Old tin soup cans, glass wine bottles, plastic coffee containers, paint cans, tires, metal hubcaps and wood pallets.
Everyday items people throw away without a second thought.
But for Seymour Department of Public Works employees Laura Eglen and Jeff Dyer, a second or even third thought turns trash into fun, eye-catching pieces of art.
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Some of Eglen’s creations can be seen out in the community, including “Freda the Frog” at city hall and a “Tea Time” recycled teacup planter at One Chamber Square, both made from used tires. She also has repurposed hubcaps into flowers.
Dyer’s works of art decorate the recycling drop-off area at the city garage in Freeman Field. He has created lots of tin can flowers, coffee container birdhouses, paint can planters, a wine bottle tree that grew into a wine bottle wall and even a 7-foot robot tin man.
It all started last winter with an idea to spruce up a city-owned green space at the corner of Tipton and O’Brien streets for the holidays.
“Jana Plump at city hall had found some pictures online with some ideas and asked if we could make something similar,” Eglen said. “So we made a snowman out of tires and some Christmas trees from pallets.”
Once people started noticing the decorations, they started to comment on how nice they were, Eglen said.
During the winter, Eglen and Dyer have more free time on their hands.
That’s when the creativity begins, Eglen said.
“In the winter when we’re slow, I put a lot of it together,” she said.
Other times of the year, she is too busy planting and watering flowers, trimming trees, changing out trash bags in receptacles and blowing leaves and debris from sidewalks to think about making art.
Dyer stays at the recycling center, manning the guard shack where he checks in hazardous materials, answers questions and helps people unload their recyclables into the various bins.
During the spring, they collect a lot of their materials during Make Seymour Shine Week. They stockpile what they can and come up with ideas on how to use it.
Dyer said he plans to work on a peacock this winter.
Not everyone sees the fun and beauty in the pieces, but for the most part, the response from the public has been supportive.
“You either like it or you don’t,” Eglen said.
Some people like them so much they have offered to buy them or have tried to take them, Dyer said.
“I have people out here every day asking how much they cost,” he said of the pieces. But they aren’t for sale, he added.
Dyer said he hopes people enjoy seeing what he and Eglen come up with and then take the ideas with them to try to make their own recycled art at home.
“Anyone can do it,” he said.
The pieces are a cost-effective way to decorate, and they help the environment by re-purposing items that could end up in the landfill.
“The material is all around you. It’s everywhere,” Dyer said of what works for art projects. “You might not see it at first, but it’s there.”
The tin can flowers, which are popular, are something he picked up from Eglen.
“I turned him on to these, and he does a fantastic job at it,” she said of Dyer’s flowers.
Seymour resident Cindy Galbraith noticed the hubcap flowers Eglen made at the green space at Tipton and O’Brien right away.
“I love them,” she said. “I had to get out of the car to check out the flowers so I can make some.”
Smaller flowers can be made from soup cans or other tin cans. It only takes 30 minutes or so to cut the cans of varying sizes into flower blooms and get them ready to paint and put together.
“It’s so simple,” Dyer said. “If you’ve got a little bit of time … ”
“And imagination,” Eglen added.
“It don’t take much. It’s easy to do,” Dyer said. “It really is.”
Too simple in fact, and after making several flowers, he was ready for a bigger challenge.
“I like to complicate things,” he said.
So he came up with a robot.
“It started out here on my breaks, but I finished him in my living room,” Dyer said.
The robot’s name is “TRC” (pronounced turk).
“It’s short for The Recycle Cop,” Dyer said. “My wife came home and saw him and said, ‘Either “TRC” goes, or I go.’ And I said, ‘Well, let me think about this.’”
It took about three months to collect the parts and put the robot together, he added. And he continues to add parts as he finds them.
“The more you add to it the better,” he said. “I encourage anyone to throw something kooky on him, screw it to him, whatever you got to do.”
Besides standing guard at the recycle drop off bins, “TRC” is equipped with a radio that plays music and an intercom system that allows Dyer to talk to people and vice versa while he remains in the check-in shack. The robot also has a fan installed to keep cool and spoons as fingers.
“It’s all junk,” Dyer said. “From his shoes to his body, which is made of plastic barrels and scrap metal. His elbows are the speakers.”
The robot is the result of Dyer’s creativity and slow days at work. He often works on projects at home and brings them back to display.
“I just get bored easy or I would have two or three sitting out here,” he said of the robot.
But the reactions he gets from people has been worth it, he added.
“A lot of the elderly ladies come out here with their grandkids and take pictures,” he said. “Except for one little guy, he was terrified. He wouldn’t get out of the car.”
The robot even made it onto Facebook, which Dyer said surprised him.
Dyer also created a wine bottle tree to fill in an area near a fence. It now has grown from 240 bottles to upward of 400 bottles on it, he said.
“I’ve got to quit watering it,” Dyer said jokingly.
And he’s waiting for some birds to take up residency in his coffee container birdhouses.
Both Dyer and Eglen said they are thankful the city lets them come up with ideas and use their downtime to work on the projects.
Some people said they would like to see more of the recycled art and other things around to help beautify the city.
Dyer said if it makes people smile, then there’s no reason to stop.
“I think it’s a lot of fun, and it goes a long way toward bringing our city a little more culture,” resident Steven Deweese said.
“We love it,” added resident Sean Hildreth. “I would like to see more art-like murals pop up in ugly alleys or other places that could use a little love.”
Heather Lewis of Seymour said she would like to see school-aged children get involved by making pieces the city and the schools could then display.
The recycling department does set up at different community events to share information and allow children to make recycled crafts to take home and Christmas ornaments that are used to decorate the downtown Christmas tree.
Heather Chase of Seymour said she appreciates the work Eglen and Dyer have put into their art.
“It’s such a great way to brighten up places that ordinarily go unnoticed,” she said.