Chris Digman of Pawtucket, Rhode Island creates unique glass artwork in his spare time, "as a way to relax," as he puts it. Digman works almost exclusively with materials he salvages, or "recycles" himself, as he was inspired by the waste of our throwaway society.
Digman works at Boston's Logan Airport, where he runs a club for Virgin Airlines. "This is where I came up with the idea to use wine and beer bottles," Digman tells URTH Guy. "Everything was thrown out and it drove me crazy." Digman says it's not because the airline wasn't interested in recycling, but rather because he says the airport didn't have recycling infrastructure.
So he asked his staff to put all the used bottles aside for him. "I would throw them in a box and bring them home first on the bus to South Station and then on the train back to Rhode Island," he explains. "I looked like a hobo collecting trash and my arms were sore when I got home. But I think the result is pretty snazzy." Digman stresses that glass is extremely easy to recycle, and that it comes in so many sizes, shapes and colors "that the things you can use it for are only limited by what you can dream up."
Digman says he aspires to do projects that are 100% recycled. "I don't have to spend a dime on them and it's really a great time," he says. He adds that he gets inspiration for his work from vintage craft books, particularly a series called "The Family Creative Workshop," which includes a lot of ideas on how to reuse things (the Green Cheapskate would be proud!). Digman says he employs bottle-cutting techniques from the series for much of his raw material. In the past, when reuse and thrift were more common, people often repurposed bottles for lamps, containers, holders or other items.
Digman made a long terrarium out of six-foot glass shelves that he salvaged after another club shut down. "It was interesting bringing those home on the train and bus," he remembers. The funky terrarium is 6'x8"x8", and has a fish tank on one end that flows over into a stream, which ends in a shallow pool for some dwarf frogs. The top is made from one-gallon jars that were cut and put together like stained glass. The return pipe is made with PVC pipe and an old pump.
Digman's "bamboo" stained glass piece is made from cut wine and beer bottles. His palm panel -- the first he made -- is from wine, Pellegrino and beer bottles. He calls a little terrarium "martini" because the blue strip is a cut Skyy Vodka bottle and the round sides are from a one-gallon olive jar. He also made a window box for herbs out of olive jars.
Chris Digman grew up in New Mexico, where he says he developed his recycling habits from his grandpa. "He didn't reuse things as a way to be green or save the environment, it was just who he was," says Digman. "I remember one time when we were driving down a road and he pulls over and tells me to jump out and grab a piece of plate metal that had probably fallen off a truck. He said 'somebody can use that,' and that was how his whole life was. He grew up in a generation in which if you had to buy something more than once you didn't buy it any more. And the only things you threw out were things that couldn't be reused or composted or given to someone who could use them."
For a future project, Digman says he is interested in an evacuated tube heating system. "I thought it would be interesting if you could hook it up to a Tesla Turbine generator and see if power could be generated. They look pretty neat and are simple enough to be made cheap," he says. In Digman's opinion, resistance to adopting greener technologies and lifestyle choices often stems from the changes being too expensive or too complicated. He points to solar panels and wind turbines as examples, though he says he does appreciate seeing them.
Digman says he is trying to go green in other ways, too, including biking everywhere he can. He says he would gladly sell some of his work if people were interested.
Chris Digman is an inspiration to all of us who are sick of throwing out useful stuff.
Chris Digman's "martini" terrarium.
"Bamboo" stained glass.
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