Each year at the Recycled Arts Festival, artists are invited to submit a piece for the Sculpture Garden contest. The Sculpture Garden is a display on the brick pavilion at the Festival where visitors can vote for their favorite. We recently interviewed Kay Sims of Peony Ranch Art about her entry for this year's Sculpture Garden.
Recycled Arts Festival: Why do you choose to make your art out of recycled materials rather than new materials? Would you say that using recycled materials gives your art an added sense of character?
Kay Sims: I guess it's just something that I've always done. I've always kind of hated throwing things away, so I always have weird stuff laying around and that's just what I use. Also, I like being inspired by the material itself, like, I just look at something and that's kind of how I come up with ideas - from the materials and the weird stories that they tell just through being older objects with their own personalities. I haven't really made anything out of completely new materials, but I really like the patinas and my idea process, and recycled materials are really important for that.
Recycled Arts Festival: What are some of your favorite materials that you incorporate into your art and where do you typically get them from?
Kay Sims: My favorite thing that I've been using lately is old painted materials. I go pick through scrap yards and find these materials which were painted a long time ago as a piece of machinery or a car. It gets all rusted and scraped up over the years and the colors are really brilliant and the rust really contrasts with it, so I like to cut that up and add it to my pieces.
Recycled Arts Festival: Can you tell us a little more about the piece that you are submitting for the Sculpture Garden?
Kay Sims: I've been doing plasma cutting for a while now and want to do that on a bigger scale and using my own imagery. I found an old car hood at a scrap yard in Salem and it has, like, four layers of paint on it which I thought was really cool, and when I'm done cutting and adding to it I'm going to polish it to really show off the patina.
Recycled Arts Festival: On your website you mention that hand plasma cutting is your favorite technique; can you elaborate on that?
Kay Sims: It starts by me drawing on the metal with chalk and then cutting it out by hand. Usually, you see a lot of metal work that is cut out using a CNC machine, which uses a computer image and a computer to cut it out. It looks totally different than the hand plasma cuts. I've noticed that people connect with the handmade things more than they do with the machine made things. Some people don't even know how it was made, but they seem to be drawn to it because they can tell it was made by human hands, rather than a fully mechanical process. I really like that because I think it adds something to the work. A lot of people don't have exposure to metal working or welding so they don't really understand the processes, but they still connect to it because it's the difference between buying a handmade object and buying something off of a website that mass-produces the item.
Recycled Arts Festival: How has your career as a welder influence your work?
Kay Sims: Well, I spent a lot of time learning different processes and how to make things. Just like with anything, you learn a skill to a certain level and then those are just tools that you have and you can kind of branch out with your knowledge and learn how to make different things with it. And I just thought, 'Oh, I should make something cool out of metal art' and actually, the first thing I ever made was from an old shovel I stole out of the dumpster at my old job and I cut it up. So I really just used the skills I had and built on them to make my own projects.
Recycled Arts Festival: Looking through some of your work, we see there is a lot of diversity; are there any pieces you have found that give you a particularly strong sense of satisfaction?
Kay Sims: When I started doing more layered pieces with the colors it kind of opened a new level in my mind. Before, I was just plasma cutting on one surface, so when I started adding layers I got really excited about that. Then I thought of more ideas with layers and started experimenting with other materials like wood, or doing plasma cutting and adding blacksmith shapes to it. So basically, when I started thinking I can do more than just one thing for a piece and I can have all this crazy stuff going on by combining techniques is when I really started liking the layered, colored, multimedia pieces.
Recycled Arts Festival: This being your first year at the Festival, what are you looking forward to most?
Kay Sims: Well last year I did Cracked Pots in Troutdale and the best part was meeting all these really cool artists there. They are people that are kind of in the same mindset and look at the world in a little bit of a different way, or look at junk in a little bit of a different way. I connected with some really great people there, so I'm looking forward to meeting people and connecting with artists that I already know. I also really love seeing what everyone is making, and that's really what I'm looking forward to most.