This 31-year-old Montrealer’s idea is not just original, it’s ground-breaking. She cuts windows into old suitcases, where she places images backlit with an electric bulb to create her famous “suitcase-lamps.”
The lamp idea comes straight from her love of old things.
“I collect industrial smokestacks, old phones, radios and TVs, but tend to go overboard! It got to the point I didn’t have any more space at home for my stuff. I’d just found a suitcase I had to have. I stacked it near the ceiling, because I was out of space, and then the lamp idea popped into my head. And the rest is history…”
The current demand for antiques has made it harder to find pretty luggage. “They’ve gotten pricier in flea markets and go fast. I’m lucky though, because my work is well known, people think of me and bring it by when they pick one up.”
Recycling junk doesn’t have a huge impact on the environment.
“What I do is small scale, but its significance is in raising awareness,” says the artist collector. “When people see what I do with ordinary objects, they may get the idea of doing the same thing at home, and avoid excess consumption.”
Jo-Annie also makes jewelry from old bicycle chains, which have proved a big hit among cyclists!
That’s why she says it’s important to see the big picture and shed outmoded ideas.
“Contact the eco-quartiers before throwing anything away,” she says. “They can reach out to artists who may want your castoffs.”
Jo-Annie loves showing off Montréal in her backlit lamps, one of which has a hallowed spot in the office of the president of Tourisme Montréal, featuring the Olympic Stadium, Expo 67 and other iconic locales. “I love my city and I love to display it,” she says, in a bright voice.