Nursing junk into art

British artist Jane Elizabeth Perkins's version of the Afghan Girl, an acclaimed photo by Steve McCurry.

Her art, made of recycled material, is unusual and eye-catching.

To create pieces, artist Jane Elizabeth Perkins, 55, collects materials from charity shops, boot sales, a nearby recycling centre and donations from friends and neighbours.

She uses several hundred objects in each piece.

The former nurse said: "My work needs to be viewed in two ways - close up to capture the materials used, and from a distance to get the full picture."

Ms Perkins spent 17 years as a nurse and eventually went on to pursue a degree in textiles at the Somerset College of Arts and Technology in the UK.

It was there that her art was born. She said: "For my final degree show, I made sewn brooches from old jewellery, plastic toys, coins, shells and other found objects and mounted them on beach debris and driftwood."

While she was at it, she collected lots of materials which were too big to be used. She then came up with the idea of piecing the materials together to make a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

She said: "I had been working on it for a while before I stepped back to look at it from a distance. I had a kind of 'eureka' moment. I knew my idea was going to work."

Since then, Ms Perkins has made portraits of notable figures, including football star David Beckham, US President Barack Obama and the late South African president Nelson Mandela.

Although her background is in textiles, she now works predominantly with plastic.

After sorting objects by colour to match the portraits, she uses a hot glue gun to attach them to a base and then paints a final layer of polyvinyl acetate glue on the surface to hold everything together. No additional colour is added.

Ms Perkins prefers to work from the comfort of her home and usually takes up to three weeks to complete a work.

Her greatest inspiration is one of modern art's most notable figures, Pablo Picasso. She said: "I love his sculptures from found materials, especially 'Head of a Bull', made from a bicycle saddle and handlebars."


While Ms Perkins hopes that through her work the audience can understand that art can be fun, her art has also opened her eyes to more serious truths.

"My work has made me very aware that here in the UK we are living in a 'throwaway society'. We are drowning in unnecessary cheap plastic goods - there is never a shortage of materials for me to use," she said.

In her current body of work, Plastic Classics, Ms Perkins gives a contemporary twist to historical art pieces like Leonardo Da Vinci's iconic Mona Lisa and Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers.

"The 3-D nature of van Gogh's thickly applied paint, which he squirted straight from the tube, lends itself to interpretation using found materials," she said.

Mr Alan Koh, 31, the marketing manager of the Singapore Affordable Art Fair, said: "Ms Perkins' works have been on sale at the Singapore Affordable Art Fair for prices ranging from $5,100 to $6,200. They have been so popular that they have been brought back every year since 2010."

For more information on her work, visit her website at

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