Whether she’s building 11-foot-wide moth sculptures or creating crafts out of bottle caps with children, Michelle Stitzlein is attracted to bold, colorful designs and strives to be resourceful in her work.
Stitzlein’s series of 14 moths combines her bold sensibilities with a grounding in recycled goods. She estimates that 85% of the materials in her moths — ranging in size from 3 to 11 feet — are recycled.
The sculptor, 41, scavenges for materials at yard sales, in her father-in-law’s barn, and at a nearby, defunct dump. She also gets anonymous back-door deposits by neighbors. “Friends and family clean out their garage and basement and think of me just as they are about to throw things into the trash can,” Stitzlein proudly admits.
A graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design, Stitzlein lives with her artist-husband Nathaniel in Baltimore, Ohio, in a 1952 two-story, concrete block Grange building they’ve converted into a combination house and shared studio space.
She’s traveled to developing countries like Guate-mala, Mexico, South Africa, Peru, Colombia, and Namibia, and enjoys seeking out and meeting local folk artists. She’s inspired by artists like Helen Martins of South Africa and Nek Chand of India, who’ve created entire sculptures out of recycled materials.
Not content to just make things, Stitzlein also tries to promote creativity by leading lectures, classes, and workshops. After an invitation from an elementary school to work on an Earth Day art project, she expanded and developed her ideas for child-friendly garden installations and “cap-by-number” murals. She wrote and self-published Bottlecap Little Bottlecap, a book about recycled art projects for kids utilizing colorful, easy-to-gather plastic bottle caps.
Stitzlein finds it exciting and challenging to develop her craft in new directions. After completing her moth series, she’s forging ahead with a new sculpture series that’s more abstract but still derived from nature. “It is truly tough work! Mind, body, and soul are tested and pushed to explore previously off-limits territories.”
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