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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
'Trashballs' turn rubbish to art
By Sarah Toms
BBC News, Washington

Artist Chris Goodwin holds one of his "trashballs"
Chris Goodwin uses rubbish from the street to fill his "trashballs"
Chris Goodwin's art is rubbish - and he doesn't mind hearing that one bit.

The artist has won fans in the US capital, Washington DC, by encasing bits of trash in plastic spheres and selling them from gumball machines for 25 cents (13 pence) each.

He says his "trashballs" are partly a social statement but mostly just for fun.

"Hopefully, anyone who would get a trashball would think about what the secret history of this object is, and where it's been and how it was used and how it came to end up on a sidewalk," Mr Goodwin says.

He scours refuse bins across the area in search of the perfect piece for his next creation.

"Everything deserves another look and we should just think about what we are tossing aside."

Jilted lover

Mr Goodwin, who also paints landscapes of urban decay, gave up a corporate job to work for a removal company called Junk in the Trunk, which allows him to indulge his artistic side.

A trashball vending machines in Washington DC
Buyers are warned that the balls may contain unpleasant items

The one-inch (1.54cm) plastic balls are dispensed from gumball machines in cafes in downtown Washington.

Collectors can keep the globes intact or crack them open to have a proper look at what is inside.

The trashballs are not for the fainthearted.

There is a sign above the dispensers that asks that no-one under 18 buy them, as the things inside can include dead bugs, drug baggies and broken glass.

So far, Mr Goodwin has sold about 3,000 balls at 25 cents a go.

Sometimes he even puts a $5 bill (2.50) inside to make someone's day.

James Metz, a devotee, has bought more than 90.

"Some of it's just real trash and some of it's prize-winning. It's quite interesting not knowing what you're going to find and you can trade them back and forth," he says.

Chris Goodwin holds one of his "trashballs"
It just gives you an idea of somebody's life by what they have thrown away, as any archaeologist would show you
Artist Chris Goodwin
"It's an installation. It's cheap, it's economical when you consider art and, at the same time, it makes people think."

One of Mr Metz's favourites was two halves of a letter from a jilted lover that came in two consecutive balls.

"You can get anybody to actually utilise the artwork - that's what it's for - which is definitely how art should communicate to its audience, to me," he says.

Mr Goodwin's small plastic creations may never end up in a top gallery, but he has proven that one man's trash is indeed another man's treasure.

"I enjoy the crapshoot lottery quality of buying a trashball, as you could end up getting something really dull or you could end up with something really interesting," he says.

"It just gives you an idea of somebody's life by what they have thrown away, as any archaeologist would show you."

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