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By Bridget Benton

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I am a woman obsessed with making art from just about anything I can get my hands on. I naturally tend toward collage and assemblage art, and have
incorporated this approach into my work making jewelry, fiber art, acrylic
paintings, and now encaustic art. The more media I can combine—and the more crazy materials I can incorporate—the happier I am. In fact, the materials often guide my work. Later, I will discover themes and meanings emerging, but in the magical moment of making, the materials are the driving force.

About a year ago, a material that grabbed my attention was all the plastic
that I couldn’t put in my new blue curbside recycling bin: plastic bags,
clamshell containers, and the humble plastic bottle cap. It looked like a
whole lot of potential art to me! I made a few necklaces from bottle caps,
and then started thinking about what I could do if I had a lot of bottle
caps, maybe even hundreds or thousands of bottle caps.

So, my boyfriend and his family started saving me bottle caps. I got a few
from other friends. I started experimenting with different ways of
connecting them. You look at things differently when you have a lot of them:
in many ways, they become more interesting, more beautiful. You see
patterns of shapes and colors, and you begin to see patterns of consumption.
And then I got involved with the group Leave No Plastic Behind and their
plastic art challenge. I learned more about the impact of plastic on the
oceans, as well as the fact that bottle caps come right after cigarette
butts on the “Most Common Beach Litter” hit list.

All of this collecting, connecting, and consciousness-raising culminated in
the construction of this chandelier, called Drifter. It’s now on display in
the lobby of the office building next door to SCRAP off of MLK. The piece
is over 5 feet tall, and includes a long string of Christmas lights. I
haven’t counted how many bottle caps are in there, but it’s a lot, and it
was all collected over a relatively short five-month period from only a few
households.

[Above, the chandelier constructed from bottle caps.]

Now, I’m in the process of collecting another big batch of bottle caps for
the creation of several more light fixtures. If you have plastic bottle
caps – any size, any color – from beverages, shampoo, household cleaners,
peanut butter, whatever – bring them on over when you drop by my place
during the Portland Open Studios tour. My demos will all be about encaustic
painting, but as for the conversation, well, all materials are welcome.

Below, Bridget’s collection of bottle caps.
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To learn more about Bridget Benton’s work and classes, please visit her website at http://www.eyesaflame.com/.

You can visit Bridget and 99 other artists during Portland Open Studios weekend. To learn more about the event, visit http://www.portlandopenstudios.com/.

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