Meet the art student turning trash to treasure

James Owen Thomas with some of the media coverage of his artwork

A Bradford College art student is giving new meaning to the saying 'one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

James Owen Thomas is capturing attention across the art world with his unique collages made of recycled materials.

The teenager began creating artworks from discarded scratch cards a few years ago. He saw it as a positive means of recycling and putting to good use what people had thrown away.

Ripon Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, Saltaire and Brimham Rocks are just some of the landmarks to feature in his collection of remarkable collages crafted from what would otherwise be considered rubbish.

Ripon Cathedral created by James Owen Thomas using old scratch cards

His eye-catching mosaic-style pieces have featured in a number of exhibitions including with the National Trust, Durham World Heritage Centre, Bradford Industrial Museum, Yorkshire Dales National Park and the National Coal Mining Museum. Among the visitors to appreciate his work at the National Coal Mining Museum show was the Chief Operating Officer of Pontefract Racecourse, Richard Hammill, who was so impressed he commissioned the 18-year-old artist to produce collages made from old badges and tickets discarded by racegoers.

An artwork created for Pontefract Racecourse from used race tickets and badges

The four works for the racecourse, which Hammill has described as “innovative, incredible and breathtaking”, will be on display at the venue for the duration of the 2019 racing season and also feature on the racecourse’s website.

One of the pieces of art commissioned by Pontefract Racecourse 

James Owen Thomas being interviewed at Pontefract Races

Eighteen-year-old James has also recently produced artwork for Pateley Bridge in Bloom – his hometown’s entry into the Britain in Bloom competition.

James Owen Thomas's piece for Pateley Bridge in Bloom

Now studying a Level 3 Diploma in Art and Design at Bradford School of Art, which boasts one of his favourite artists, David Hockney, among its former students, James, who is autistic, is enjoying developing his artistic skills.

“From a very young age pictures have always played a very important role for me,” he explained.

“I had very little speech in primary school and learned through a picture exchange method.

“When I used to get upset as a child my mum used to calm me down by going into art galleries and seeing people’s artwork. I think that is how my art developed. It is a form of communication and therapy for me.

“I enjoy creating it and it is great when other people appreciate it.”