Recycled goods make pop art
By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 12, 2009 1:46 PM
Macey is dressed in pink. She has accessorized with a yellow bracelet on her right arm and one on her left ankle. A red flower bead necklace hangs around her neck.
She is making her own fashion statement.
But you won't see her strutting her stuff on any runway because this blonde beauty is a popbot made by 9-year-old Lauren Anne French during a summer camp at the Arts Council of Wayne County.
"I was thinking I could build a popbot that would look like a regular robot, kind of coolish," Lauren said of her robot. "But I thought of a girl robot and decided I was going to make one of those.
"I was trying to think of how to make it look like a girl. So I made hair. I made her pink because I like pink. But she has purple arms and legs."
Her red lips are one of Macey's pretty features. A cap in the middle of her body has a heart on it. "I thought it would make her look more realistic," Lauren said.
Macey is one of many robots that local children made during summer camps.
"Robots are a really popular art form," said Becca Scott Reynolds, gallery and education director. "There are a lot of artists who make robots out of found objects."
The youths got a basic kit for the popbots -- an envelope box for the middle, a square tissue box for a head and toilet paper rolls for arms and legs. From there, they were limited only by their imaginations. They could accessorize their robots with pipe cleaners, yarn, buttons, bottle lids.
"And these are some well-accessorized robots," Mrs. Reynolds said. "Most of them have hair. Some have pony tails and others have pig tails. Some just have a little mop of hair on top while others have a few sprigs of hair sticking out on top."
Take a close look at the robots and you'll find them with hairbows, switches, bracelets, earrings and even jetpacks and flame throwers.
"Most of the girls chose to paint part of their popbot pink," Mrs. Reynolds said. "They decided they were the pink robot army that will take over the world."
It's this kind of creativity that the Arts Council hoped to inspire in the children at the summer camps.
"Every child took his own personal style and built his own original robot," Mrs. Reynolds said. "Not only does that help their cognitive ability, but sharing a creative experience with others makes it easier to think creatively in their day-to-day life."
She said it also makes it easier for them to be able to throw out a totally different idea anywhere, maybe even at a staff meeting one day when they get older. And it makes it easier for the youths to be a little more free in the way they think.
"I threw a pile of junk at them and they made pieces of art," Mrs. Reynolds said. "That has to do wonderful things for their confidence to know they created something from nothing."
Like 7-year-old Dillon Yousif, who made a space hero popbot. He painted it blue and put a jet pack on the back, complete with orange yarn flames coming out of it.
The popbot has laser eyes, double pistols on his left arm and a flame thrower on his right. He even has a control panel in his middle that Dillon painted on.
"I wanted it to look really cool," Dillon said. "I got the control panel idea because I was thinking of Darth Vader. I made black antennae for ears. Everyone else wanted hair and I really didn't want hair for my robot."
Dillon made his robot to fight aliens. It's got a lot of guns and weapons, like the characters in the "Transformer" movies that Dillon watches a lot.
Not only did the children make popbots, but they also made junkbots from recyclable materials. The older youths were given bags of trash that had been collected for the art camp, including cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, drink bottles, drink mix containers, orange juice bottles, bottle lids, buttons, yarn and more.
With all of this, one boy made a Yoda 2.0 -- a green junkbot with a light saber and a brown cloak. He used orange juice bottles painted green to make Yoda's feet.
A girl painted her junkbot green then covered it with green glitter.
Another didn't want to paint hers. She used a colorful oatmeal box for the robot's middle and two clear drink bottles for the arms and legs, which she stuffed full of colored tissue paper.
Getting even more creative, one boy made his junkbot out of a shoe box. He made it to open in the back. He even lined the inside with small plastic drink bottles covered in tin foil to be jetpacks.
"Everybody had a completely unique experience and they all made really cool junkbots," Mrs. Reynolds said.
The younger children make one huge robot that stands about five and a half feet tall.
"We wanted to teach them about installation art," Mrs. Reynolds said. "That's when you have something you build on-site. It could also be a painted mural or a large sculpture."
The children used box lids for the feet, copy paper boxes for the legs, arms, middle and head. His eyes are packing box inserts that have designs cut into them. All of the boxes were painted various colors then assembled with glue.
"The kids were terribly concerned when we got done because he didn't have any toes so he couldn't walk," Mrs. Reynolds said. "So we glued buttons on the boxes for toes so he could walk.
"They were also concerned because they had worked so hard on him and the robot didn't have a name. Each child wrote down a name and we drew. The winning name is 'Gumdrop.' The little girl who suggested it said the robot looked like a gumdrop with his bright colors."
Then another little girl noticed that Gumdrop had no heart. So the children drew a heart on his nametag.
"Only a 5- or 6-year-old would say 'he's got to have a heart,'" Mrs. Reynolds said. "It was great, though, to see them take such a humanitarian approach to building a robot."
Mrs. Reynolds was also surprised by the brainstorming session the children had before starting their robots.
"They were great about sharing ideas," she said. "They did a good job of collaborating (another benefit of the camp). They came up with ideas and were constantly evolving those robots."
That's what made each robot unique, Mrs. Reynolds said. "They don't' all have to be alike. It's very important for kids to be individuals and find what it is that makes them special."
Several junkbots, popbots and Gumdrop will be on display, along with other items created in other summer camps, at a children's artwork exhibit Aug. 17 through Sept. 30 in the TA Loving Gallery. There will be an opening reception Sept. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m.