'My art is rubbish!'
How one Ulster-based artist is using rubbish to raise awareness of the threat to marine life in the Pacific Ocean
Meet Inga Hamilton, the Bangor-based artist who's passionate about rubbish.
No, your eyes haven't deceived you and you have read it correctly - Inga works with materials that you or me would ordinarily throw away and what's more, she's become a highly sought-after creator.
While most of us see a plastic bag with holes in it as something to be binned, the 37-year-old might use it to create something completely different, something beautiful.
Although she would laugh at the comparison, she's a bit of a modern day Womble really.
"I only ever work with materials that have been discarded," smiles Inga. "The newest thing I'll buy is some old yarn from a charity shop and even then it has to be on its last legs.
"I sometimes even go up to people on the street and ask them for their litter if I feel I can use it for something. Some people look at me like I'm mad but I don't care."
Inga spends her time knitting and crocheting materials and turning them into pieces of art. The practise has been dubbed 'fibre art', and although she only began creating these pieces this year, she's intensely passionate about her craft.
"Quite often I look at a material and I feel like I know what it wants to be before I even make it," she offers.
" It's almost like I'm just helping an object along the way to finding its true path. I have been asked if I'm making some sort of environmental statement, but I'm not. I'm just doing this for me."
Next month, Inga is taking part in her first ever exhibition. It takes place in Chicago and will be hosted by the IFF (the Institute for Figuring).
The driving idea behind the exhibition is to draw attention to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch with all the artists involved crocheting a huge coral reef.
The IFF has assembled a team of female artists from all over the world and are creating a woolly celebration of female handicraft which also serves as a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world.
"I'm so excited about my first ever exhibition," she says. "For the first time in my life I'm doing something I love and I get to meet other fibre artists. I feel a bit guilty about taking a flight over to Chicago, but I'll try to off-set my carbon footprint as much as possible.
" I really respect how the exhibition highlights what's happening in the Pacific ocean at the moment.
"Right now the Garbage Patch is the size of Texas, 30 metres deep and is killing all the fish, animals and reef. The way I see things is that if one person throws one thing less away every week then it'll make a huge difference to everyone's quality of life."
Before Inga became a fibre artist, she grew up in Dorset. She was one of five kids living with little money.
When her father passed away when she was 18 she decided to travel instead of heading to university and then eventually found a job in London.
She started out making props and puppets for a kids' TV show and then worked as an editor for a craft magazine where she met her future husband Andy. "Andy and I ended up running away to Fiji to get married, as you do," she laughs.
" When the magazine folded, we moved to Dorset and then to Andy's hometown of Bangor and set up our own company. Andy works as an illustrator and I handle the editorial end."
But after a period of illness, Inga began to feel disillusioned with the editing game and took some time off to learn more about herself.
"I was diagnosed with endometriosis and had to have a hysterectomy in April. I took some time off to recuperate and get my head together and that's when I took up knitting and crocheting.
"Once I started I found I just couldn't stop. I felt like now I was healthier I was just exploding with creativity again. It was all literally busting out of me and I loved it.
"That's when I started running my blog online and seeking out other people who were into the same thing.
"It can be a bit annoying because a lot of people look down on traditional women's handicrafts," she says.
"I think after the whole Women's Lib thing it has become uncool to enjoy the skills such as knitting, but hopefully we can now reclaim it.
" If nothing else, knitting and crocheting keeps your hands busy and stops you doing things that are bad for you like smoking and drinking."
As if having her first exhibition taking place in Chicago wasn't enough of a thrill, it will then move on to LA in January. While Inga is currently busy working towards the exhibition launch in a few weeks, she's also got other plans up her sleeve which should keep her busy in the following year.
"Ideally I'd like to start a project to help women who are going through what I've gone through," she concludes.
"Hospital rooms are dreary enough places at the best of times and I would like to put some little knitting kits in the waiting rooms to help keep patients and visitors occupied while they wait for news. It can be a lonely thing having a hysterectomy and I'd like to help people through that. As for the rest of my life, who knows?" she says, adding, "My husband and I view everything as one big adventure.
"I've been quite ill at various times in my life so I try to counteract that by having as much fun as possible."
¿ For more information on Inga's work check out http://rockpoolcandy.typepad.com and also: www.theiff.org/reef