This weekend, the annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival returns to town for its 15th year. “The country’s largest and oldest recycled art market” kicks off with tonight’s trash fashion show, followed by two days of of more than 200 artists—whose works consist of a minimum of 75-percent recycled materials—from around the country. The trash fashion show, says Thalia Gibbs-Jackson, a a third-year participant in the festival, “is where everyone—a regular person, to a high school student to an old grandma and grandpa—gets to be a fashion model for a day.” Gibbs-Jackson, who designs, among other products, unique tote bags made of recycled materials, says the artistry is breathtaking. “I was blown away, totally blow away. The quality of work in the show is very very high.” In their own words, two young women participating in this year’s Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival at the Community Convention Center tell their stories:
I have been an artist from a young age. I am 18 now and am currently a high school senior at the Public Academy For Performing Arts in Albuquerque. I love working with impractical materials, it makes things much more interesting. If you want to be a successful artist, it’s important that your work be unique and interesting. I make accessories and portraits out of duct tape and I make collages, accessories, jewelry, wall art and clothing out of found/recycled materials. My first year competing in the Trash Fashion Show was in 2010. I refer to this as my practice year. I was still learning the basics of clothing design and I didn’t know much about the show itself. My dress that year was a combination of my two favorite mediums; duct tape and newspaper. I didn’t place that year, but I had a marvelous time and I learned a lot. In 2011, I used fabric from an old mattress and a patio umbrella to make my gown. I took first place in the teen category that year.
Last year, 2012, I made a ’20s inspired dress out of cigar bands, pieces of soda cans, and a patio umbrella. I placed second in the teen category. I participate in a wide variety of arts based events throughout the year. I sing, I compete, I make clothes, I sell my art in big events. Recycle Santa Fe is by far my favorite event. I look forward to it all year. From being part of this event, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve been presented opportunities I never thought I’d have. Not to mention, it’s a blast! I’ve met some great people these past few years, and even though it is a competition, the atmosphere is inviting and relaxed.
I am 16 years old and I’ve been doing the fashion show for about 6 years now. In the past I’ve used many materials for my dresses including, target bags, candy wrappers, plastic inner tubes/ pool toys, maps, and last year’s newspaper bags and Chinese fortunes. I got into the fashion show by word of mouth and because of my love of fashion design that had started at an early age. My grandmother, Gioia Tama, an amazing seamstress, had been in the very first Trash Fashion Show and was thrilled when I wanted to get into it as well!
When I participated my first year it was fairly last minute and my sewing skills were more taping skills if anything! However, the next year I was back, with a dress I had designed and sewed each candy wrapper myself. Of course, in the first two years I walked in the show, all of us younger girls back stage whispered to each other and admired the outfits in the older categories which had the opportunity to win a prize for their creation. So the next year I asked my grandmother to help teach me how to cut out a pattern for the target bag dress that ended up taking 2nd place in the show. Every year since then, the show has been something I look forward to as a chance to show my creativity and style in a really fun and unique way. Working with unconventional materials has not only given me a challenge as a young seamstress but also broadened my clothing constructing skills greatly because of this.
Last year, my grandmother, who I was extremely close to, passed away. So, for me, the show is more of a tradition; a memory of my grandmother and my creations and hard work together that i will always hold in my heart. I knew that making my dress would be a completely different experience this time, which was difficult. Remembering everything she had taught me about sewing, from pattern construction to needle choice i made a dress i knew she would be proud of. And I added the fortunes that her and i had been saving for years to finish it off. Walking on stage last year in that dress made me feel alive. All of us who do the show are creators and artists. When we see the outfit that we put our hearts and spirit into go out onto that runway, its a really special feeling.
Over time, I have meandered away from the career choice of fashion design, however I know that I will always hold a special interest for it, especially when designing once a year for the Trash Fashion Show. I look forward to this year’s show as it just gets better each year!
For more information on the Trash Fashion Show and Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, visit recyclesantafe.org. For more information about Thalia Gibbs-Jackson’s work, email email@example.com. Photos by Lavelle Jacobs, courtesy Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival.