Resin art has experienced a burst in popularity within the last few years, but what exactly is this miracle material, and is there a catch?
Resin by itself is a viscous, flammable substance that can be either organic or synthetic. Organic resin is often produced by conifer trees such as pine, spruce, and cedar, as a way to protect slow-healing injuries from insects or disease. The resin used for artwork, furnishing, and crafting, however, is synthetic. There are a few different kinds of this resin, but many believe that epoxy resin, patented in the early 1930s, is best suited for artistic purposes.
The term “resin art” is fairly general. Resin art can mean anything from resin jewelry, resin dice, resin paperweights, to resin clocks! If they aren’t pouring it on a canvas, resin artists often use silicone molds to help in the creation of their work. Some leave their resin clear, wishing to embed pressed flowers or miniatures in their piece, and others dye the resin with powder pigments or alcohol inks. Hardened resin can be turned on a lathe, which some resin artists take advantage of to make larger pieces like bowls or figurines.
It is this kind of customization that made resin art so popular. Epoxy or other forms of art resin have become readily available in craft stores, so now anyone can make whatever they want and have it come out looking professional and polished.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to the ever-growing popularity of resin art: Epoxy is just not very good for the environment. Yes, epoxy resin is technically biodegradable and recyclable, but not to the extent one may hope. Epoxy can take an extremely long time to biodegrade, and even then, some resin may not have the bacteria needed to properly break down.
As for recycling, the process only works if the resin and the hardener can be separated. If that is unsuccessful, epoxy resin could be put through a different recycling process called pyrolysis, in which the materials would decompose inside a highly heated atmosphere. Even then, the process of pyrolysis produces and releases chemicals, including greenhouse gasses associated with climate change, into the air.
All that being said, the reality is that many epoxy resin products will end up in the trash anyway—as is often the case with recyclable items. And, since resin art is by no means a dying trend, one can only sit back and wait to see the places it goes.
Gail Ostbye is a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a current intern at Art & Object. She is majoring in English and hopes to enter a career in editing. When she isn’t working she enjoys writing songs in her free time.
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