Sustainability Spotlight: TurnstyleART, Christine Tischio
New Jersey native and artist Christine Tischio is transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary with her business, TurnstyleART. Her favorite medium of choice? Recycled envelopes, of course! Christine is a sustainable millennial that has saved over 10,000 security envelopes from the landfill. Through collecting, cutting, and pasting, she recreates this common packaging item into familiar cartoon characters, surreal still lifes, and more.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in central New Jersey and attended Montclair State University in 2004 to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education. After graduating from MSU in December ’08, I landed my dream job of being an Art teacher at Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood, NJ where I taught for ten years. While teaching full time, I developed a small business and sold my artwork at local stores, markets and online under the name TurnstyleART. Since then I’ve had my artwork featured in a documentary film entitled, “REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet”, as well as in an article on HGTV.com. I’ve also appeared in an episode of HGTV’s television show Flea Market Flip. This past April I moved to Philadelphia in hopes to turn my side business of TurnstyleART into a full time job!
What is TurnstyleART? When and how was it started?
TurnstyleART started as a passion project back in 2014 when I was living in Jersey City. I was introduced to Kristen, the owner of Kanibal&Co (which is the most bad-ass clothing and home goods shop in JC), who single handedly encouraged me to take my work to the next level. I started selling some of my collages at Kanibal, taught a DIY glass etching class there, and before I knew it, I was invited to be a vendor at Jersey City’s largest holiday market, and that’s when TurnstyleART was born!
What is your process for sourcing your materials and creating your envelope art?
The idea for my envelope collages came in 2013 when I received a letter from the DMV about renewing my license. When I opened the envelope, the blue, tree bark pattern caught my eye. Even though I didn’t know what I was going to use it for, I knew I could make something out of it. Over the next few weeks as more mail came in, I started to notice that different companies used different patterns inside their envelopes; some brands used variations of stripes while others used their logo. I quickly built up a collection and made my first envelope collage! In the traditional method of collage, I cut and glued the contrasting values of blue and black patterns to create one of the characters from my favorite childhood story “Where The Wild Things Are”. I shared the finished piece with some coworkers, family and friends, and all of a sudden everyone I knew was saving envelopes for me!
What is your inspiration for your art?
As an artist, it is my goal to encourage others to find beauty in the discarded. I choose to work with recycled materials to not only create a work of art, but to share my passion for creative reuse and sustainability. I work with recycled security envelopes as my medium of choice because they often go unnoticed, flood our mailboxes daily and contribute to a larger, nationwide waste issue-- but their unique designs provide unlimited possibilities to become something beautiful. Each of my envelope collages is thoughtfully drawn, cut and arranged using these intricately patterned papers. The visual textures of the envelopes against the flat, graphic pen work, create a juxtaposition that encourages viewers to take a closer look at the artwork, as well as what they throw away.
How has your art contributed to sustainability?
With the help of family and friends, I have been able to save over 10,000 envelopes from going into our landfills and created over 300 one-of-a-kind works of art, most of which are completed with thrifted/salvaged frames!
Visual arts can be wasteful of materials and toxic to our environment. How do you suggest artists in the field combat this issue?
Visual arts can certainly cause a great deal of waste, but there are many choices an artist can make to reduce their environmental impact. Reusing materials like canvases or repurposing frames are a great start, but even choosing to buy recycled papers and other sustainably made products will make a difference.
One of the first things I did when I moved to Philadelphia was look up my local thrift stores. I found an incredible place called The Resource Exchange. Not only can you find housewares, fabric, picture frames and basic art supplies, they also have an entire selection of building materials, including items like house paint, lumber, glass, hand tools and SO much more. The Resource Exchange is truly an artist/maker/DIYer’s paradise. The best part of RE? They have a designated gallery space where they feature their “Reuse Artist of the Month”! I am proud to say that I earned that title in August 2018 for my exhibition entitled “The Beauty in Bills”.
Why is environmental art important in our world today?
As an artist, it is our job to make people see what we want them to see. Whether it’s a photograph of a sunset or a still-life painting, artists provide a special lens, a unique point of view. In a world that is so visual, artists have an amazing opportunity to use their platform as a way of communicating important information or messages. We can “talk” about issues like sustainability through our artwork and encourage discussions in a thought-provoking way.
How else do you practice sustainability?
Three of my favorite ways to practice sustainability are shopping local, using reusable shopping bags, and thrifting! Shopping local is an easy way to support your community and our planet; buying from your town’s farmers market not only cuts down on food miles (how far your food has traveled and all of the resources used to get it there) it also cuts down on wasteful packaging. Speaking of, one of the easiest choices you can make in food shopping (or any type of shopping) is grabbing a reusable bag before you walk out the door. I always keep one in my purse and I have a whole stash of them next to the front door so I don’t forget to grab one on my way to my favorite thrift shop. I don’t know if thrifting counts as a hobby, but it is absolutely one of my favorite things to do! There’s a little sense of adventure in that fact that you don’t know what you’ll find, but you do know that it’s going to be a bargain and you’re saving that item from going to the landfill. It’s just like Forrest Gump said, “*Thrifting* is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”!
Where can we find your artwork for sale?
You can find TurnstyleART online at www.TurnstyleART.com, on Facebook and Instagram @TurnstyleART. You can also shop my etched glassware and mirrors at Kanibal&Co in Jersey City. In the Philadelphia area, you can check out South Street Art Mart and The Common Room for a collection of both etchings and collages.
If you’re in the Philly area, also check out Christine’s Glass Etching Workshop that’s coming up!
Interview by: Laura Matusheski
Edited by: Margaret Cyr