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Recycled, reused material finds new purpose, new homes at festival

The art on display in downtown Vancouver this weekend was trash — at least, it was made from trash.

The annual Clark County Recycled Arts Festival featured more than 130 artists and artisans Saturday and Sunday in Esther Short Park. Eligible artwork consisted of at least 75 percent recycled or reused material.

For Charles and Tanya Spence of Vancouver, those materials were old bicycle wheels. Using the wheels as a frame, the couple creates clocks, bird feeders and picture frames, among other things.

While searching for a new hobby and a possible part-time business, the couple attended the festival in 2017. They figured that the bicycle wheels would make for a unique addition, Tanya Spence said.

“As we walked through, things started jumping out at us. The imagination just took off from there,” Tanya Spence said.

The wheels often come from dumpsters outside bicycle shops, Tanya Spence said. This year’s festival marked the second in which the Spences displayed the wheels, and they also sell them online. They’ve crafted nearly 200 items so far.

“They just keep piling up,” Tanya Spence said.

Everett Bane of Vancouver represented Cloud Nine Creations, which sells furnishings and accessories inspired by industrial, vintage and steampunk styles.

One creation, “Deep Sea Lady,” reminded Bane of an underwater science-fiction movie from the 1950s, he said. It included a female doll body with its head inside casing. Another piece, a lamp, featured a wooden bowl and a bed riser.

“I like eclectic, weird stuff,” Bane said.

Betsy Soifer owns Recycle with Soifer in Vancouver. On Sunday, she displayed various animal figures. Her creations range from heads — like a steer head made of trowels, oil can spouts and an ice tray — to full-size figures.

Soifer began making the items a few years ago as Christmas presents. She eventually began showing the figures at shows and has made a few dozen of them since.

“I like them better than people,” Soifer said, with a laugh, about why she focuses on animals.

Apparently, her work was not lost on some real-life animals nearby. A festival exhibit a few feet away from Soifer featured wild birds such as owls and falcons.

“The owls are entertaining me, and I think I’m entertaining the owls,” Soifer said.

Live music, coming from the gazebo in the middle of the park, could be heard throughout the festival. On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of people danced in front of the gazebo as a band performed The Isley Brothers’ “Shout.”

The fun mixed with the spirit of the event — giving new life to trash — makes it “one of the best festivals ever,” Tanya Spence said.

“We travel across the U.S. and see how much waste there is,” Tanya Spence said. “(Limiting waste) is what we all should be doing.”


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