Recycling to Create Art - Computer Component Bugs

Julie Alice Chappell
Sunday, 27th October 2013

Julie Alice Chappell has taken permaculture principles to create stunning pieces of art. By recyling computer components, Julie's 'bugs' help raise awareness of waste in the environment.

The circuit boards inside discarded obsolete electronics are what I use to create my sculptural artworks.

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.

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. The network of veins and patterns on leaves, petals, insect wings; the stripes and spots on beetles and spiders and the fragile intricacy of spider webs. I view the miniature circuit boards with the same curiosity and amazement as I view the natural world.

The comparison came to me when I acquired a big box of tiny electronic components several years ago from the Beneficial Foundation in Portsmouth. Also known locally as 'The Craft Bank', this place gets unwanted items from various companies which it then passes on to anyone who can use them such as schools, community groups and art groups.

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 was put away and forgotten about until a few years ago when I decided to do a Fine Art degree and started to consider the use of the 'found object' in art.

As part of my degree I started to get involved with environmental art and during some workshops with the 'Transition Network' I met some young artists who where creating life-size robots with the circuit boards from computers. They abandoned their project, and I got to take home the circuit boards which I found so visually appealing.

Whilst watching a nature programme about bio-diversity, one eye on the box of circuit boards, one on the TV, and worrying about my looming major project, I was reminded of the ants in the cupboard and my Eureka moment arrived.

I proceeded to create a museum style entomologist's cabinet of dioramas, drawers and trays filled with pinned bugs and butterflies. The collection has continued to grow in size and complexity and is constantly evolving as new inspiration is triggered by new finds.

Many of the computers I take apart I literally find discarded on the street or in wasteland. I get phones and keyboards from The Craft Bank, I receive various unwanted electronics from friends and organisations who support my work and I'm always on the look out for more donations of vintage technologies.

My 'Computer Component Bugs' collection has been in several solo exhibitions and group shows and my hope is to soon find a permanent home for them possibly in a natural history museum.

My collection highlights the dangers of planned obsolescence and the ever-increasing amounts of e-waste in the environment. This is perpetuated by advances in technologies and our ever growing dependence on modern gadgets.

My artworks also hold a great deal of hope.

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. 

Further resources

Visit Julie's Facebook to see more of her beautiful art at

Invisible art: the most relevent art exhibition of the year

When art turns suburban lawns into edible food parks

The edible estates project - front lawns to food gardens

Sebastiao Salgado: Genesis

Cheese - a play

The growing computer scrapheap revealed

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