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Arts: Trash to one, riches to another

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

While going green may be the latest trend in most sectors, it’s nothing new in the art world.

“When it comes to art, I think people have always been into things that are a little off the beaten track,” said artist Millie Doud. “They like recycled kinds of things and seeing what original and creative things you can do with them.”

Doud, 77, of Kingston Plantation, has been recycling found objects into art for most of her life. When she was in college, it was called “junk art,” she said.

“I’d take anything I could find and assemble it in some way,” she said.

Her style has evolved over the years, but she’s still assembling things others would likely throw away. She said friends have started bringing her odds and ends they find when they clean out their houses.

From leaves to bits of string, Doud collects all kinds of things for her projects. The items sit around her house for a while, then eventually, they speak to her and she finds a way to make them useful again.

Old clothing labels she collected became a pillow.

“One day I’ll just look at it and say, ‘oh, I could use it this way or that way.’ I get great joy out of seeing what I can do with it, ” she said.

Glass boxes are one of her specialties. She dresses them up with bits of copper foil, shells or old computer chips. The boxes are available at Art Works in Litchfield and the gift shop at Brookgreen Gardens.

In her paintings and sculptures, she’s been known to incorporate stamps, paper clips, feathers, butterflies and just about anything else one could imagine.

Sharyn Kovac and Donna Grove also turn found objects into functional and decorative pieces.

The two formed Shell Shock Design about a year ago. Using seashells they collect on beaches, they make and sell a variety of functional and decorative items, including wind chimes, shell-encrusted candle holders and “shell balls.”

Kovac and Grove are hopeful the green aspect of their company will help them succeed.

“People are so cognizant these days of chemicals and waste and things that get thrown away,” said Grove, of The Reserve Club. “And here we are using something nature gives us every day on the high tides and we transform it into something to bring beauty into homes or to be a memento of a vacation.”

Their products are available at She Sells Sea Shells at the Hammock Shops.

Shell Shock Design uses natural materials, but they’re also helping the environment in other ways.

“When we’re walking, looking for shells, we’re also picking up garbage from the beach and rescuing stranded things, like starfish, so we’re a very green company,” said Kovac, of Litchfield By the Sea.

“We try to educate people if we’re on the beach and we have the opportunity. We’ve had a lot of people stop us and ask what we’re doing, and we try to teach them. We always ask that if they see something alive, they put it back in the water. People watch us picking up the garbage and I know we influence others, because I’ve seen some of them start carrying garbage bags to pick up trash.”

Just a year after Kovac and Grove decided to turn their shell hobby into a business, their products have already drawn more interest than they expected — enough that Kovac quit her day job a few weeks ago to devote more of her attention to her art.

Among their creations are bowls of artfully arranged shells, put together to make it look as if they were just scooped off the beach.

“I’ve got this humongous pile of shells laying on the side of my desk,” Kovac said. “I just sit there and start grabbing. My designs are kind of hodgepodge. It’s kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle for me, except I’m making it up as I go along.”

Grove’s designs, on the other hand, are more organized. She likes to combine colors and textures.

Kovac and Grove said they’ll continue looking for new things to do with shells.

Doud said one of the best things about art, is that it’s all about experimentation and anything goes.

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