An Artist's Quest

Upcycling: going beyond the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)

After a busy past six weeks of teaching classes, shows and sales I took a little pause this week and looked through some magazines that I had marked with post it’s, and leafed through clipping ideas torn from catalogs.  The problem with being a “crafty girl” as my 80-year-old friend Zelpha refers to makers like me, is that there is never enough time. Never enough hours in the day or room in my studio to make all the things that tickle me enough to say “I could make that!”.  This week I decided to spend a little time with my “cool ideas” file and see what I could come up with.  In the interest of killing two birds with one stone I decided to try out things that could be gifts too.  Some of you have known me long enough to know I have had a long running love of clothes and fashion.  One of my favorite things to as a kid was playing with paper dolls. Folding the little tab corners over their little cardboard shoulders was heaven for me. From paper dolls I graduated to Barbies.  When just changing their clothes got boring I made outlandish outfits with scraps from my mom’s sewing basket on a hand crank kiddie sewing machine.  It probably wasn’t a big surprise to my parents when I decided to study design with a focus on fashion.  I spent a little time doing costuming for theater productions but ended up submitting my senior project in wearable art.  That was back in a time when it seemed ok to major is something completely impractical…but I digress.  All that is a lot to explain that when I have a little extra time or want to make a nice gift for myself or someone else I always think ACCESSORIES!   One of my clippings was from a catalog, they had a line of oven mitts made from old t-shirts, but who needs an oven mitt?  So I took this upcycling idea in another direction, you got it accessories. That’s right, scarves from cut up old t-shirts. I think they turned out grand and are not too heavy and bulky, plus they have had heavens knows how many washing to soften them up before being reincarnated into a scarf.  The next adventure in upcycling was fusing plastic bags.  This is from an article in the July/August issue of ClothPaperScissors magazine.  Belts seemed like the perfect use for this cacophony of color.  And a still have a lot of this plastic “fabric” to play around with and see what else I can come up with.

Next week I’ll get back to my usual musing on life and landscape here at the Bishop’s Ranch but in the meantime if you have some upcycling ideas to share I’d love to hear them!

8 responses

  1. Martha

    What gorgeous models!

    December 9, 2011 at 9:48 am

  2. Val

    I recently upcycled some old T-shirts into dance costumes for a piece I choreographed for recent concert (see my blog from November 14th). I just dyed them all a denim blue and cut them into large tubes which I joined together in tiers then cut ties that I stitches to the waist. Since the whole dance was about the life cycle of clothing it seemed fitting. (Get it? Fitting?) The dance critic who reviewed the concert made some baffled comment about what the dancers skirts were made from, and guessed it was some kind of chamois(!)

    December 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

  3. Val

    P.S. I love your scarves!

    December 9, 2011 at 11:37 am

  4. Karin Tredrea

    I’m going to need to come see some of these in person! Sadly had to miss your event last weekend. But, maybe this week while at the Ranch, I can peruse? LOVE the colorful belts and am SO curious how to see them!?!??

    December 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    • Pretty cool, I’m happy to show you the belt and the article in ClothPaperScissors too. Hope to see you next week. Lisa

      December 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm

  5. Mary Anne

    My grandmother’s generation (she died in the 1970s) were fantastic recyclers. She lived on a farm and nothing went to waste. No fabric ever was thrown away. My grandfather’s boxer shorts and my doll clothes were made out of colorful chicken feed sacks. But the best of all of her recycling efforts were her magnificant hand sewn quilts!

    My recycling efforts focus on collage materials.

    Thanks for posting your photo – you both look vibrant!

    December 10, 2011 at 7:16 am

    • I love the feed sack boxer image! do you have any of these wonders anymore? I have a quilt that I have mended many times, to anyone else it is very shabby, but it was made out of my grandpa’s wool shirts after they were too tatty to wear. We need to return to this practice, understanding the sacred nature of all things, using them fully.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:24 am

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