I’ve been riding out the pandemic on a small island in southern Thailand. I opted to stay put at my winter home, not returning to Canada at the start of the Covid-19 lockdowns. To keep busy on this remote island, I started cleaning the beaches by picking up garbage during my daily beach walks.
The monsoon winds blow inwards during the summer months and deposit garbage on our beautiful beaches. As I was doing my part to help clean the planet, I realized that the number of lighters that come in with the tides was obscene. I wanted to do something with them, to turn this garbage into something beautiful.
I started to envision a large sitting cat, the one I’ve been drawing since I was a young girl, made from the lighters. In my mind’s eye I saw a sculpture that lit up at night. I wanted to make it a reality. Long story short, my Happy Cat Garbage Art Sculpture is now hanging on the side of my house and lighting up the entrance way as a welcome sign for those who come visit after sunset.
Ning and Will operate a great beach bar and restaurant called the Fat Turtle. I’ve known them for about a decade and frequent the Fat Turtle many times a week. It’s an amazing restaurant, especially at sunset and into the evening, with the best food on Koh Lanta.
It offers a perfect view of the Andaman Sea with the famous Koh Phi Phi in the distance, and the bright spots from the lights on the squid fishing boats far out on the sea. Ning, in her very Thai polite way, told me she loved my garbage art cat and wondered if I would consider making her a turtle.
I was totally thrilled and jumped at her suggestion. And best of all, Will offered to make a video of the build.
Two months later, and a few days after my Fat Turtle Garbage Art was mounted at the Fat Turtle Restaurant, I got a crazy phone call. I was asked if I would show my Happy Cat and the Fat Turtle Garbage Art sculptures at an exhibition in the provincial capital.
This request was so strange that I asked if the person was joking with me! Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be legitimate! The next day, my Happy Cat and the Fat Turtle Garbage Art sculptures were on their way to Krabi Town, about 2 hours away on the mainland.
The night of the exhibit opening, as a featured artist, I participated in the ceremony. I sat in the stage area with the other artists and met Thailand’s Cultural Minister. It was a surreal event for me being the only foreigner in this very Thai celebration.
It was both televised and live on YouTube, with lots of photographers, and those super bright spot lights rotating in the sky.
The Minister asked me why I started to build my garbage art sculptures. I told him I wanted to make something beautiful from the ugliness on the amazing beaches of Koh Lanta. He replied that I had accomplished my goal. What a thrill that was! The exhibit continued for 10 days and now the pieces are back on Koh Lanta.
We never know when the unexpected will happen, so always have a positive attitude and try new things. You never know where it will lead.
Have you attempted any strange projects that brought you a following? What projects keep you busy these days? Do they serve double duty? In what ways?