Garden Craft: Nothing but Flowers

A Tennessee artist turns landfill-bound plastic into blooming beauty.

By Therese Ciesinski

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Karnitz uses all sorts of recycled materials to make her creations.Milk jugs, dishwasher-detergent bottles, aluminum cans. Most of us value their contents but ignore the containers themselves. Once that last drop is gone, a milk jug becomes a worthless shell to be tossed in the recycling bin or, worse, the trash. But when Lauren Karnitz, a painter in Knoxville, Tennessee, looks at a milk jug, she doesn’t see an empty shell. She sees a magnolia.

Karnitz sculpts flowers out of things that people throw away. Plastic containers are her primary materials. Slices of laundry-detergent bottles become petals. Lollipop wrappers, ribbon, electrical conduit, and copper wire become stamens, pistils, and stems.

These plastic flowers are nothing like those dime-store dust collectors pretending to be real. Karnitz’s Eco Flowers are quirky, yet elegant. Some of her creations, like the waxy, luminous magnolias, nod to reality. Her Flower Patch collection turns its petals on reality entirely, looking like a garden from The Cat in the Hat, with Karnitz channeling Dr. Seuss.

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