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Discarded Envelopes Become Art at Carroll Gardens Exhibit

 Artist Sarah Nicole Philips will present her collages made using discarded security envelopes at Court Tree in Carroll Gardens this weekend.
All the Benefits, All the Rewards
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CARROLL GARDENS — Sarah Nicole Phillips was opening envelopes at her job a few years ago when she saw an interesting pattern emerge.

Within the security envelopes, used for classified documents like invoices or checks, were bold designs and colors that prevented someone from seeing the envelope’s contents without opening it.

Using that paper, Phillips has been creating collages out of discarded envelopes since about 2008 and will host a solo exhibition at Court Tree Collective, at 371 Court St., this month.

“I just began to notice the variety of intricate patterns,” said Phillips, 37, who worked as an office administrator for an arts supply company in Manhattan when she was first drawn to the envelopes.

The show, titled “All the Benefits, All the Rewards,” will feature 15 framed collages and one site-specific piece installed into a gallery wall from Oct. 4 to Nov. 1, thanks to a grant from the Brooklyn Art Council, she said.

Phillips, who has been an artist for 10 years and primarily works on paper, said she used pieces from about 100 different envelopes for each collage. 

Some of her pieces depict “boring and dull” office environments with cubicles and dropped ceilings but with grass and leaves growing out of the furniture — a twist that ruptures the scene’s monotony. 

In other cases, she uses the designs to create scenes of camouflage-like foliage, similar to the envelope's original use.

“The whole purpose of those envelopes is to disguise sensitive documents,” said Phillips who works part time as an administrator and also teaches at the Lower East Side Printshop

Phillips, who lives in Gowanus, never buys her own envelopes but rather relies on recycling unwanted ones from friends, family and even strangers, she said.

“This is a free art supply,” she said. “I don’t need to go buy pretty paper.”

“All the Benefits, All the Rewards” will open Oct. 4 at Court Tree Collective, located at 371 Court St. from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.