Turning Trash Into Art on the Pacific Coast

Our friend and photographer, Woods Wheatcroft, recently had the privilege of embarking on a beach cleaning road trip along the Pacific Coast with his 13-year-old daughter Della. Not only did they help clean up the shoreline, they turned the trash they found into works of art. We asked each one of them to share some learnings from that trip and today we bring you Woods’ thoughts.

Ever since I can remember, beachcombing has always been a part of our travel experience. However, these days, the beach treasures are obscured by a little more trash and now the trash becomes treasure again. You see, we don’t just pick up trash on the beach, throw it in the dumpster, wipe our hands off, and tell ourselves “good job!” As artists, the experience runs a little deeper for us.

The pick up process has transformed into a way of gathering supplies while participating in the the global clean up effort. It’s cleaning, yes, but it’s also getting excited about certain types of plastic like straws, caps, pieces of balloon and colored nylon line. Every single piece has the potential to be part of the next art piece or arrangement.

My daughter is excited about trash. I am excited about trash. We know we can’t pick everything up and even our meager collections will not amount to much. But how we choose to arrange the same junk that’s scattered about the beaches and waterways is integral to our message. I believe an intentionally arranged pile of trash on the beach will undoubtedly attract more attention than all of it spread out. This is also the idea behind the trash as art. The arrangements of the trash that we come up with are a catalyst for change and an opportunity to create a message that encourages participation of young and old alike.  

As a parent, I have chosen not to become numb to my influence of my children. Kids mirror a lot of what their parents do. You text all the time, they text all the time. You pick up trash on your travels, they will be watching you and picking up trash right behind you. To let the years spill by and just excuse myself from being an influence isn’t really an option. Being “too busy” or relying on the tech babysitter are available responses for sure but not ones that I am fond of nor do I think they translate to the generation we need to influence. I am proud to call my daughter resourceful, aware, a trash collector, an artist. I have hope through my own actions as a photographer, artist, and beachcombing crazy collector of trash, that I will be seen as a steward. I know what I do inspires me and can only hope it inspires others, especially Della.

A musician friend of mine told me the other day that “success is nothing without inspiration.”  I love that and hope that is what we are contributing to this world through our actions and art.

Check back tomorrow, September 15th, to hear Della's takeaways from this amazing trip.