TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tire Art: A Case for Recycling Garbage, The Artist's Raw Materials

Ji Yong Ho, Gana Art Gallery, Tire Art

A friend of mine sent me an email with images of these gorgeous sculptures made our of recycled tires.  I had to learn more about them, so I dug around a bit and found that they were made by Ji Yong Ho, a young Korean artist concerned about how we are genetically altering nature and controlling our wild environments.  He calls his sculptures "mutants" and seeks to create both frightening and sensitive creatures.  Theme Magazine has a nice article about him with more on how he relates to his work:

"Ho’s concept of mutants grew out of his life in Seoul, where there is fierce political debate over genetic engineering. In school, Yong Ho read Darwin and was galvanized by how his theory of evolution applied to man’s manipulation with nature. Already, he says, cats and dogs are bred to emphasize their domesticated traits and downplay their wild sides. The sculptures can be taken as warnings; if we’re not careful, we may soon lose the ability to see animals in their natural state altogether."    Theme Magazine   (Photo by Flora Hanitijio)

Ji Yong Ho, Gana Art Gallery, Tire Art 
I have seen objects made our of recycled tires before.  The most common are the soles used for sandals, found all over South America.  When I lived in Chicago, I met a woman who was working with a project that made sling chairs out of them.  I don't remember the name of her project, but Livbit has an affordable and attractive set that it reviewed:

Recycled Tire Furniture, Livbit

I remember asking this woman if the tires would give off any residue, turning your clothes or skin black.  She said that it would not.

Ji Yong Ho, Gana Art Gallery, Tire Art

Ji Yong Ho's work is especially interesting because of the elegance and vibrancy he gives his creatures.  He tried working with other mediums but found rubber to be the most life-like.  I wondered how the pieces are attached and from the photos, it looks like they are riveted or screwed.  Gary Pierre-Charles, a Haitian architect, also has chosen to use tires as his medium.  I have seen information on how to use tires as wall insulation in green building, but Pierre-Charles uses them everywhere.  Normally, green builders hide the tires while this artist emphasizes and makes use of them as a design element.  They are in walls, gardens, windows and landscaping.  The video also shows how he cuts and assembles the tires.  In Creole, the footage is especially poignant after the recent Haitian earthquake.  The YouTube page has an excellent text describing the content:

We are in a race to deplete our natural resources like never before in history.  Artists in developing countries have long used garbage as a material, mostly because they don't have the funds to purchase new materials.  Yet, what excellent role models they have become to all of us, regardless of what have been our preferred mediums.  Bottles can be fired and melted, discarded metals cut and re-shaped, and for the fiber artist, there are endless supplies of junked paper and cloth.  Look around you!  What can you salvage?  Use your garbage as your raw materials.  I understand the draw of new materials.  I worked at a fabric store for several months and could not resist the discount table of end fabric.  My check would inevitably go towards remnants.  Until then, I had found all my fabric at thrift stores.  Now I have a good stash of both and once the temptation was removed, I find that I still prefer the worn and faded look of the used fabrics in my stash.

Ji Yong Ho, Gana Art Gallery, Tire Art 

Tires are huge.  They quickly fill up landfills.   Artists like Ji Yong Ho and Gary Pierre-Charles do us a great service by inspiring others to re-use and re-purpose objects that no longer have their original function.  Kudos to them! 

Ji Yong Ho, Gana Art Gallery, Tire Art

How about you?  Do you use garbage as a raw material?  Leave a comment to inspire others on how our waste can be made into something new and beautiful!


  1. Those are the most magnificent tire sculptures I've ever seen! Thank you so much for sharing them.

    Around here, we use all the old tires we can get for erosion control. There's an old creek bed, long dry, that otherwise starts turning into a major undercut, and taking away buckets of topsoil. Also the roadsides are prone to crumbling (dirt roads, we're quite in the sticks). There are so many wonderful things to do with tires-- they make a great roof patch!-- I can't believe people throw them away!

  2. That's great, Carapace! Wish more of us would look at what is discarded and figure out how to use it! We would be doing our earth a great favor!


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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