Trash Transformed

Everything old is new again - discover the beauty of upcycling with artist talks and workshops by Trash Puppets founder Jhess Knight this week. IMAGE: Ted Adair

Everyday rubbish will be given new life this Friday, when Trash Puppets Co-Founder Jhess Knight stops in to the Townsville Women’s Centre to facilitate upcycling workshops. The Victorian artist began Trash Puppets with friend Lucy Hedt in 2015 as a way to educate children and adults alike on concepts of sustainability, and has quickly seen it grow into an opportunity to promote creativity. We caught up with Jhess ahead of her Townsville visit to find out what to expect.

How did Trash Puppets come about?
Two heads are better than one. I had been trialling “Trash Puppets” workshops at a couple of schools, playing with the idea of creating puppets out of recycled materials, and sharing an important message about environmental sustainability. Lucy is an environmental scientist and we have been good friends for a long time. We were having dinner and discussing what I had been up to, and Lucy was so thrilled by the idea of Trash Puppets, she insisted on joining forces! The company was officially founded a couple of months later, and we have now been operating for three years.

What was the initial vision for it – and have you seen that evolve over the years?
The initial vision was focused on education around environmental sustainability and engagement through play. Over time, the important addition to our ethos has been around empowering creativity. We have found the power in what we do extends beyond those original ideas, and allows people to express themselves creatively. Our work with corporate teams especially highlights the value of this work, as adults often forget how to play.

What should people expect from your Townsville visit?
I will be running workshops at the Women’s Centre which will be focused on puppet making. We will be playing with trash, and having a whole lot of fun, while also learning the basics of puppetry construction and operation. I will also be delivering a talk at Umbrella Studio for students of the TAFE, talking about my creative career and demonstrating some of my more complex puppets.

What are your go-to materials for puppets?
I work with all sorts of materials. Where Trash Puppets are concerned, we like to stick to household trash, things that are instantly recognisable by the public. On the other side of my work, “The Puppetsmithery” we create puppets for film, theatre, TV, festivals etc. We still employ an environmentally sustainable practice, re-using as much as we can and sourcing materials from other studios, op shops etc.

Paper Cranes for the Geelong Ballet Centre created by Danny Miller and myself. A long form project, finally completed! …Thanks to Jess Davie and Lily Fish for your help.

Posted by Jhess Knight – Puppeteer and Puppetsmith on Monday, 30 July 2018


Have you seen a surge in interest towards upcycling with more media conversation around it, recent moves away from single-use bags by supermarkets etc?
Absolutely, I think if you allow yourself to look at the positive changes we are making in our society, there has been a lot of growth in the way we view environmental sustainability. We can all make small changes that collectively will have a big impact. A lot of cafes in Melbourne now have a discount for customers who bring a keep cup. A lot of councils are implementing better waste measures to do with organic waste etc. We are seeing a lot of up-cycled art all over the world. I believe we will continue to see positive change.

What’s your ultimate dream for Trash Puppets?
Put us out of business! I don’t think it is realistic in my lifetime, but wouldn’t it be incredible if we were so on top of our waste management, and moved towards a zero waste lifestyle, that there was no more trash for us to make puppets from!?

In the next ten years, I would love to see us with some government backing, allowing us to become part of the school curriculum nation-wide.

Catch Jhess Knight’s artist talk at Umbrella Studio contemporary arts tomorrow (Thursday) at 10:30am, before her workshops at the Townsville Women’s Centre this Friday.

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