Recycling and trash are transformed into magical otherworldly woodland-like creatures when sculpture and ceramics artist Calder Kamin gets her hands on them.

Her sculptures are made from everyday household waste such as plastic cartons, marker caps, birth-control packets, cake-toppers and movie promotional cups. Kamin cuts marker caps with pliers to create flowers, crochets plastic bags into baskets and morphs kids' toys into eco-friendly art. There isn’t anything that the arttist can not modify from ordinary garbage into an eye-catching sculpture.

Calder Kamin. Image courtesy of Calder Kamin’s website.

Kamin is incredibly passionate about recycling and sustainably creating art. “Nature never wastes,” said Kamin in her artist statement, “that’s why I reuse!” The artisit’s dedication to ethical zero-waste art and responsible consumption reflects The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Responsible Consumption, Climate Action and Life on Land

She creates foxes, goats, wolves and dogs amongst other animals and puts her unique spin on them. Typically, Kamin uses bold and vibrant colours that reflect the beauty within the environment. “I have always been an admirer of the natural world,” she said in an interview with Texas Monthly.  

High Desert Hounds, 2023 by Calder Kamin. Image courtesy of Calder Kamin’s website.

Growing up in Texas, Kamin created animal sculptures out of clay and always had affection for her animals and nature. In 2009, she graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and pursued her art through solo exhibitions. One of her earliest exhibitions was from 2012 titled, New Nature; the project focused on synanthropic animals, more specifically birds. 

New Nature, is made from ceramic clay and what the artist calls “trash,” like plastic bags and milk bags. Kamin explains she uses garbage she collects near where she plans to keep her sculpture. In addition, she creates capsule-like birdhouses out of clay and dangles them from an abstracted tree structure. The capsules are full of waste she collected as nesting for the animals. New Nature, is designed for birds to nest in, “it seems the finches enjoy it,” explains Kamin.  

Enough is Enough, 2020 by Calder Kamin. Image courtesy of Calder Kamin’s website.

Since then, Kamin’s art style has developed into fleshed-out sculptures of three-dimensional animals. In 2020, she created her sculpture Enough is Enough, which is a bust of a polar bear. The polar bear is entirely made out of garbage, including koozies, caps and plastic cutlery. The texture of the polar bear's white fur is portrayed through the layering of thin slices of cream and off-white plastic, paper clippings and broken-up single-use cutlery. Enough is Enough, is Kamin’s response to global warming and how it is impacting the environment and wildlife, more specifically the arctic and arctic animals. 

Kamin is also an educator, advocate and environmentalist, “My contribution to radical change is to shift society’s perception of trash,” said Kamin in her artist statement.

“Through art, education, and an enduring optimism, I am out to empower others to see potential in by-product materials and themselves.” 

The Texas-based artist also creates short animations as a way to educate the public about waste, overconsumption and pollution. In one untitled animation, a hermit crab made out of a cap, plastic and pipe cleaners is depicted cleaning up a polluted ocean. The ocean itself is made from plastic bags that have been crocheted to look like a fishing net. As the ocean drifts in and out from the shore it picks up pollution like lighters, cellophane and bottle tops. In the video, Kamin explains how the hermit crab is resourceful and sees plastic as a potential shell to live in. “Be more like nature and reuse,” and “What is the legacy you wish to leave the next generation?” she questions as she ends the video.  

Recycled Unicorn Goat, 2023, by Calder Kamin. Image courtesy of Calder Kamin’s website.

According to Kamin, her works are often  inspired by how female birds pick up trash to make their nests, “there is no difference between waste and architectural materials.” She explains that she approaches her art with this in mind, “I need to be more like a bird,” Kamin said, “where you see trash, I see potential.” 

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