Island artist finds beauty and use in discarded items on beaches and streets
At least one person in Galveston has found a use for trash left on beaches or streets. Island artist Kristin Church collects all those bottle caps, jugs, strings and assorted plastic people leave behind and turns them into beautiful art.
Church has an assistant in her quest for reusable trash — her 2-year-old son E.J. — who accompanies her on the collecting missions, pulling his red wagon and picking up pieces to recycle into art.
“I am passing onto my kids the importance of taking care of the environment,” Church said, noting E.J. helps with another art form she employs involving empty water bottles to make eco-bricks. The mother-and-son team stuff the bottles with non-recyclable items — bags from chips, candy wrappers, soft plastic pieces — and use them as the base for footstools, which are covered in a faux fur.
“He’s very good at this,” Church said.
Church is a serious artist who spends most of her sporadic workday doing pyrography, which is art created by wood burning. She is self-taught and the work is tedious, yet interesting. Sharp details emerge from a plank of maple or birch as she burns the lines and shades of her subject.
Most recently, Church completed a large rendering of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Broadway at 14th Street in Galveston, on a large piece of birch. She spent a month laboring over the variety of twists and lines on the historic church building, making sure she mastered the perspective correctly. She then decorated the edges of the piece with an array of typical Galveston flowers, including hibiscus, plumeria and angel trumpets, to give it an island feel.
“This was very challenging because of all the angles,” she said, explaining she uses a tiny heated “pen” that looks like a soldering iron with a variety of points to burn into the surface to give it texture, depth, shading and shadowing. Her images almost look three-dimensional. She was inspired to learn this art form eight years ago as she watched her grandfather, who was a wood turner and made bowls from discarded trees. He would sign his name with a wood burning pen on each piece he created. It looked like fun to her.
She was attending Texas A&M University at College Station and was studying entomology when she began being creative, she said. She said the bugs and insects she studied were great subjects for her art, as well as some multi-colored reptiles and other animals.
“Insects are really beautiful,” she said. “I am doing lots of bees lately, too.”
In fact, bees are the focus of a huge mural she painted weeks before giving birth to her second child last year. She covered the walls of her daughter Avis’ room with bees, roses and other flowers, mixing her Victorian-decorated room with nature buzzing around flowers. The guest room in their home also has a large mural of orchids, wine cup flowers and an oversized white rose flanked by some wheat stalks, a nod to her husband, Timothy, who brews beer in their home.
The family lives in a building in the island’s downtown that once housed a model train museum. They have converted the upstairs to a comfortable home to accommodate the two small children. The downstairs of the building houses her studio and his microbrewery.
“Raising two little kids doesn’t give me much time to do my art, but I want my children to appreciate and see the beauty in the small things — like insects,” she said. “I thought bugs were cool when I was a kid, and I want kids to realize that, too.”