Freeport artist gives new meaning to 'recycling'

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FREEPORT — Most of us see a bucket of old bike parts as junk, useless scrap destined for the landfill. Worn out cogs, broken chains, flat tires and warped disc breaks do not strike the average person as potential works of art.

But that is exactly how Angela Armstrong sees them.

“It all started one day when I was out painting in the garage,” Armstrong said. “I looked over at my bike and saw the cog, and it just hit me. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could incorporate glass into that?” Soon after, she took a class at the Maine Art Glass Studio and began mingling old bike parts with colorful pieces of glass.

Armstrong, 33, grew up in Greenville, a small town on the shore of Moosehead Lake. Anyone who grew up in a small town knows that the bicycle is not only a main source of transportation, it is your ticket to fun and freedom.

“When I was a kid I loved riding my bike, I rode it everywhere,” Armstrong said between sips of coffee. “I had a dish-washing job at an inn that was about 10 miles away and I would ride my bike there and back, and art was always a big part of my life. If I wasn’t on my bike I was painting or drawing.”

Armstrong’s life-long passion for cycling, recycling and art has coalesced into Recycled Bike Art, her studio and gallery. It is a cozy below-ground boutique tucked away at 4 School St. The rear of the space serves as Armstrong’s workshop, where she transforms buckets of old bike parts (given to her by bike shops) into wall clocks, sun catchers, picture frames and belt buckles. There are also bird houses with pedal perches and bike chain jewelry made by other local artists.

“These are my favorite things to make,” Armstrong said, holding up a first-place medal, the result of a process that involves painting, sandblasting, etching and stain-glass techniques. Not only are they her favorite things to create, they are fast becoming her most popular item. Last year her medals were awarded to both the all-around winners of the Lobsterman and Urban Epic triathlons.

Someday, Armstrong said, she hopes to bring in more artists, and turn Recycled Bike Art into more of a cooperatively run art studio, with a cycling twist. 

For now, although Recycled Bike Art keeps her pretty busy, Armstrong said she still finds time to compete in a couple races per year and ride with her cycling club, The Lady Breakers.

“Cycling and art are my two passions in life,” she said. “Luckily I’ve been able to combine them.”

n-fptrecycledbikeart1-062509.jpgAngela Armstrong, outside Recycled Bike Art, her studio and gallery at 4 School St. in Freeport. She said cycling and art are her passions. (Jared Thurber photo)

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n-fptrecyctledbikeart2-062509.jpgAngela Armstrong holds the medals she crafts from recycled bicycle parts. She said they are her favorite pieces. (Jared Thurber photo)