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When recycling becomes art

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jeannie Hopkins has long used found items in her upcycled art projects. Hopkins has sold her art and offered lessons out of her downtown Jaffrey-based shop, Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium, for four years now. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, November 15, 2018 10:58AM

Jeannie Hopkins’ artistic masterpieces are often created with materials that many don’t think twice about before throwing away.

Toilet paper tubes transform into magical trees and mushrooms and sticks turn into fairies and bird skulls in the artistic hands of Hopkins, a Fitzwilliam resident who owns Bric A Brac Upcycle Emporium in Jaffrey. Even a wine bottle can be converted into the head of Davy Jones from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in Hopkins’ capable hands. 

“The joy in upcycling is that you begin to see things in a different way,” Hopkins said. “If I see a table on the side of the road, it’s not a table to me. A lot of people kick through leaves when they see them, I use them for art.”

Hopkins’ love of art grew exponentially in her childhood – fostered by her supporting parents and Monadnock Regional High School art teacher Raymond Descoteaux.

As a student, Hopkins was challenged by Descoteaux to do a “survey of the arts,” which challenged her to learn something new about art every day, something she still does now. 

“I learn every day,” Hopkins said. “I know how to do paper mache, but it doesn’t mean I know everything about it.”

Through doing this, Hopkins has been able to learn a number of artistic techniques, both new and old. Recently, Hopkins was able to learn how to create authentic homespun cotton German-style Christmas ornaments.

“It’s the same way the Germans made them in the 1940s and 50s, with glue and cotton,” Hopkins said. “It’s completely authentic.”

Hopkins opened Bric A Brac Upcycle Eporium four years ago, spurred by her retirement and wanting to make art more than a hobby. 

“I try to find uses for things that are overproduced,” Hopkins said. “… I’m thinking about art all the time.”

Hopkins is currently in the process of renovating and reinvigorating her shop, in the hopes of turning the space into more of an art studio. Her long-term goal would be to turn the space into an artistic space for many artists. 

“It’s more about sharing what I know then becoming a multi-millionaire,” Hopkins said. 

Upcycling has long been a huge part of Hopkins’ artistic process. Due to the expensiveness of art materials, Hopkins used recycled materials in her art as a way to save some money. 

“I ended up really liking the look of stuff that I made out of recycled materials,” Hopkins said. “… I’m a very eclectic artist. I make whatever I have supplies for.”

Much of Hopkins’ art is sculpting with paper clay usually made out of toilet paper and creating jewelry out of wire, though she also dabbles in a number of other media including illustrations, sewing, framing, and more. 

When it comes to creating art, Hopkins prefers much more to allow her creativity to flow, rather than following a specific plan.

“If you bind yourself up with a specific look you will always be disappointed,” Hopkins said. “If I let something flow naturally, I’m generally very happy with how it turns out.”

Hopkins will often collect materials for a project with a general idea in mind, then sit down and create one-of-a-kind pieces. Currently, Hopkins is collecting aluminum cans so she can create aluminum embossed boxes.

“Art is how I recharge… I think I go into REM art, it’s just very relaxing and natural for me,” Hopkins said, after admitting that she often works on many of her projects late at night when many are sleeping. 

Hopkins’ reputation as an upcycle artist has made its way around the community, as she often shows up to her shop to bags full of found materials. 

“One day I walked up to my door and there was a tree branch on my doorstep,” Hopkins said. “People drop stuff off all the time. I’ve had bottles and acorns. Sometimes people clean up their yards and I find it in a bag on my doorstep.”

Hopkins admits that her artistic process has completely changed how she looks at the world. A recent art project was inspired by a recent drive where she observed some birch trees.

“When you look at birch trees while traveling down the road, it looks like people’s feet coming out of the ground,” Hopkins said. 

An important part of Hopkins’ art these days is educating others. In addition to working with nieces, nephews, and other family members, Hopkins also offers small, private art classes for those who are looking to expand their horizons. 

“I like to see people’s faces when they create something they never thought they could make,” Hopkins said. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.