A very enjoyable aspect of our work here at Gigantic is that we often team up with artists who bring their creativity and skills to bear for environmental behavior change.
One such collaborator is Darrell Hunger, an industrial designer with a passion for applying his creativity to solve environmental problems. A hard-to-find hybrid of nuts-n-bolts pragmatism and artistic vision, Darrell has been instrumental to many of the interactive displays and games we’ve designed for our clients over the past years. For the City of Oakland’s “test your cart smarts” event booth, Darrell turned curbside carts into a life-size sort game, complete with fake moldy peaches and carefully sauce-smeared take-out containers as “game pieces.”
Most recently, Darrell helped us build a game for StopWaste to help people learn the best way to store fruits and veggies, so they stay fresher longer and there’s less food waste. Looking a bit like a doll’s kitchen, the game lets players open cabinets and a fridge and peek under empty bowls sitting on the counter to find images of the foods they’re tasked to “store.” From tiny hinges to mini door handles and a sturdy collapsible stand for the game, Darrell helped us think through the design and put it all together.
With such a unique skill set, it’s not a surprise Darrell is a regular at Burning Man, specifically a member of the Earth Guardians, Burning Man’s environmental crew. They are the ones in charge of enforcing the organization’s “Leave No Trace” (LNT) policy—essentially returning Black Rock Desert to its natural state each year, as if the weeklong, crazy circus of 70,000 revelers never happened. And it’s serious business, not an esoteric goal: LNT is a requirement written into the Special Event Permit and contract Burning Man has with Nevada’s Bureau of Land Management.
For the Earth Guardians, this means recruiting, training and overseeing an army of volunteers who check on camps to make sure no gray water or automotive fluids are leaking on the desert floor, keeping people out of the hot springs, and collecting MOOP—or “Matter Out Of Place” as defined by Burning Man. This truly means anything that wasn’t originally part of Black Rock Desert, no matter how small, including beads and feathers broken loose from costumes, tiny litter pieces, wood chips and even the ash from cigarettes. To make the tedious un-MOOPing at least a bit more pleasant, volunteers get “MOOP bags” to collect the debris, sewn out of old jeans and ties months before the event by Darrell and his crew. But the Earth Guardians may already face another challenge: “Micro MOOP” such as body glitter and other particles that even the most diligent unMOOPing can’t retrieve.
Lucky for Burners (and the rest of the world) Darrell is a master of reuse and waste prevention, and shares his skills and knowledge widely. At this year’s Burning Man, his repair workshop “Glue, screw, patch: How to fix things that break, are worn or want to be repurposed” was a huge hit. In his typical hands-on style, Darrell showed participants the best uses of glues, screws, splints and other repair tools, and fixed broken objects brought to the class. Way to go Darrell!
Every so often we run into people doing important environmental work who deserve some recognition. This inspired us to launch a Gigantic Q&A blog series, highlighting local citizens making a difference.
Recycled Glass Artist
KN: What inspires you as an artist?
FS: I enjoy the problem solving that comes from being a reuse artist. Sometimes I have an idea of something I want to make and go and look for materials. Other times, I will find an interesting object and think, “What can I make out of that?”
KN: How do you incorporate sustainability and green practices into your art pieces?
FS: Most importantly I try to have as much as possible—if not all—of my material be recycled. I try to stay away from toxic and harmful chemicals. I use a sandblaster instead of etching my glass with chemicals.
KN: What is your favorite material for making new artwork and why?
FS: Glass! Most of my professional work has been in glass and that is where I have the most experience. Each bottle factory has its own formula for glass, and the ratios by which the glass expands and contracts are different. In short, you can’t melt different colored bottles together because they may crack. This challenges me to make the glass interesting in other ways. I can add texture by twisting, adding wire, sand blasting and tumbling. I use combinations of glass techniques—from flameworking with a torch to fusing, slumping and coldworking. Glass can be both a liquid and a solid.
KN: What kind of reactions do your art pieces get?
FS: Mostly positive. Quite often people cannot tell at first that the pieces are made from recycled materials. Recycled does not have to look rough or “trashy.” I hope I can inspire others to take a second look at their own trash and find creative uses for it. Some people turn away from my bullet casing jewelry because of the association with violence, which is understandable. I like to think of it as transforming an object symbolic of destruction into a thing of beauty.
KN: What would be your dream art project?
FS: I enjoy sharing ideas and collaborating with other artists. My dream project would be working with other reuse artists on bigger, public works projects.