ULL custodian recycles campus trash into dolls
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — She wears a gray cotton dress, black Crocs and her blonde hair in a bob. Though she sports a pearl necklace and beaded earrings, she’s no ordinary doll.
Named Blanche for “The Golden Girls” character Blanche Devereaux, this girl has a tin-can body and plastic bottle arms.
She is among several recycled art dolls University of Louisiana at Lafayette custodian James Gallien, 50, created from items thrown away by students and staff.
“I enjoy making them and the conversations that result from them,” Gallien said.
Gallien got the idea to craft recycled dolls after visiting the Jockey Lot Flea Market, where a vendor was selling robots made from tin cans.
“I saw the robots, and I thought, ‘If they can make it, I can make it,’” Gallien said. “But I put clothes on mine to make it different.”
He collects material from the cafeteria and trash cans, checking the large waste containers near dorms at the end of semesters for hair accessories, beads, clothing and other items he can use. He also visits thrift stores to find accessories and baby clothes.
Gallien’s creativity is something that his supervisor values.
“He has an artist’s mind,” said Garland Rodriguez, assistant director of the UL Student Union. “It’s a good quality to have in an employee.”
Gallien has worked for the university for 14 years. His favorite part of the job is getting to know the students.
“It’s the people,” Gallien said. “They’re good.”
He’s been creating recycled-art dolls for about three years now. He gives away most of his creations.
One day he might sell his art, but for now, Gallien is just creating for fun and to contribute to the sustainability movement on the UL campus.
“Using recycled materials is a big thing on campus,” Rodriguez said. “It’s pretty cool that James uses these materials for the art he creates.”
Gallien is crafting a doll based on the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.” Its broad, tin-can body will open to reveal the character’s heart.
Some of Gallien’s other ideas include a Cinderella doll, a robot doll with bottle-cap-and-Christmas-light eyes, and a cheerleader doll he wants to donate to the university for the upcoming football season.
Although Gallien makes the dolls at his home in his spare time, he almost always has one of his creations at his side.
“I keep this in my car when I just want somebody to see it,” Gallien said of Blanche. “I’ll put her in my front seat sometimes just to see people’s reactions.”
Most people light up when they see Gallien’s recycled dolls, although a few get spooked.
“They think voodoo,” Gallien said. “It’s just art, but people get scared and think I’m putting pins in them.”
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