One Person’s Trash is Another’s Treasure

Wandering through Philadelphia’s South Street neighborhood there are mosiacs around doorfronts and covering enormous walls. They’re grand in artistry but minor in comparison to the Magic Gardens.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

The Magic Gardens are intense, overwhelming, cluttered, stunning, glorious!

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Not my picture: scanned postcard

Artist Isiah Zagar has a thing for tiles and bottles and he turns these everyday items into a spectacular space. The tiles could be official bathroom fare, or broken dishes. Or even full dishes projecting in just…the…right…way.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Not my photos: scanned from postcard and brochure

The indoor gallery is covered ceiling and every wall; the floor remains hardwood. Outside, walls are built to create a labyrinth for discovery and delight–and more surfaces to cover! “I built the sanctuary to be inhabited by my ideas and my fantasies.” Yes, yes he did.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Not my photo: a scanned postcard

Beer and wine bottles, dishes and vases, tiles galore, bike wheel rims, occasional figurines. These are his medium.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Not my photo: scanned postcard

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

It can be overwhelming to look at the whole–and some ways that’s part of the beauty. His passion (nay, obsession) to keep going. Once in the space, you truly see the trees within the forest and it’s enlivening, enthralling, exciting. The creativity and commitment.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Not my photo: scanned from a postcard

Philadelphia's Magic GardensAre you getting a sense of how enamored I was/am with this place?

It is magical, and it is a garden. Something blooms in every nook–a message, a design, a whimsical figurine.

I purposefully stopped taking pictures to sit and absorb; to wander with wonder, not with a lens to my face. That said, I do rather like my self-portrait. Can you discern it?


What trash do you consider to be treasure?





Even more to enjoy! Click the pic to advance the slideshow to the next image.

8 Responses


Paula, this is FANTASTIC!!!!
Are u going to LA??? The area called Watts (home of the race riots) has a similar art project created by one man over a 30+ year period. If you are in the area, it’s called Watts Tower and the story behind it is fascinating.

I will be going to LA…eventually. thanks for the tip. I’ll add it to my list.


Wow – they need to have Isiah Zagar (or similar artists) be on Hoarders. We can call the show “Refuse Refuge”

We have friends who are flight attendants and they would say to customers “You’re trash” but with an upward intonation as if they were saying “Your trash?”

Classic – both the idea and the intonation.


Your Comments
I’m right with you on this one. It’s fabulous. Did you ever see Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden in North Georgia? Isiah and Howard must have been separated at birth.

I never did see Howard Finster. I wasn’t aware of him until after he passed.


My father uses that line to justify most of what is in his garage. 🙂 To his credit, he uses/ reuses just about everything.

good man!!

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

This is ad number one.


These links may be helpful with logistics for your trip. I may not have used them, but we all want to promote our sites!