is easier to drive in than ship. As an added bonus, she enjoys mini-vacations in some of the region’s most beautiful places.
“This is one of the biggest benefits of my art,” Beckstrom says. “I love the travel opportunities.”
Sometimes those travel opportunities take Beckstrom to exceptionally unusual venues, like the local home of a U.S. Congressman, the wife of whom fell in love with a piece displayed at the Prosser Art Walk and Wine Gala.
“To guarantee its safe arrival at their home, I offered to deliver it myself the following morning. Carol (the Congressman’s wife) was very gracious and gave me a tour of their home.”
Other pieces in prominent places include an Oakland Raider’s stained glass window installed in the owner’s box at the Oakland Raiders Coliseum, as well as numerous stained glass “trophy windows” custom designed for golf tournaments and country clubs, a welcome variation to “the same old engraved crystal bowls for tournament awards.
“Everyone was thrilled to have something new and original.”
Given Beckstrom’s commitment to, and creativity with, working with recycled materials, one can’t help but think that Clement of Alexandria would heartily approve. With each piece made from more than 80 percent recycled materials, Beckstrom’s art is earth conscious and eco-friendly, which in itself is its own inspiration:
There is a quote Beckstrom uses on her website, and while the most frustrating aspect about it is that she has not been able, in ten years of searching, to find its author, the words fit perfectly with her process of thinking and creating:
“When you are left with nothing but broken pieces . . . take them . . . rearrange them . . . and make a masterpiece!”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists. Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.
This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.