Because we only had a day, my husband and I decided to focus our attention on the museum's third floor, which features artifacts from many world cultures from prehistory to the 20th Century. As we strolled through the African baskets, eastern Buddhas, Egyptian cat mummies, Grecian pottery and Rococo furniture, I felt inspired and affirmed as an artist. Maybe that's obvious: a trite reaction. But there were two things in particular that I realized in a refreshing and uplifting way.
The second affirmation I experienced during my visit to the ROM was that upcycling and repurposing are age old practices. People have always used the everyday objects around them to create art, clothing and jewelry. I saw jewelry made from the garbage and trifles of ages past: bone, seed pods, animal teeth, stones, scraps of leather and wood, tiny pieces of shell. Feathers, fur and hair were incorporated into art, masks and even weapons. I think it's only since industrialization that people have had the "luxury" to waste. We can learn a lot from the multitudes who lived before industrialization about finding practical and beautiful uses for scraps and shards. I've always thought of my efforts in upcycling as being mindful of the present and future, but now I see they're also deeply connected to the past.