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Artist transforms recycled materials into art, jewelry as a form of environmental activism

San Mateo artist crafts pieces from recycled materials
San Mateo artist crafts pieces from recycled materials 02:32

It is often said that "one man's trash is another man's treasure," and for Harriete Estel Berman, she sees beauty in the discarded. 

As a metalsmith and artist, she transforms recycled materials into stunning jewelry and sculptures, all with a powerful message about environmental consciousness.

For over 35 years, Berman has honed her craft, utilizing mediums like tin cans to carve intricate designs. 

"I always wanted to be an artist," she said. "And after working with recycled materials for so long, my goal is to ensure it doesn't look like trash."

Her creations not only showcase her artistic talent but also serve as social commentary on the harmful effects of hyper-consumption. By collecting everyday consumer waste, Berman creates visually compelling displays that challenge society's norms.

While her work has been featured in museums worldwide, Berman initially faced skepticism about the value of her creations. However, this only fueled her determination to spread her message further.

"One of the hardest parts for me is finding an audience," she explained. "Because I'm really ahead of the curve."

But with each art piece, Berman is sculpting that curve, raising awareness one creation at a time.

Using plastic takeout containers, she not only crafts jewelry but also meticulously cleans each container she acquires. 

"When I work with plastic, I see the potential in what others discard," she said. 

Her art serves as an alarm, highlighting deeper issues surrounding plastic waste.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the recycling rate for plastics typically hovers around 8-9%, a figure impacted by contamination issues. Berman's creative approach encourages viewers to consider their role in environmental stewardship.

"I want people to realize they have a social, environmental, and personal responsibility to take care of our Earth," she emphasized.

For Berman, her greatest treasure isn't found in precious metals or gems but in the preservation of Mother Earth itself.

Through her artistry, Harriete Estel Berman invites us to rethink our relationship with waste and to see the potential for beauty in the discarded.

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