WORK by a former Bradford College student is being exhibited at the Yorkshire Arboretum.

The arboreturm is a 120-acre garden of trees on the Castle Howard estate, housing a collection of national importance. It is hosting the exhibition of works by James Owen Thomas during, who studied at Bradford College, going on to become a reputable artist renowned for his use of discarded materials in his work.

Entitled The Art of Recycling, the exhibition will demonstrate how discarded materials can be used to make strikingly inventive art.

James, who has autism, transforms unwanted and discarded materials such as lottery scratch cards, tickets, single use plastic and packaging into expressive, creative works that highlight the issues faced by our environment and the problems we need to address. Many of the works on display will reference the arboretum’s trees, landscape and resident red squirrels.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: James at the gallery with arboretum director Dr John GrimshawJames at the gallery with arboretum director Dr John Grimshaw (Image: public)

“I am very proud to have an exhibition at the arboretum and have a range of some of my new tree artwork on display, such as a quite surreal piece that I called ‘Three Woodland Figures,' he says. "The trees are created from donated shredded Christmas cards from previous years that I soaked overnight in tea for a more natural colour, and many old tickets and other recycled papers in the background. It’s a huge piece and catching everyone’s attention.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Three woodland figuresThree woodland figures

He adds: “I made a photo collage of one of the main squirrels at the Yorkshire Arboretum called Erik The Red. I also included the squirrel image on card for a workshop last year with students at Bradford School of Art and I was really impressed with the artwork they produced.

"Sadly Erik the Red died from an eye injury in January - the series is a good way of celebrating his life."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Erik the RedErik the Red

He adds: “My art is making a statement about single use products and the amount of litter we throw away every year. I like to think that my art is highlighting issues of the environment. When travelling on the motorway, it’s clear to see how much litter there is strewn everywhere, even though there are overhead signs telling people to take their litter home, not throw it out into nature. It makes me worried about planet’s future to see strips of plastic hanging from trees and bin liners and other plastic bags on the grass verges by the motorway - food wrappings, cans, boxes and much more ruining nature.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Up and DownUp and Down

Director of the Yorkshire Arboretum Dr John Grimshaw, says: ‘We’re delighted that James is showing his remarkable art with us. Each picture is a labour of love, composed of thousands of cut-up pieces of otherwise wasted things.’

James is a Force for Nature ambassador for the Tree Council, enabling him to promote environmental awareness around the country, and he was also present at the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow.

*The exhibition runs until Sunday April 28, from 10am to 4pm at  The Yorkshire Arboretum, Castle Howard, York YO60 7BY

*On Tuesday April 16 James will be present at the arboretum demonstrating his craft. Booking information is available at

For more information visit or contact him at