Vickie Frémont is a French woman born in Cameroon and a modern-day heroine. For the past several years, she conducts workshops around the world training women and students of all ages. She uses a hands-on approach for the transformation of rejects or trash into useful everyday objects and art. Included in her workshops are lectures on the destructive effects that trash of every kind has on the environment and on climate change. These workshops take place in schools, community centers, universities and even in commercial malls.
She has conducted her workshops on the use of recycled materials at The Fashion Institute of Technology, The Bank Street School for Children, The Henry Street Settlement in New York City, Community Works, and numerous museums, libraries and public and private schools. Students feel empowered by her enthusiasm. She particularly remembers the time during one of her workshops when an elderly lady came up to her and asked her, “So, Vickie, what are we going to do next week?”
Ms. Frémont left Cameroon at an early age. She lived in Morocco with her parents, and after on the Ivory Coast and in France. Ms. Frémont has a dual background, a Cameroonian mother and a French father. She believes her background has considerably enriched her view of the world and allowed her to see the points of contact of different cultures, a concept she uses in her workshops.
She bases her work on an African tale of how a hummingbird, by bringing a drop of water at a time, was able to put out a fire. And she calls her project The Hummingbird Program, improving the world one step at a time. She has published the French edition of her book Le Projet Colibri (Project Hummingbird), TBR Books, CALEC France, 2022. The book’s Spanish and English translations are in production.
She has been designing and creating objects from recycled materials since she was eight years old, without any formal education. When she was 12, she began making dolls for her little sister. That initial work developed later into a passion for creating new objects out of recycled materials.
She focuses on what she loves: creating jewelry, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, sculptures, and children’s toys and art objects out of different materials. This includes hangers, plastic baskets, paper, cardboard, old wood objects, and rope. In short, anything that can be reused. When I asked her what her guiding emotion was, she said, “To keep a part of my childhood, and to center myself.”
Her program of working and creating hand-made objects has a set of goals Ms. Frémont describes as: providing materials for practical work that lead to awakening the students’ creativity, restoring their self-esteem, and developing their capacity to transmit their experience and new knowledge to others. Also, providing training for the students’ commercial and business activities. As part of this last activity, participants are taught business techniques such as adequate packaging, sales techniques and bookkeeping.
After working in different countries, she settled in New York. She was the manager in charge of purchases at the Museum of African Art and continued expanding her activities as a jewelry designer. This activity brought her great recognition and international brands bought her creations. Talking about this activity she said, “My jewelry speaks about beauty as a source of empowerment. Each of my pieces is unique, as each woman is also unique.”
Her Recycling Art Program teaches students how to create artistic objects from materials as diverse as stones, wooden sticks and scraps of fabric. She said, “For the students, creating something from ‘nothing’, art that some people would consider trash, is not only a worthwhile undertaking but one that brings them personal pleasure and understanding.”
That program has, so far, been adapted to be carried out with primary school children, high school and college students, teachers, parents and seniors. For people working in stressful situations, it can provide them with entertainment and a way out of their routine work and a way to express their natural talents. As she says, “Beauty can be found everywhere. The transformation of objects is like a miracle, a re-creation. This activity helps people to restore their self-esteem and it opens a door into the unlimited world of creativity.”
She has an abiding passion for the art, culture and music of Africa. She says, "much more than as a teacher, I think of myself as someone who opens doors -- the doors inside us that make it possible to discover creativity and have a richer communication with other people." Many years ago, Vickie Frémont left Africa, but Africa never left her.