Washougal Art & Music Festival

Heart of Cartm’s Trash Bash Art Festival in Nehalem makes recycling fun — and fashionable

Entries are open for May’s “Rising from the Trashes” event, which includes an art gallery, fashion show, and storytelling – all spotlighting trash.

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Jessi Just, executive director of Heart of Cartm in Nehalem, puts together her festival outfit for last year’s Trash Bash. The 25th event will be May 16-19 at the White Clover Grange #784 in Nehalem. Photo courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
Jessi Just, executive director of Heart of Cartm in Wheeler, puts together her festival outfit before last year’s Trash Bash Art Festival. The 25th event will be May 16-19 at the White Clover Grange #784 in nearby Nehalem. Photo courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography

Wearing an outfit crafted from your latest dumpster dive may draw hoots from the fashion police, but don such a getup for the Trash Bash Art Festival and you’ll be rocking the runway. 

Jessi Just, executive director of Heart of Cartm, has seen some memorable pieces, wearable and not so much. There was the coffee shop owner who created mother/daughter frocks out of tea bag wrappers. “They smelled amazing,” Just said. Or the woman who designed a wedding gown from used paper cups – stains and all.

“Astounding,” Just said. “I remember a beautiful lion-head wall hanging made from one circular piece of a street-sweeper brush, and for many years at the entrance of the Manzanita Transfer Station were two welded iron figures … complete with false teeth.”

This marks the 25th year of the Trash Bash, themed aptly enough, “Rising from the Trashes.” It’s the first time since about 2016 that the festival will feature all the events — the Trash Art Gallery, Trashion Show, and Trash Tales (storytelling) — under one roof over one long weekend, May 16-19.

 If you aren’t familiar with the Heart of Cartm, here’s the thumbnail: 

Cartm started back in the 1990s with a group of Tillamook County folks passionate about recycling.  An acronym for Conservation Action Resource Team of Manzanita, Cartm hosted its first Trash Bash in 1999, then added the Trashion Show in 2007. But in 2019, Cartm lost its contract with Tillamook County, and it looked like the trashy fun was over.

Not so. In 2021, they regrouped as Heart of Cartm, celebrating their mission of reuse with a shop in Wheeler, seasonal workshops, the Repair Cafe and, of course, the Trash Bash Art Festival.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

The many faces of trash can be seen at the Trash Bash Art Festival. Photo courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
The many faces of trash can be seen at the Trash Bash Art Festival. “We really are challenging people to reimagine what they do, to ask themselves, How can I create the same thing but use waste materials?” says Heart of Cartm’s Jessi Just. Photo courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography

Now through early May, anyone and everyone is invited to submit their trash art to be featured in the festival. Drop off days for the Trash Art Gallery are May 12 and 13 at the  White Clover Grange #784 in Nehalem. All events will be held at the 93-year-old Grange hall, which Just called “a setting which showcases longtime reuse, repair, and reimagination to foster connection.”

There are a few rules. You must be able to hand-deliver your work to the Grange, and the work must be made of at least 90 percent recycled material.

“For example, if it’s an old cabinet door, and you are buying new paint and painting it, that’s only 50 percent,” Just said. “We really are challenging people to reimagine what they do, to ask themselves, How can I create the same thing but use waste materials?”

When a Portland photographer asked if her photos of dumpsters would qualify as trash art, festival organizers asked her to consider the ways she might display the work, Just recalled. “She changed her process in order to fit in the show, and it was phenomenal. We’ve also had some wonderful jewelry, deconstructed and reconstructed, and some weavings of old Pendleton wool scraps that were absolutely gorgeous.”

The show is also open to sculptural pieces, both indoor and out, with no restriction on size, Just said. “If you can deliver it on those specified days and it’s ready to be shown, then we want it.”

The guidelines for the Trashion Show and Trash Tales are slightly different from the Trash Art Gallery, with May 1 the deadline to sign up for both. Trashion designers will be given guidelines for making their outfit and access to workshops where they can find materials and borrow tools.

“You must have an outfit made mostly of found objects,” Just said. “If you wear any clothing items, they need to be transformed in some way. For example, a shirt gets turned into a vest, or jeans have visible mending.” Designers must also write a blurb about their outfit, submit a list of the materials, and may pick a song to be played while their outfit is on the runway. The night of the show, models show up early for a run-through with a DJ, and then it’s show time. “It’s really an incredible show,” Just said.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

Young Fionna Brighid last year made an installation out of trash and wrote an accompanying story – complete with moral -- about the “Envasion from Water Melon Planet.” Photo courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
Young Fionna Brighid last year made an installation out of trash and wrote an accompanying story – complete with moral -- about the “Envasion from Water Melon Planet.” Photo courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography
Young Fionna Brighid last year made an installation out of trash and wrote an accompanying story – complete with moral — about “An Envasion from Water Melon Planet.” Photos courtesy: Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography

Trash Tales is the newest addition to the festival, started last year after Just couldn’t bear keeping so many stories to herself.

“We added it because, as someone who is in the waste and recycling and repair world, I hear stories daily of the things people have found and I am just absolutely full,” Just said.  “Every day, I think I want to capture that. I want other people to hear these stories. So, the storytelling event was really a way to get these stories out to everyone.”

The festival is looking for prose, poems, or songs up to five minutes long that showcase the emotions evoked by the things people have and the things they have lost, Just said.

“We recognize that humans and stuff go together,” Just said. We travel with our things, and we die with our things. The moment we are born, we are creating trash. Some people have a lot, and some people have a little, but no matter how much or how little things we have, those things matter.”

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pup Gus.

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