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January, My Month Of Joy And Happiness

Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 3:55 PM

Usually, I find January is the most difficult month of living here in Toronto. The streets are full of either snow or ice and weather sometimes reach to -20C and the sky is always grey.. Some morning it was hard for me to leave my warm bed and bundle up to take the bus and subway to go to my studio. However it changed since the first day of the year.
During the Christmas holiday, I had an idea of making art out of the paper shopping bags I had saved.
My idea was to remake them as one of a kind art. I first draw and then cutting image on them.
I would choose an image to go with either with the logos or the color. Often, I added some of my own whimsical take on their name or design.. As soon as I completed the first one I knew I had started something enjoyable and fun. Ideas just started to flow as soon as I picked up the bag. Pretty soon I used up all the bags I had saved and I need more.

Luckily, my studio is close to the biggest shopping mall (Eaton Centre) in downtown. During the mid afternoon, I would walk over there to look for bags from the trash bins. This three levels mall has about three hundred stores so discarded shopping bags are plentiful. It was like my own free art supply store but never know what type of bags waiting for me.
Whenever I found a nice or interesting one, I had that feeling of excitement and joy. An hour later I would be back at my studio and eager to work on the bag make over.
Some morning, I was so focus on what I wanted to do with the bags I would get up at 5am when it was still dark outside and arrived at my studio at 8am. My cold, grey January days seemed easy to deal with.

I haven’t touch my paint brushes all month and been only focus on my “Shopping Bag Make Over”. So far I had completed 36 of them and each one is different from the others and my month of January was full of joy and happiness.

J Crow shopping bag made over Guess who's sleeping on your back?Swarovski shopping bag made over


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Xueling Zou on 02/01/2013 - 4:19 PM

Beautiful and creative works, Alfred! Such an inspiring idea, I'd love to do some recycled material art as well:)!


Posted by: Janice Drew on 02/01/2013 - 4:22 PM

Alfred, very creative way to chase those January blues away. The bags are more interesting and attractive with your artwork.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 4:23 PM

Thank you Xueling! I look forward to see your recycled creation.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 4:29 PM

Janice, I had no idea this little make over project can connects with people usually not interested in art..
This morning a roofer came to fix the roof of our building where my studio is and need to use my outlet to charge his charger and he loves my bags, he brought one! Amazing!!!


Posted by: Xueling Zou on 02/01/2013 - 4:37 PM

BTW, please be careful for the trade mark of the brand names... maybe take the brand name off the bags, and create your own logo...


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/01/2013 - 4:54 PM

I want to see all 36 you have done so far... these are amazing! Can you post a few each day here? Please? and I would think those brand names would be thrilled to see their name advertised on fine art!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 5:01 PM

Thanks Catherine, you are right about they would be thrilled. I emailed to a few of the stores with my photo and an explanation of my project and almost right away they respond and they said they were honored I chosen them and asked if they could post them on their web page.

here is another one, I will post more later.

Aritzia bag make over- Zebra


Posted by: Melanie Spencer on 02/01/2013 - 5:10 PM

Love your bags Alfred! Very creative thing to do and I love that you're recycling and making a beautiful piece of art out of what would have gone into the land fill :) I too like to do something different sometimes. I have lots of projects on the go. In January I decided I was going to finish some things that I started a long time ago. I finished this small button blanket. Excuse the photo, it's hanging on my cabin front door window so the light's behind it. I'm not selling it, it's just for me. It's my interpretation in wool Melton cloth of a famous painting. Can't remember the artists name right now but I think he presented it to the white house. The eagle is cut out of one piece of cloth with no little pieces added in and the buttons are abalone. It's entirely hand sewn as was done in the old days. It took me forever to sew it LOL Now I have to get back to drawing again ;)

 photo 002_zpsa9f31b2a.jpg


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 5:33 PM

Melanie that's wonderful! Thanks for sharing and I completely understood why you can't part with it.


Posted by: Warren Thompson on 02/01/2013 - 5:37 PM

Very creative. Wonder if the companies would invest in a change?


Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/01/2013 - 8:59 PM

Mad genius you are Alfred.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 9:05 PM

Oh Janine! That was my nick name in art college LOL I think as artists we are all little mad!


Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/01/2013 - 9:44 PM

Lol. I have a habit of reading people's minds......


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/02/2013 - 10:49 AM

This one with the American Eagle Outfitters bag. I cut out an eagle to go with their logo of a flying eagle into an Eagle within an Eagle.

Eagle within an Eagle


Posted by: Penny Hunt on 02/02/2013 - 10:53 AM

So creative, very amazing! edit to add you are so talented!


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/02/2013 - 1:29 PM

Love, love what you have done with the American Eagle bag! I was thinking, yesterday, perhaps when it stops snowing, you would allow me to visit your studio... not very far away from where I am.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/02/2013 - 3:24 PM

Penny, either creative or talented is appreciated. Thank you for your comment!

Catherine, you are very welcome to visit my studio, it is very close to the AGO and OCAD. i can see both from my window and I called my million dollar view. keep in touch.


Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 02/02/2013 - 4:34 PM

I like/love them. You are onto something, fun and so creative.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/02/2013 - 4:55 PM

Thanks Mary! I really enjoy doing this. sometimes I even caught myself smiling with my own in joke while making them.


Posted by: Melanie Spencer on 02/02/2013 - 5:29 PM

Oh, I love the eagle one :)


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/02/2013 - 9:43 PM

Thank you Melanie! I guess female are more connected with shopping bags. So far Warren is the lone male comment on it and the rest are all female. interesting!


Posted by: Joseph Frank Baraba on 02/02/2013 - 9:50 PM


I admire your art ! Now shopping bags, you are a genius, You maybe onto something big.
You never know till you try...Keep up the great work..



Posted by: Sydne Archambault on 02/02/2013 - 9:51 PM

Actually Alfred I think this is brilliant on your part. Absolutely Brilliant! I applaud you!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/02/2013 - 9:55 PM

Thank you Joseph, Sydne! the great thing with the bags is they are plentiful and free. So far this year I haven't spent a cent on art supply.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/03/2013 - 11:16 AM

While working on the shopping bag make over in my studio. Sometimes, I caught myself smiling with the little in-jokes with the images for the bags. This one of the Banana Republic bag is one of them. Banana Republic is another American clothing chain stores been over took our Canadian retail landscape. I thought in order to give it a Canadian identity I would add our iconic moose image to it. I like the tongue and cheek name of “Banana Republic” and what better than a banana tree. I made this cut out of the Moose about to dine on the tree ripen banana in a banana forest!
The bag is my #37 and it is 12”X16’

A Moose for Banana Republic


Posted by: Michael Warren on 02/03/2013 - 11:26 AM

I like it, a moose in a banana forest.


Posted by: May Leong on 02/03/2013 - 11:07 PM

Glad to discover your galleries Alfred, especially like your photo pictures !


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/04/2013 - 12:20 AM

Love the Banana Republic one, Alfred! I think it takes a Canadian to understand just how overtaken we have become... love your sense of humour and that you are obviously having so much fun with this project!


Posted by: Angelina Vick on 02/04/2013 - 1:33 AM

What an awesome idea. =)

Glad you are having fun with it.


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 02/04/2013 - 1:40 AM

Hello Alfred, very creative concept, I thought I read somewhere you might have posted you do get in touch with company's which have there brand name on the bag. Have you considered contact them and present a contract for them to use your designs. Or see if you can get permission from the mall or malls and put a large plastic pin for discarded shopping bags only, similar to a re-cycled bin. Cheers Michael Hoard


Posted by: Michael Hoard on 02/04/2013 - 1:51 AM

Turn it into a thriving business, a suggestion "A Bag Of Art" Alfred, I like the Zebra Bag this is just Wow very nice work. Are they for sale or anytime in the future. It sorta reminds me of the program Create, where you have items already manufactured and re-Create something of beauty. Or contact Martha Steward might have you on one of her programs as a guest artist. Good luck with the project, Cheers and tis the season here in New Orleans, Louisiana Happy Mardi Gras, Michael Hoard


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/04/2013 - 8:39 AM

Good morning everyone.
As I mentioned at my last post, some of my bags make over had in-joke. I usually, use image either play along with the name of that store or the image/logo on it. I like to give some explanation of some my in-jokes:

Here are two bags both from Starbucks coffee, the first one with a large Mermaid logo on the bag. I cut out a loon next to it and part of the logo became the loon and the grass around it. The loon is also a Canadian symbol it appears on our dollar coin. In Canada the name loonie often refers as a dollar or as whole the Canadian dollar. When Starbucks first came to Canadian market, one could buy a small coffee for a dollar however time has changed we need two dollar to get one now. So this Loon with the Mermaid is about our Canadian dollar going south to the mermaid/Starbucks.
loon for the mermaid

The second Starbucks bag is a Monkey: I got the idea to use the monkey because recently a woman in Toronto went shopping with her pet monkey at an Ikea store. When she was inside her Monkey got out from her car and was found wandering at the parking lot. The bystanders called animal control and they took away her monkey. The Toronto by law prohibits her to keep her monkey and she been trying to get her monkey back through the court since. She and her monkey has became rather famous on the web and the monkey been called the Ikea Monkey.
Last week, all day the radio was reporting on her court case with her Ikea monkey which gave me the idea of using the monkey for this bag.( so far the judge still would not let her have her monkey )

Starbucks monkey bag


Posted by: Michael Warren on 02/04/2013 - 10:26 AM

those little in-jokes as you put it, gives the bags so much power and at the same time it also gives your work a personal touch. I love how you can transom something likely heading to the landfill into wonderful art! looking forward to see more!


Posted by: Tom Roderick on 02/04/2013 - 10:32 AM

Bravo! I heART


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/04/2013 - 3:06 PM

Hello Micheal Hoard and Michael Warren,

In the beginning the idea of my project was just fun thing to do but later on it become something more. The shopping mall where I got the bags from has dozens of large beautiful stainless steel bins. Each one has three parts, one for trash, cans and bottles and paper which was supposedly for those paper shopping bags. However most of the bags I found were from the trash part. Often, I would found, money ( so far only small changes), shoes, clothing in some of those bags ( some shopper would just discard the clothing or shoes once they brought the new ones). It almost sad to see our society has become so wasteful and thoughtless.
Thanks for your great idea. I think I would do more for now and eventually I would show them. I love to exhibit them in a shopping mall which where the bags came from.
So far, I had sold two of them just by people happened to came in my studio.




Posted by: Diane Daigle on 02/04/2013 - 7:12 PM

Alfred,,, if you need more bags I have quite a few and next time I go to my son's condo close by your studio I could drop them off for you. :)


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/04/2013 - 7:48 PM

Thanks so much Diane!
if you come you can even see some of my bags in person!


Posted by: PainterArtist FIN on 02/05/2013 - 10:13 AM

Alfred, reading these just filled my heart with joy also. This is all beautiful and inspiring. Hope that this will open many doors for you.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/05/2013 - 11:01 AM

Thank you Fin! When I was growing up in Hong kong our family was poor, my parents couldn’t afford to buy us toys. However, I figured out to make things form discarded material to amuse my brother, sisters and I. Somehow even after all those years, the love of recycle just never leaves me and still brings me lots of joy.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/05/2013 - 3:59 PM

Every morning while riding the subway on my way to my studio, I would think of idea for my shopping bags make over. By the time I arrive, I already have a few ideas and ready to work. I usually has at least one bag finished by the end of the day. Every evening. I would go home satisfied knowing I have archived what I wanted to do.

Eagle into kingfisher

I really like the American Outfitters bag with the blue eagle logo, there are so much possibility to change it into something else. For this one, I change into a kingfisher.
The MAC Cosmetic bag it was just for fun, I like their simple logo so I position a cat hiding behind it in order to spy on this little mouse.

cat and mouse bag


Posted by: Michael Warren on 02/05/2013 - 4:51 PM

The kingfisher is so the forward backwardness of the two birds. The cat and mouse are great!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/16/2013 - 4:11 PM

Here is little update on my shopping bags make over:
I still making them and the design has became more intricate. Sometime it would take a whole day to complete one.
Yeste3rday, I had this idea, instead of just just cutting out the design on it, I would turn the cutout into 3D. The first one I made was a dragonfly; I spent a lot on time on the detail on its wings. When it was done I was quite please with it. It looks like the dragonfly just happens to landed on the bag.
Today, while I was looking at the Aritvia shopping bag which has a photo of a young woman riding a bike I have this idea of a butterfly and turned her as the body of the butterfly and the bicycle wheel into its tail

Now, the inside part of my middle finger of my left hand has develop tough skin where I hold my knife. Oh well, it is small price to paid for my art

3D dragonfly for Armani Exhange bag

Aritvia 3D butterfly


Posted by: Ricardo De Almeida on 02/16/2013 - 4:14 PM

Nice idea!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/16/2013 - 4:25 PM

Thank you Ricardo!


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/16/2013 - 7:44 PM

Ohh... love the new 3-D models, Alfred!! Your creativity knows no bounds and it is amazing to see!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/16/2013 - 8:04 PM

Thank you so much Catherine! making those simple cut out just makes me so full of joy. I even noticed it seems to be more light when I go home, the winter days is much easier to deal with.


Posted by: Michael Warren on 02/17/2013 - 8:39 PM

This is absolutely magnificent, Alfred!!!!! You have such a creative mind!!! W O W!!!!!!!!


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 02/17/2013 - 8:43 PM

Such a wonderful world of art you live in.


Posted by: Terril Heilman on 02/17/2013 - 9:40 PM

Something wonderful comes your way, Alfred!! That is my prayer for you in the future!!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/17/2013 - 9:56 PM

Thank you so much Roy, Terril! best wishes!


Posted by: Fran Riley on 02/17/2013 - 10:23 PM

Ah Alfred...I see now what you are doing. When you mentioned this I couldn't picture it but now that I see them I agree with everyones comments! Very cool and creative! Awesome to find inspiration and have the process flow unhindered. Great job! Keep it up!


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/17/2013 - 10:37 PM

Francis, I find inspiration is like a Russian doll once you open one,you will discover another one inside. All you need is to open the first one and the rest will follow.


Posted by: Ed Meredith on 02/18/2013 - 3:07 PM

Alfred the bags are wonderful... thanks for sharing your Joy... =>))


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/18/2013 - 8:00 PM

Thank you Ed and everyone! glad you enjoy them. I made this one in honor of Valentine's day, Mermaid and her Prince Charming.
Photography Prints


This discussion is closed.