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  • Writer's picturePatrizia Brasch

My love affair with rusty stuff.

Ah, rust. What is it about this orange, reddish, sometimes flaky stuff that is so appealing? So many people seem to be drawn to it. There's a group on Facebook devoted to some extremely beautiful rust art. And, on Instagram, there are over 2.4 million posts with the hashtag “rust”.

My own infatuation with rusty stuff, as I tend to call it, began about five years ago when I was making daily trips from my house to the seniors’ residence where my mother lived. There was a construction site along the way, for another downtown condominium, and as I was crossing the street to avoid the construction area, I happened to find a rusted hex nut by the side of the road. I looked at it and immediately thought, what can I do with that?!? I knew it would look good in a mosaic, so I stooped, picked it up, and shoved it into my pocket.

"By the Side of the Road" is where I found my first rusted hex nut which appears front and center in this mosaic.

The construction site was big, and it took quite a while to complete the condo building, so it became an abundant source for all kinds of rusted construction materials. I was happily finding different sized hex nuts (my favourite), washers, nails & screws, rivets (my second favourite), bolts, and much, much more. If it was rusted or corroded, I picked it up. I even started carrying around a sturdy baggie tucked in my purse for my treasures.

As I was going about collecting more and more “goodies”, I started thinking about these discarded construction materials. I was wondering just how much debris is actually collected and/or thrown away during and after a building is constructed? Having reached the end of their usefulness, these materials are no longer needed or desired, and are simply cast aside as worthless junk.

Which, as we know, is such an incredible waste. Considering how much time, money, and labour went into each piece, be it small or large, how did it become so worthless?

The route to worthlessness is a long one. Simply put, it began millions of years ago during the formation of ore deposits, to exploring to find the ore, to extracting it through mining, on to smelting to extract the metal, to manufacturing the variety of materials in which the metal is used, going out through world-wide distribution to be sold in hardware or home improvement stores, until finally it is used for its intended purpose.

That's when the worthlessness really starts. Iron and other metals rust or corrode when exposed to air and water. Iron rusts quickly, copper and brass take longer to corrode. By this time, the rusted materials have lost their strength and usefulness, and need to be replaced. New materials are purchased, and the old materials are thrown away or discarded on site.

That, dear reader, is where the rust lovers come in! Collecting "rusty stuff" and creating various art forms to prolong the life of a rusted fragment; adding an upcycled item to their work so it morphs from discarded and useless to a thing of beauty.

Representing one of Canada's major industries, the mosaic "Mining" includes rusted nails, washers, hex nuts, nails and screws, pennies, and nickles along with the metals mined in Canada - gold, silver, diamonds, copper, nickle, and zinc.

My aim is to give these materials a new life. Not only do I intentionally seek out rusted and corroded materials, but I also use them in the design and formation of a piece of art, thereby taking them from useless to useful once again. By upcycling any rusted items I find, and highlighting them in a mosaic, I am giving these discarded materials the chance to be admired for their worthiness, beauty, and longevity in a piece of art.

"Nothing in Life is Perfect" includes rusted washers, hex nuts, rivets, and a bolt.

These days, my delight in finding my very first rusted hex nut has grown into a nice collection of various rusted items, all nicely categorized in containers (that the old librarian part of me that will never go away) which sit in their very own, albeit small, shelving unit.

"Bicycle gear" which is at home at Rachel Sager's The Ruins Project in Pennsylvania, includes rusted and corroded washers and copper pennies to represent Canada.

And last, but not least, a little 10cm x 10 cm Artists' Trading Card mosaic using a rusted bolt and screw to represent Toronto's CN Tower and a bent washer to represent the Sky Dome.

Thanks for stopping by!


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