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When the fabulously friendly and talented artist Karen Benjamin agreed to answer some interview questions for Sustainability in Style I squealed with glee. Her thoughtful and ecologically minded art works have been popping up all over the local media and I was fascinated to know what inspired her to work with her medium of choice.

Let’s hear it from Karen in her own words!

Please give us a short introduction as to who you are, the magical ‘upcycled’ pieces you create, and what inspired you to work with the medium you have selected.   

I am a Brisbane based artist who works predominately with recycled heat-fused plastic bags. I was inspired by my grandmother who used to knit hats out of bread bags back in the 1970’s.  I wanted my art to send a gentle message about sustainability.  I thought if I could  make it look pretty and interesting the message would stick in people’s minds.

How did you come across the methods you use to create your heat fused plastic art? 

I came across heat fusing  plastic on the internet.  I was so excited when I found it – I felt like I was jumping out of my skin.  When I feel like that I don’t know what to do, so I usually run up and down the hallway screaming!  The Chinese horoscope tells me I am a horse.  I feel that is fitting because I want to bolt with excitement.

Your body of work is varied and imaginative. Do you have any tips or tricks as to how you find the inspiration for your art? 

Some of the techniques I have developed have been from experimenting.  Because there is no cost in the product I feel completely free and relaxed to try anything with it.  Sometimes I think my creations are terrible but I keep them and look at them and time changes how I feel about them.

Inspiration comes at me all the time.  I find it hard to finish a project because I want to start on something new.  What I do now is I have an ideas book.  I write everything down so I can look over things and remember all of my ideas.  I have more time now to concentrate on my ideas.  My children are grown and don’t need constant looking after.  I have also replaced worry with art.  I used to be a worrier but I now replace worry with thoughts of art.  I can highly recommend this!

Your CV hosts an extensive list of exhibitions, workshops, and publications, is there an event or moment in your career that stands out from the rest that you would like to share with us?

My art career has been so short (less than two years) I am constantly blown away but the fact that I am included it major art competitions and people are actually taking my art seriously.  A real highlight for me will next week when the kids TV show “Totally Wild”comes to my home to interview me and show me working in my studio.  This is a real thrill for me because it’s educating the next generation who will be making important decisions about sustainability in the future.

If you could create a ‘wearable artwork’ outfit for a person of your choosing (living or otherwise) who would it be and what would it look like? 

If I could create a wearable artwork for someone it would be for our Prime Minister and it would look like a Tee Pee.  I would love for him to wear it because when I make a tee pee I always think about people who are homeless and I think to myself – I have just made a shelter for a homeless person and I have made it out of nothing.  Imagine if our Prime Minister wore one of my tee pees and organized a working bee so that every homeless person could have a shelter made out of recycled materials.  Now that sounds like heaven to me.

If you enjoyed Karens interview and body of work you can vote for her artwork ‘Flinders Reef’ for the peoples choice award in the Queensland Regional Art Awards