Art From Unusual Materials

Recycled materials such as cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, bicycle gears, coins and others can be transformed into beautiful art in the hands of a talented artist. These materials receive new life as the artist sees old things in new ways, full of potential.

Artwork by Erika Iris Simmons

Here is a portrait of Michael Jackson made with recycled cassette tape. I’m not sure how I feel about the man after reports of his child abuse, but I have to admit that the portrait is very clever. The tape, of course, seems fitting for a musician, and it also seems to work perfectly for Jackson’s coiffure. The artist, Erika Iris Simmons, has done similar portraits of several other musicians: The Beatles, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, etc.

Artwork by Laura Harris

Artist Laura Harris made this creative mosaic with materials such as recycled bicycle gears. Her site lists some other materials she uses in mosaic work. “These fine art mosaic pieces are heirloom treasures created from rare, precious, hand-cut materials including: dichroic glass, 24kt gold smalti, porcelain gems, one-of-a-kind ceramic tiles, faceted mirrors, natural river stones and an array of antique metals and delicate objects.”

Artwork by Sean E. Avery

Australian artist, Sean E. Avery, creates animal sculptures like the hedgehog above from recycled CDs and DVDs. With their iridescent quality, the recycled discs really make for an interesting medium.

Artwork by Federico Uribe

This sculpture, by Federico Uribe, is made with coins. He created a variety of other female torsos from unusual materials such as pencils, bullets, dominoes, computer keys, electronic connections and even rubber lips. Of the examples I saw, this one is my favorite, partly because, unlike some of the others, this one has a head and seems less impersonal. Also, the coins worked perfectly both for the lady’s necklace and the rippled texture of her ruffly dress.

Artwork by Mary Ellen Crocteau

Artist Mary Ellen Crocteau created this amazing eye with recycled bottle caps. She even created her own accurate self portrait using this same strange medium. Amazingly, she is able to collect and sort appropriate colors and use them to shade and create a realistic look.

Rollin’, Rollin’ Roland by Amy Flynn

You can find and purchase some unique robot sculptures by Amy Flynn on The artist is inspired by her love both of robots and flea markets. The sculpture above is called “Rollin’, Rollin’ Roland.” This is what the site says about this one: “Roland (and his pony) are found object robots made from authentic vintage parts, that may include candy and spice tins, Baby Brownie camera, party noisemaker, screen door bracket, toilet float, license plate, erector set wheels, wire brush, hose fittings, amp meter, telephone wire, folding skeleton key, candy molds, and a clock gear. Each one has (like the Tin Man) a metal heart inside.”

Jelly Belly portrait of Ronald Reagan from the Jelly Belly Co. Visitor Center

How about a portrait of Ronald Reagan made entirely from Jelly Belly jelly beans? The former president was openly a fan of the snack. This portrait can be found at the Jelly Belly Co. Visitor Center in Fairfield, California. I found the portrait on several sites but could not find information on the artist. It is, however, possibly Peter Rocha, who created a different portrait of the former president, with American flag in the background, all from Jelly Bellies.

Artwork by a co-op of Kenyan artisans

This colorful, mighty lion sculpture is made from recycled flip flops by a co-op of artisans in Kenya. Flip flops are rescued from filling up the landfills and given new purpose. You can purchase this or similar sculptures at

Artwork by Bernard Pras

French artist, Bernard Pras, created this amazing portrait of Einstein from assorted junk. His junk assemblages are only temporary, and the photograph of the arrangement is the only lasting artwork. Bras has also done portraits of other famous faces as well as reproductions of famous art like Botticelli’s Venus and Munch’s The Scream.

“Hot Dog” sculpture by Robert Bradford

Artist, Robert Bradford, creates sculptures from recycled plastic toys. The name of the piece above is “Hot Dog” and is created with plastic toys on a wooden armature. It’s interesting how the use of smaller toys on the back of the dog’s head seems to suggest tight curls of fur.

Did you enjoy these? Which of these was your favorite?