Green Living: Local upcycler showcases excess of household waste in quirky exhibit

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      This weekend, certified master recycler and zero-waste sewing instructor Leah Price will welcome strangers into her home. Although now stripped of its furnishings, décor, and housewares, the two-storey Kitsilano abode feels more like a house than a home to the mother of two nowadays.

      Still, it’s what decorates the walls that will be attracting Vancouverites to the now barebones crib: almost 30 pieces of textile, assemblage, and mixed-media art, all handcrafted by Price using garbage. The works make up Divorce: A Waste Audit, a surprisingly personal exhibit that explores one of the most trying times of Price’s life while simultaneously drawing attention to the excess of everyday waste and commemorating the home she shared with her husband and two kids for the past 18 years.

      An avid upcycler, Price was stunned by the amount of trash her family produced after conducting a waste audit as part of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation’s master recycling course, which she completed last fall. For two weeks, she collected everything from takeout boxes to used Q-tips to empty yogurt tubes, and she soon saw her household—which served as the base for a lengthy separation between Price and her partner—unfolding before her.

      Leah Price's "The New Owner Wants to See the Property" is made from interwoven layers of rags that each hold signicance to the artist.
      Leah Price

      “I had a really strong feeling about the stories that our waste tells about us,” she shares during an interview with the Straight at the 1920s-era house. “It told the whole story there.” 

      Price began a new waste audit in January, this time sorting almost everything her family discarded over a seven-month period. When her home went on the market in May against her wishes, she began transforming the waste into art as a coping mechanism. “To sort of process it, I started making images of the house out of whatever I had,” she explains. “One of first ones I made was out of dryer lint. It was just some silly thing I was doing; I couldn’t get this idea of our house out of my head.”

      That piece was followed by “The New Owner Wants to See the Property”, a layered quilt crafted from interwoven rags that each hold significance to Price. Elsewhere, broken crayons, arranged neatly by colour in an aluminum chicken pot-pie pan, depict the home’s façade with fantastic vibrancy, while decades of previously lit birthday candles—warped and melded together in the shape of a triangle—are the focus of another work.

      “Anybody can go to Michael’s and buy all the equipment and supplies you need to make something, but if you don’t have anything, then what can you make?” Price muses. “That, to me, is what’s really interesting.”

      Price crafted "Not Sorry" by combining medical waste and broken crayons in a broken storage box. "Every time you go out to eat somewhere, they give you three new crayons," she says of dining out with her kids. "No one needs that many."
      Leah Price

      Soon, Price began incorporating relics from her beloved abode into her art. Wooden paint stir-sticks, stained with the colours of the dining room and bedroom walls, hold a piece of 50-year-old polyester double-knit, which Price has embroidered with various phrases. Cast-off shoe boxes and picture frames have become vessels for the show, and each work is identified by writings on white subway tiles—remnants from the master recycler’s bathroom renovation.

      Divorce: A Waste Audit will take visitors through Price’s 2,373-square-foot house (3642 West 10th Avenue), from the living room to the kitchen to the upper-level and basement, and finally, to the garage, where they will be encouraged to take a piece of décor or houseware item home with them. Admission is by donation, with all proceeds benefiting the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research Canada, which supports research into the genetic disorder.

      The process will help ease Price and her children’s transition to their new home, while showcasing to Vancouverites the extravagant amounts of waste that are disposed of by a typical household. “We have enough stuff in the world; the problem is the distribution of it,” says Price. “I think people are not willing enough to wait for the things they need or to look for the things they need in a less wasteful way.”

      Divorce: A Waste Audit takes place from this Thursday (July 28) to July 31, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day, at 3642 West 10th Avenue. 

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.