Regina Chyzy believes in second chances for all things – even holey socks.
When she sees an object that isn’t being used anymore, she can’t help but think about what kind of new life she can breathe into it, a habit she’s developed since the age of five, when an accident caused her to freeze her hands.
“When I came out of the hospital I was told I had to do something, whatever I could do, to keep my hands moving,” Regina said.
“We weren’t very well off, so my mom handed me a bunch of old socks that had holes in them, and I thought, well, I'm going to make dresses for my dolls, and that's exactly what I did. That’s when it started. Ever since then I've been taking things that were meant for one thing and repurposing them.”
Formerly a resident artist at Artbeat Studio, Inc., a local non-profit that offers free six-month studio space rentals to accommodate artists whose mental health, social connection, or income make developing their creative side difficult, Regina believes in the healing power of creative expression. She finds comfort in working with found materials.
“For me it’s being able to not think about things that are very stressful. Working with reclaimed items is – I don’t know how to explain it – it’s relaxing. To me, if there is life left in something, it should be repurposed.”
Regina has continued to support mental-health initiatives, and spends most of her time volunteering at Artbeat Studio, offering tours and insight on her experience to artists interested in applying. She has also held repurposing workshops at Studio Central, a side project of Artbeat Studio that offers free art programming to residents of 444 Kennedy Street. The workshops are open to the public, but are directed at people with mental health issues and limited resources.
Most recently, Regina had participants get creative with plastic bottles; cutting, melting, and stringing them together to form unique pieces; emphasizing that you can do a lot with limited materials and a bit of imagination.
“One thing that I used to find very frustrating and stressful was that I couldn’t afford the art supplies I wanted. This way, I realized, I don’t need to.”
Regina has used everything from pop bottles to old cutlery, used jeans, and discarded wedding dresses. One of her favourite creations is a Christmas wreath made from an old bicycle wheel and some garland that was headed for the dump.
“At least it’s getting used, because nobody else wants them,” she said.
Despite the cost-effective nature of Regina’s artwork, the need to be thrifty, or deal with financial stress is secondary when it comes to her love of repurposing.
“There is so much waste that goes on, and I just feel that if we're going to save our planet in some way we have to start small, and every body can do something.”
Regina chooses to make that difference by believing in second chances, whether it’s for a person dealing with mental health concerns, or a discarded item that needs to be touched with a little bit of imagination.
“It's that feeling of, “I’ve got to save it, I’ve got to bring it back to life” – there’s always a story to objects, and I don’t like to see those stories dropped. I like to give that story new life.”