Upcycled mountain arts


For a state covered in green, it’s only fitting that West Virginia join the “Go Green” movement. Around West Virginia, artists are recycling and upcycling found objects to create whimsical works of art.

Check out these 5 artists who are turning your trash into their treasure:

1. Robert Villamagna

This West Liberty University Arts professor refers to the flea market as his palette. He scours the booths looking for rusty license plates, old coffee cans and discarded photos, which he will eventually incorporate into art works called “assemblages.”

He is most popular for his tin collage work, where he nails together tiny pieces of used printed metal to create an offbeat, patchwork piece.

Looking for a statement piece to hang above the mantle? Then holy cow, don’t pass this guy up. Take a look at the amazing mish-mash of metal he turned into a 3-foot tall portrait of the first dog in space, Laika.

2. Uncanny Collection

One trip to the grocery store changed Merideth Young’s life. In the drink aisle that day, the light teal and brilliant pink seemed to pop right off of an Arizona Iced Tea can. Why throw these beautiful cans away, she thought, when they can be made into something else? And with that, the appropriately named Uncanny Collection was born.

Young snatches up cans from local restaurants, friends and recycle centers. All of her jewelry is one-of-a-kind. She’s got something for everyone, from earrings crafted from cola cans to butterfly-shaped necklaces fashioned from local Mothman Black IPA cans.

3. Junkin’ Journey

This husband-and-wife pair find their art supplies at yard sales, flea markets and salvage piles. For Deb and Jeff Hartshorn, a Sunday cruise through the backcountry is more like a treasure hunt.

The duo is known for their metal flower sculptures, statement pieces that will tower above the rest of your garden. Each flower is one-of-a-kind, created from curious clutter like doorknobs, nuts, bolts, and even colanders and whisks.

Every creation comes with a “Junkin Journey Journal,” which tells the story of how each piece of trash evolved into art. It also includes a list of the particular items incorporated into the final product.

Are you the owner of some sentimental junk? The craftsy couple also does custom pieces!

4. Nathan Baker Art

Nathan Baker has a knack for finding metal objects and giving them an extraordinary second life. His creations include unexpected chandeliers and peculiar fork sculptures. Want to see his trash-turned-treasure? Make a trip to the quaint town of Thomas to visit a shop he co-owns, The White Room Art Gallery.

While you’re in Thomas, which is like a painting itself, be sure to check out other great nearby galleries, like the WV Highlands Artisan Gallery and Buxton and Landstreet Gallery & Studios.

5. Artists of Merrywoods

This unique gallery in Berkeley Springs is home to a hodgepodge of artistic works. Much of their stock is made from rocks (yep— just plain ol’ rocks from their yard.) Looking for a conversation piece in the living room? Look no further than their indoor tabletop rock lamps.

Their custom stuffies are a fan favorite. We all hold on to Dad’s favorite T-shirt or Baby’s first blanket just a little too long, even if they’re just collecting dust in the attic. Trust Lori Gregory with your most sentimental belongings, and she’ll return them to you in the form of an incredibly cute and cuddly teddy bear.

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This post was last updated on July 27, 2020