Art from Waste: Learn more about recycling artist Michelle Reader

Michelle has a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Scenography. She relocated from London to Nottinghamshire in 2017 and is now based at the Harley Foundation Workshops in Welbeck just to the north of Sherwood Forest. She makes unique figurative recycled sculptures from household and industrial waste combined with found objects sourced from charity shops and reclamation yards.  Her sculptures sometimes have mechanical elements, using the working parts of old toys, clocks or other objects.  She often runs workshops for festivals, galleries and schools creating sculptures and installations from scrap materials. She also creates props, sculptures and puppets for theatre, events and environmental campaigns.

I love the unpredictability of discarded objects, and the inventiveness necessary to transform them into a sculpture.  The medium is a big part of the message, so the materials I use vary widely.   Finding ways to combine and transform existing objects has meant that I've developed an eclectic range of techniques.  This is not only in order to join dissimilar materials, but also increasingly to find ways of joining that are reversible, meaning materials can potentially be reused or recycled again and again.

The choice of materials can also be a key part of the story of a piece.  In 2008 I created a portrait of a family made from a month's worth of their own household waste.  The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste each of us produces, but also tells the story of each individual through the things they discard – a child’s drawings, a shopping list, a birthday card.   I often use materials that come from the site or from people or businesses linked to the commission, objects with a history that have been discarded and might otherwise end up in landfill.

A short film by Marco de Luca and Cristian Mantio



Michelle Reader, Redshank recycled sculpture detail
Michelle Reader hands close-up
Michelle Reader, recycling artist