Walk through the door and you see an overwhelming number of handmade crowns – some adorned with Mardi Gras beads – masks, art cards, King Cake baby lapel pins, fans and many voodoo dolls in different shapes and sizes.
Most noticeable, perhaps, is “Huddie’s Red Guitar” mounted on Usher’s living room wall, a tribute of sorts to musician Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter.
It’s all part of Usher’s latest endeavor – “2010 in 2010.” She came up with the idea to create 2,010 pieces of art this year after hearing about garbage islands in the ocean.
“I had been recycling with the blue bin for a year and just noticed that not a lot of people on my block were using the blue bins on a regular basis,” she said. “I had heard somebody say somewhere that if plastic was deemed as valuable as diamonds maybe we wouldn’t be littering so much and just wasting.”
So Usher takes trash from her recycling bin for her artwork. She also uses bits and pieces of old artificial flowers and other items she comes across while walking her dogs.
She doesn’t think the idea of creating more than 2,000 pieces of art in a year is too ambitious.
“I think I will be over the 2,010,” Usher said. “Right now, I’m at about 1,200 so that’s pretty good.”
Usher said how many pieces of art she completes in one day depends on what she’s making.
“On a good day I can do three pieces, but if I’m learning something new, like the crowns, the hand embellishments take a lot longer so I might not even get one finished a day,” she said. “What’s going to save me are the little tiny art cards because I can make them from plabric” – fabric and plastic fused together.
“You get the iron and fold your layers and put it between two sheets of wax paper because you don’t want your iron to touch it because then it would stick,” she said.
She says she’s “upcycling” – turning something that’s not very valuable into something that is.
“You probably did upcycling as a kid when you were in first grade and they gave you a can and you wrapped it with yarn and made a pencil holder,” she said.
Some of the materials Usher uses for her project include water bottles, plastic foam, egg crates, pine cones, Mardi Gras beads, toilet paper rolls, tea bags and fabric from old pieces of clothing.
Usher’s favorites among the pieces of art are the crowns and voodoo dolls.
“This is Louisiana and when you think of voodoo you think of New Orleans,” she said. “It’s part of Louisiana.”
She became intrigued with the dolls after seeing a voodoo exhibit a few years ago at Centenary College’s Meadows Museum.
“I became even more intrigued when I did the video of the King Cake baby and entered it in a contest with the Shreveport Bossier Convention and Tourism bureau last year,” she said. “Because it had voodoo imagery, my video was banned from their Web site.”
As Usher’s collection continues to grow, storage becomes an issue.
“I don’t have a garage and we have a shared driveway so finding somewhere to put everything can be a challenge,” she said. She plans to sell some of the pieces online and give some of them away.
Usher, describes herself as a self-taught artist. “There are other terms, like outsider and folk artist,” she said. “But I prefer self-taught.”
“I’ve always loved art and it’s amazing how much goes into my blue bin each week,” she said. “I’m having a blast. If I could, I would ask people, ‘What’s in your blue bin?’”
Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com
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