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Surplus goods spun into art


"Trash Mandala"
Grad students show their artistic flair

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We hear it all the time, but some graduate students in the UW School of Art + Art History + Design are taking this a step further by creating artwork out of items found in the UW Surplus store.

The art exposition will include creations by about a dozen talented artists who will use the Surplus warehouse as gallery space. The public is invited to see what gems, gadgets and treasures they’ve transformed into art beginning Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Each work of art is created from repurposed items found at the Surplus store warehouse. From lamps to pianos, cleats to computers, UW Surplus offers inventory sold at massive savings to students, staff, faculty and the public at large. Items being turned into art include computer mice, clocks and compact discs.

A veritable potpourri of material

MFA student Emily Taibleson chose compact disks to create “Trash Mandala,” a rainbow floor spiral.

Emily Taibleson.jpg

MFA student Emily Taibleson’s “Trash Mandala” is made out of CDs.

“CDs create much plastic waste and garbage,” she says. “They even come in plastic cases wrapped in cellophane. Each one will take 500 million years to decompose. Technology in this way, is going in circles, leading itself to its own demise, yet it is so pretty and dizzying and fun.”

Brighton McCormick’s “Making Time,” is a mixed media installation comprised of 12 discarded analog clocks, over-sized clock hands, and a sound recording: 

McCormick_Making Time.jpg

“Making Time,” an installation by Brighton McCormick

Lucy Copper, an MFA student who focuses on painting and drawing, has repurposed old landline phones. The working title of her piece is *NO PHONE CALL. THANK YOU*

“I am creating a kind of phone infirmary/repair installation – but all the ‘repairs’ are focused mostly on exploring what else phones can be once their original purpose becomes obsolete. A lot of the phones also had notes on them like “this phone won’t ring” or “no phone call, thank you” which seemed to come from the phones themselves. I had to be mindful of their directives. 


*NO PHONE CALL. THANK YOU,* by Lucy Copper

She adds, “I’m very excited to work with the Surplus store, and I feel really lucky that we have this opportunity.”

Sustainability is a core mission of UW Surplus

Catherine Scheid, supervisor of the Surplus Store & Property says, “UW Surplus has a strong focus on sustainability, reuse, and repurposing. I think these works will spark the imagination and give new life to surplus materials that would have been recycled otherwise. I have always felt a sense of whimsy is inherent in many of our items once they are removed from their natural office, lab or classroom environments, and I cannot wait to see what the artists create.”

Many of the students say that the possibilities are nearly endless, given the array of items to work with.

For instance, Connor Walden, an MFA student whose interests typically are sculpture and performance, created an unusual piece, called “Can we just cuddle?” The medium he chose was a cot frame, prayer shawl, yarn box, and candle lighter with bell snuffer covered in turmeric.

connor walden…Can we just cuddle.jpg

“Can we just cuddle?” by Connor Walden

“Surplused: A collaboration between UW Surplus and the School of Art + Art History + Design” Exhibition details

The surplused art design projects will be on display at the Surplus Store Warehouse the following dates and times:

Jan. 22, noon – 6 p.m.

Jan. 26, 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. 

Jan 29, noon – 6 p.m.

The UW Surplus Store is open to the public every Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m. Just across from University Village shopping mall: 4515 25th Ave. NE. UW departments, non-profits, and state agencies can shop Monday through Friday, 12:30 until 3:30 p.m. Live and online auctions are also held throughout the year.