The Salem artist models colorful dresses from the whiskey package

Artist Carlee Wright’s exhibition on fashion made from reused waste will be on display until April at the Salem on the Edge downtown gallery.

Artist Carlee Wright poses with some of the wearable artwork she creates from recycled containers of Crown Royal whiskey bottles at the Salem on the Edge gallery (Ron Cooper / Salem Reporter)

Carlee Wright keeps thinking about garbage.

Especially the extra packaging around our consumer goods or, to be even more specific, the cloth bags that enclose each bottle of Crown Royal, a Canadian mid-range whiskey brand.

“They make 50 million bags a year. That’s a lot of bags, if you think about what’s happening to them, ”Wright mused. “What do people do with them? Potentially they are going to the garbage, or just sitting there. ”

At least a few hundred will be hosted at the local Salem on the Edge art gallery this month. Using discarded Crown Royal bags, Wright designed and built several functional and wearable apparel items. His collection “The Circus of Upcycled Fashion: A Look at Wearable Waste” will remain on display in the gallery throughout April.

It’s a suitable collection to recognize Earth Day, Wright added.

“They are as much an environmental statement as they are a fashion statement and an art statement. So people see them in three roles, ”Wright said.

He bought the Crown Royal bags from a bartender friend, who goes through the bottles fast enough to keep the material on its way (as a thank you, Wright said, he made him a tuxedo jacket for his personal wardrobe). Word got out and some other bartenders got into the project.

“One of the jokes I hear is, how much did you drink to make that sewing?” Wright laughed. “I didn’t drink anything to do it.”

First, consider the fabric – not all Crown Royal bags are created equal. Depending on the type and date of manufacture of the bottle, it might look like a velvet or a blend of flannel and polyester.

He then embarks on the laborious process of deconstructing the bags, evaluating their shape and condition and designing garments aimed at minimizing the amount of fabric scraps. For this collection he has created two dresses, two skirts and a jacket.

“The idea is to consume everything so that nothing ends up in a landfill and to make everything functional,” Wright said. “It’s kind of like a puzzle.”

This isn’t her first foray into wearable art, nor is it her first piece to comment on waste and consumerism. Wright had previously built a festive, knee-length party dress out of more than 400 deceased shop gift cards.

He cut the cards into pieces small enough to shine in the light, almost like sequins. The dress is not part of her latest wearable art collection, but will be on display tonight between 5pm and 8pm – Wright plans to wear it for her first appearance at the Salem Art Walk gallery on a Friday .

Salem on the Edge is a natural home for an art exhibit with such a sharp message. As the name of the gallery might suggest, founder and owner Melanie Weston is deliberately looking for artists who push the boundaries.

“I opened up in the middle of Covid and my vision I had was to have all kinds of art in the gallery. Music, poetry, performance art, perhaps a bit edgy things. I’ve had the erotic show for two years now, “Weston said.” I always like to push it a little bit.

If nothing else, Wright – who is best known to the general public as the editor of the culture magazine Press Play Salem – hopes the collection “will put people’s minds to rethink how they use something,” he said.

“And also what is their consumption. A lot of what we buy, there is packaging. ”

“The Circus of Upcycled Fashion: A Look at Wearable Waste” will be on display at Salem on the Edge, located at 156 Liberty St. NE, between March 30 and April 30. The opening hours of the gallery are from 11:30 to 17:00 on Wednesdays and Saturdays and on Sundays from 12:00 to 16:00.

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