Ruby Reusable is not a morning person, but she is the Godfather of artists who use recycled materials in the Northwest. We first were introduced to Ruby through her exceptional art blog where she features all kinds of interesting people.
We met this artist outside her downtown Olympia studio at 11 AM, and she was still waking up when she arrived. She led us up to her second-floor studio and we were immediately awed by the organization. Ruby told us we were looking at her studio-mate’s space; her area was a little more creative.
Ruby makes art out of all the forgotten small bits of plastic that fill our daily lives: those little clips that keep bread bags closed, twist ties, the pull-out seals in soy-milk cartons, used caution and police-line-do-not-cross tape, soda cup lids, drinking straws, wonder bread bags, and those metal tabs from soda and beer cans.
Ruby began by making art out of the things she found in the garbage, but she has been moving towards using things before they end up in the trash; this echoes the message she tries to communicate through her work: reuse things before they make it to the landfill.
After a tour of her studio, Ruby took us downstairs to see the Matter Art Gallery, where her work is sold. There are over 100 artists show-cased at Matter and all of them re-use materials that would otherwise end up as garbage. One of the other artists showcased at Matter is a good friend of Ruby’s, named Pat.
Ruby insisted that we meet Pat so we squished her into our car alongside the Holy Family and took off for what turned out to be a tour of downtown Olympia.
First we passed down the alley behind her studio which is covered with graffiti. Ruby found several pieces of the wall that had fallen off and gave them to us to take as souveinirs. Then she directed us to the Well. There were many artesian springs around Olympia and only a few of them are left unsealed. The Well is one that has been ensconsed in a beautiful tile mosaic bench. Ruby baptised us with the well-waters. We sped on towards Pat’s studio residence with a lively commentary that made everything we passed a notable landmark.
Pat’s house is marked by what looks like a giant metal palm tree. Pat came out and told us that it is a giant metal palm tree.
He led us inside, where we squeezed up a narrow staircase while Pat explained that the house had been built in the nineteenth century. At the top of the stairs we realized Pat had made it a house of the future.
Pat makes lamps out of discarded hubcaps, metal ducting, and found-glass. These beautiful lamps remind you of the Space Needle, but are way cooler. But making lamps is just the tip of Pat’s iceberg. He led us into the Starship Enterprise’s Bridge, which he had replicated out of things he had found in dumpsters and along the side of the road. After Margaret got her jollies out pretending she was Data, Pat asked if we were ready to see the Tardis.
He opened a small door in the hallway and we were confronted with a ladder. The ladder went halfway up into the ceiling and you had to haul your way up into the attic with your arms. This was Pat’s workspace. He is an incredibly organized man.
If we had a house and some money, or any extra room in the car, we’d buy one of his lamps.