Heidi Drake: Garbage in the Garden

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

Few people think to decorate their gardens with garbage, but Adrian resident and new elementary school teacher Heidi Drake is different. When it comes to garbage in the garden, for her it’s the more the merrier.

Walking through her garden, it’s easy to see why.door

Heidi is a practitioner of the art she calls “repurposing”—taking everyday discarded objects, such as dishes and lawnmower blades, and turning them into something pleasant, even enjoyable to look at.

For instance, her latest project started out as a door collected from the side of the road. Over the course of about 40 hours, she added string, poultry hooks, forks, variously rendered pop-cans, and fan blades—all of them painted bright colors. The work of art resembles a window, looking out into another garden of machines.

Heidi, who teaches art and science enrichment at Morenci Elementary, hasn’t always been a repurposeur. She got into the hobby about three years ago, when she learned how cheap the art form is. Of course, any hobby that involves gathering supplies the night before garbage day promises to be cost effective.

Dumpster diving aside, Heidi says an artist can make something beautiful for little to no money, just as long as he or she is shrewd and looks for materials in all the right places.

She considers the As-is Store at Adrian’s Goodwill Headquarters a prime spot for rooting out some good, cheap supplies—such as old plates and china that can be broken and rearranged, silverware that can be bent and twisted, beat-up furniture that can be painted and made to look attractive again.

The ReUse Center in Ann Arbor is also a good supplier, but most secondhand stores don’t offer paint—a crucial element of many repurposing projects.

That’s where hardware stores come in. Heidi pays reduced prices for paint mixes that customers decided not to buy. She gets scrap glass from a shop in Clinton. Friends and neighbors also come through with “donations,” and most odds and ends she can’t scrounge up secondhand—cording, string, etc—can be bought from hobby shops at a low cost.

Repurposing makes use of several different artistic techniques—painting, sculpture, découpage and mosaic.

One of Heidi’s most impressive works is the mosaic mermaid fountain that stands right near her garden’s entrance. Constructed on concrete backing with hundreds of glass shards and broken plate pieces, the mermaid was another of her summer projects.

How does she logistically manage so many elements? Heidi incoporated a number of different mosaic images she had found on the internet into one master pattern. She then projected the image on to a wall with an old classroom projector she bought for a dollar. The last step was tracing the pattern from the projection onto a large piece of paper.

Then it was just a matter of fabricating pieces to fit the pattern. Heidi used a hand glass cutter for the glass portion of the mosaic. She was less delicate when it came to pottery pieces—smashing plates with a hammer and rifling through the resulting spread for best fits.

It took her eight straight hours in the workshop to figure out exactly which piece she wanted to go where. It took another marathon session the next day to glue each piece to the concrete with tile adhesive and apply black grout.

That’s her style, though. She says she’s not the kind of person who can put a couple of hours in every few days. Once Heidi starts a project, she wants to complete is as quickly as possible.

However, sometimes artistic sensibilities aren’t very cooperative. After a few days of work on her door this summer, things just weren’t going as she planned. What she had created wasn’t consistent with what she wanted, so instead of agonizing over it, she took a few weeks off—it was long enough to find a new vision.

What’s next? Heidi has a few more doors in the garage that are ripe for repurposing, but she’s also toying with the idea of building a wall of bottles. Right now, she’s getting used to her new position at the elementary school, preferring to reserve the majority of her personal artistic time—and scrounging—for the summer.

– September 13, 2006
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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