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The Armory Show’s Commissioned Artist Susan Collis on Dumpster-Diving for Art

When we found the charming Susan Collis at last night’s Armory Art Show kickoff party at the Jumeirah Essex House — she's the show’s commissioned artist this year — we asked her how she find the objects (screws, nails, and bits of wood splattered with paint) that she replicates in her works using gems and precious metals. Dumpsters, of course. “Actually, in England, we call them ‘skips.’ There was one very near to my studio, and I happened to be walking to the studio in reasonably smart clothes, and I just saw these things, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to have them.’ But luckily, I work with assistants, so I went and got the assistants.” She made her assistants go Dumpster-diving? “I went with them as well! I’m not quite that cruel. I would have just felt terribly embarrassed going and doing my dumpster-diving. I like that expression, by the way. Is that a real expression? Dumpster-diving? In the U.K., we call it skip-trawling.”

Collis urges caution during "skip" forays with her staff. “I look at these really disgusting pieces of wood and I imagine that rats had peed on them or something," she told us. "In the studio, we held them with rubber gloves the whole time. I do actually encourage my assistants to wear gloves. I am quite a good boss."

Photo: Patrick McMullan