Purposeful Repurposing or What Would You Do with Old Magazines?

Nat Geo Backpack by Georgann DeMille

By Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Media, Craft and Design –

Exhibiting repurposed art in Illinois, Florida and Tennessee, University of Memphis graduate Georgann DeMille has been creating art that connects to a story or person through combining aspects of nostalgia with unusual and recycled materials.

“I find it fascinating to use things that people have used or plan to throw away,” said DeMille.

While at first glance DeMille’s work looks as if it might be wearable art, it is in fact, nonfunctional and intended for purely visual reflection and consideration. Though, she does admit that she likes viewers to question if the objects could be worn or used.

As DeMille tells her story, she was a late bloomer entering into college (graduating in 2013 in her late 50’s) to follow and encourage her love of art and sewing. When asked what artists have inspired her, she does not hesitate to say she her artistry was encouraged and motivated by spending childhood summers with her grandmother learning how to sew and make patterns. Through the years she often designed and sewed children’s clothing and quilts — she even made maternity clothes for her sister.

One of DeMille’s works was inspired by a memory of her father who had brought back a kimono for his wife when returning home from the Korean War. DeMille was curious to know why he would bring something so beautiful back from such a bad experience. Years later, serving as a caregiver for her mother, the question resurfaced and gave birth to creating a kimono from deconstructed Depends undergarments.

Fondly nicknamed the “Hippie Bag Lady” due in part to having made bags as well as often being seen hefting bags stuffed with repurposed materials gifted by friends, DeMille incorporates secondhand materials in new and altered ways. Materials may include book pages, thread, flower petals, fabric dryer sheets, wire and magazines.

“First of all I am NOT a hoarder, but I do love collecting those items that other people might throw away. These disposables become my unconventional supplies that I cut and paste, the old fashioned way, and create one of a kind artwork,” said DeMille.

DeMille’s sewing skills were further honed in college to allow for continued story telling. She repurposed National Geographic magazines to create three-dimensional objects that might be used when traveling to exotic places that were often written and photographed within the pages of the magazine. Such works include a Nat Geo Backpack and a Nat Geo Duffle (bag). She is currently working on a pair of galoshes (in her shoe size) also made from the National Geographic Magazines.

This spring SouthArts, a regional arts organization, selected nine artists from the southern region to receive fellowships and DeMille was the only artist selected from Tennessee. Artists each received a $5,000 fellowship award and on April 24, one artist will win the Southern Prize award for a two-week long residency at the Hambridge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences in Georgia and $25,000. The Finalist prize will be $10,000. We wish DeMille the best of luck in representing Tennessee.

Nat Geo Duffle on stand by Georgann DeMille
Remembering by Georgann DeMille
Modern Approach to Everyday Cooking by Georgann DeMille
Little Women by Georgann DeMille