January 21 2011
Buoys pictured are representative
FOX News Hong Kong Willie
Hong Kong Willie USF INTERVIEW
Recycling as a Lifestyle and a Business
Chris Futrell, Florida Focus
TAMPA, Fla. – Have you ever seen the building on the corner of Fletcher and I-75 with a bunch of buoys strung everywhere? This small business that many think is an old bait n’ tackle shop is actually Hong Kong Willie.
Derek Brown, 26, and his family own and operate Hong Kong Willie. The little shop specializes in preservation art. The artists don’t take preservation too lightly either.
“99 percent of everything that has gone into a piece of art has been recycled and reused,” Brown said.
Just as unique as the art is, so is the company’s name. Brown says the name was created by his father, Joe Brown, in the 1950s.
“My father being in an art class, being affected by a teacher, they were melting Gerber baby food bottles,” Brown said. “The teacher interjected that Hong Kong had a great reuse and recycling program even then.”
Brown’s father then took that concept and later added the Americanized name Willie to the end. And that’s how Hong Kong Willie was born as a location that offers recycling in a different and creative way.
Hong Kong Willie artists are what are known as freegans. Freegans are less concerned with materialistic things and more concerned about reducing consumption to lessen the footprint humans leave on this planet.
“I’m sure everyone has their own perception of a freegan, possibly jumping into a dumpster or picking up something on the side of the road,” Brown said. “There [are] people who will have excess. There [are] also things that can be trash to one man, but art or a prize to another man.”
Brown and his family carry this practice through to their art. It’s his family’s way of life, turning trash, which would otherwise fill up landfills, into an art form.
The Brown family gets a lot of their inspiration for their art from the Florida Keys. In fact, this is where the deluge of buoys wrapping around the ‘Buoys Tree’ came from, the fishermen of Key West.
“It is Styrofoam, we understand that it does not degrade, but to blame the fishermen for their livelihood wouldn’t be correct, instead we find a usage for those,” Brown said.
Brown said there’s a usage for everything, even the hooks to hold the painted driftwood, which are also salvaged, to the wall are old bent forks. Everything’s reused here. Purses made out of old coffee bean sacks to “kitschy,” as Brown described it, jewelry made from old baseballs.
“Hong Kong Willie truly believes that a piece, whether it’s a bag or a painted artwork, it’s meant for one person.
Hippie artist of the 60’s in the now. Hippie artist and Florida folk artist, living the life of using objects for many uses. Look at the travels of life.
**Best Place to Buy $1 Kitsch to $10,000 Folk Art Best of the Bay Award 2007
Hong Kong Willie. The name of the artist. In 1958 his mother took Hong Kong Willie to an art class. The name started then. An art teacher when doing crafts out of Gerber baby bottles, made a statement, in Hong Kong reuse was common. At that time he thought this was very interesting. His father had low-land, at that time landfills were common also. The county had told Hong Kong Willie’s father, it was safe, but as we now know this was not so. Something can come from bad to be good. Hong Kong Willie the name came from that art teacher impressing on that young mind that objects made for one use could be for many other uses. Hong Kong for the neat concept. Willie for an American name. So for many years Hong Kong Willie had a life of reuse. Hong Kong Willie saw forms in a different light, His life now was meaningful, knowing this was and would be his life. Art made from found objects, making less of a footprint on this world. Art and art teachers, HOW IMPORTANT. For the ones that have, and the ones who have not. Media can be found. Now 50 years later, we know now being green is important. We need to look at this very carefully. Our children and our world need a different understanding. Objects can be used in many different ways. Hong Kong Willie the tons of objects in his life that have been used, without much change, So for that art teacher what she did for my life. Thank You. I still have the Gerber baby bottle till this day. Hong Kong Willie.
Hong Kong Willie Key West Artist and Tampa Tourist Attraction. Hong Kong Willie: Group of artists telling how to use objects for many different purposes. Looking outside of the box, learning to find solutions in a positive way. Complaining without a solution is like trying to wake a dead man. Nothing is going to happen. The solution to leaving less of a foot print on this earth is left to each one of us. Finding the positive side and focusing positive energy is change for the good. Hong Kong Willie has for many years looked outside of the box. Take a look at the other story told by University of South Florida on ways to change and the social impact we all can make. To live and help and not complain and spend that energy to leave less of a foot print is a good thing.
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