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UK-based artist Julie Alice Chappell has chosen an unusual medium for her sculptures – discarded electronics. She tears out circuit boards and other components from broken devices, and converts them into delicate insect figurines.

Artist turns old circuit boards and electronic components into beautiful winged insects

Julie’s introduction to the unique art form occurred several years ago, when she happened to find a big box of tiny electronic components at ‘The Craft Bank’, in Portsmouth, UK. “The first thing that came into my head when I looked at them was, ‘a mass of tiny bodies and legs… ants!’ I took them home to my children and we made ants.”

The box lay forgotten for a few years after that, only to be discovered again when Julie was pursuing a Fine Arts degree. That’s when her interest in discarded electronic components was rekindled. She happened to meet a few young artists who were using computer circuit boards to create a life-size robot. They eventually abandoned their project, and Julie took the circuit boards home.

She found the boards visually appealing, and began to mull over ideas to make use of them. She thought about the ants she had made with her kids all those years ago. And while she was watching a TV show on insects, the idea finally fell into place. She began cutting up the circuit boards to create sculptures of various bugs and insects.

Julie proceeded to create a “museum style entomologist’s cabinet of dioramas, drawers and trays filled with pinned bugs and butterflies.” Her collection has grown in “size and complexity” and is “constantly evolving as new inspiration is triggered by new finds.”

“My art practice involves breaking down the pre-existing materials, reinterpreting them, and offering them a new form with new purpose, creating something beautiful, whimsical, and precious,” Julie explained. “With all their tiny components, complex circuitry and bright metallic colours I cannot help but compare them to the detailed patterns we see when we look at nature up close. I view the miniature circuit boards with the same curiosity and amazement as I view the natural world.”

Her project, titled Computer Component Bugs, is aimed at increasing awareness about environmental waste. “The recycled bits of cultural refuse that are woven throughout my work represent a direct encounter with the excesses of modern living, highlighting the dangers of planned obsolescence and e-waste in the environment,” Julie said. “The work displays an aesthetic beauty whilst offering a socio-political discourse, attempting to reclaim waste and the destruction of the natural world, in the beauty of visual art.”

“They are my personal tribute to the wonders of modern technologies, the decades of knowledge and passion passed down which led us to them, with all their elegance and ingenuity encompassing the incredible technological aptitude and the imagination, talent and beautiful creativity of the human race.”

If you’re interested in Julie’s work, you could check out her full range of creations on her Etsy page. Her pieces seem to be sold out at the moment, though.

For more man-made insects, have a look at Mike Libby’s steampunk bugs, Tom Hardwidge’s ‘Arthrobots’ or the mechanical creepy-crawlies of jeweler JM Gershenson-Gates.

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