The idea struck Eamon Welby last fall while he was eating a piece of toast. He noticed the little plastic clip on the bag of bread and started to think about all of the colorful variations of these sorts of clips. He also thought about the big environmental problems these small pieces of plastic can create.

“There’s millions of those and they get thrown away all the time. And over time, that’s going to be a lot of plastic waste going into the environment,” said Welby, of Peterborough. “So, I thought to myself, ‘Someone should collect these and make art out of them.’”

And that’s exactly what he did.

The 17-year-old, who recently graduated from ConVal Regional High School, started collecting as many bread clips as he could. He put out a call to friends, family and the greater Monadnock region to send clips to him, saving them from landfills and contributing to his art project.

Welby set up an Instagram account to share the art he makes using the bread clips, such as drawings on the clips themselves and colorful collages made from many of them, and a P.O. Box where he can receive bread-clip donations.

This project, which encourages community engagement and pursues a broader purpose, epitomizes what Welby tries to achieve through his art, according to Ben Putnam, his art teacher at ConVal.

“Eamon Welby’s core beliefs reside in community, collaboration, sharing, giving, loving and being,” Putnam wrote in his letter nominating Welby for the Ewing Arts student award. “He uses the visual arts as his means of better understanding, expressing and communicating with the world.”

The bread-clip project also demonstrates Welby’s resourcefulness, Putnam added.

“He doesn’t need fancy materials or supplies,” Putnam wrote. “He often uses found objects as surfaces for his art and he really sees every object as an opportunity for making a statement about beauty. Eamon Welby, more than anyone I know says, ‘I see you.’ We seem to need this more than ever right now: to be seen and cared for.”

Putnam added that he nominated Welby for the award because he wants him to know he is seen and cared for too. For Welby, the honor is a welcome affirmation that others enjoy his creations.

“Half of the meaning is in me enjoying it. I’d be perfectly happy not getting the award because I have such a great time making the art,” he said. “But knowing that people are into it enough to award me a commemorative thing, that’s really cool because … people like my art. That’s great.”

Welby credits his parents, both of whom come from an artistic background, with instilling in him a passion for art. “Everyone kind of becomes interested in art when they’re really young, and then society kinds of beats it out of them.”

His dad, Patrick Welby, has worked as an art teacher and artist, and his mom, Laura Traffie, runs her own textile studio in Peterborough. Together, Welby said, they encouraged him to pursue his own love of art.

Welby works in a variety of media, from ink drawings on paper to murals, acrylic paintings and ceramics. Regardless of the form, though, he continues to make art for the same reason. “I make art because I enjoy it, and I know that other people will enjoy it once I’m gone, or at least I’d like to think that,” he said. “That’s what life is about for me. It’s about enjoying it and making things that other people enjoy.”

Welby considered going to art school, but ultimately decided against it.

“They’re just going to try and fill me with a bunch of preconceived notions about what art is. I know what art is,” he said. “I don’t need to go there and get a graphic design job or something. I don’t want art to be my career because then I feel like I might start to hate it.”

So, Welby decided to start working straight out of high school and continue to pursue art in his free time. He currently works at Subway in Peterborough and is saving up to buy a car he hopes to take on a trip around the country, seeking opportunities to make art and meet new people wherever he goes.

“I want to create communities and be part of communities,” he said.

To view some of Eamon Welby’s art, visit his Instagram account: @eamonwelbyart. For more information about his bread-clip art project, visit the Instagram account: @gearwithbreadclips. Welby welcomes bread-clip donations sent to Eamon Welby, P.O. Box 281, Peterborough, N.H., 03458.