Martha Walton loves to upcycle and the Raleigh artist has a knack for transforming castoffs in creative ways.
The recycling bin at her home, where she lives with her husband, five cats and a backyard brood of chickens, was nicknamed Marthas art closet and that was before she launched a major project turning catfood cans into art.
I was feeding my cats when I noticed the can had a thick rim and it looked like a frame, Walton said. So I thought: Why dont I cut it apart and see if I can put artwork in it? I just liked the idea. And nobody else was doing it.
She began cutting the cans and painting them in festive colors. Her friends loved the miniature frames, too, and that gave Walton an idea: why not use the project to raise money to help animals?
The result is Animals Can, a two-day art exhibit and sale taking place at Second Chance Pet Adoption Center in Cary Sept. 13-14.
All the work for sale makes use of petfood cans, but each artist has interpreted the material in various ways. Some are painted, curled and adorned with found objects, while other pieces are shaped into traditional decorative frames surrounding snapshots of favorite pets. Still others are works of art within art; embellished frames surround drawings, paintings, collages and other media.
What Walton started as a small project in her living room spread, as several West Raleigh neighbors joined the effort. As word got around, the concept captured the imagination of nearly two dozen artists, including Raleigh potters Marsha Owen and Rick Moss.
We are often donating work, especially to animal charities, Owen said, and we thought this one had a special, creative flair to it.
For the potter, working with metal initially proved to be a bit of a challenge.
My job was to participate in finishing these, and when I first got the cans, I wondered: What am I going to do with them? Owen recalled.
I decided to use what we would use as potters, making very small ceramic frames to fit into the metal circle and getting small mirrors cut to go inside. Im really happy with how they are turning out. Theyre going be really sharp and full of energy.
Among others providing works for the upcoming show are Alison Overton, Bev Norwood, Margaret Marshall, Melinda Fine, Tim Middleton and Jingfen Hwu. Hwu, who lives in Taiwan, saw examples of Waltons artwork online and asked to be involved in Animals Can.
Fine, a former graphic arts professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, said the combination of art, charity and support for homeless animals easily won her over to the project.
When I first heard about it, I said, Count me in, Fine said.
Not only has she provided art for the sale, but Fine set up a website, Animals-Can.org, that explains the project and the process. Fine and Walton hope to organize more benefits if the upcoming sale is a success.
Walton has established a Facebook site for the upcoming sale facebook.com/theanimalscan. More than 100 pieces of art will be for sale, with prices starting at $15. A few works have been pre-sold as commissions involving tributes to special pets. All proceeds will go to the Second Chance Pet Adoption Center, founded nearly 20 years ago as the Triangles first no-kill animal shelter.
Lisa Inhoff, director of the center, said Second Chance has about 150 homeless animals under its care. Some adult cats are housed at the center, while dogs and other felines are in foster homes.
These are creative, wonderful artworks Ive never seen anything like it, Inhoff said. The pieces are adorable. And Martha and her crew are being very generous.
Plus, turning the adoption center lobby into an art gallery has been a lot of fun, Inhoff added.
Were going to have refreshments and invite people to come into the shelter and take a look at the artwork. And we hope some may take a look at some of the cats and dogs were going to have here, too.