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Weekly Thrift Shop Haul

It was a shock to learn only one in four items donated to thrift shops end up purchased and the rest of the donations end up in the landfill.  I thought items I donated to thrift shops found their way into other people’s homes, but come to find out 75% of my items I donate eventually find their way to the trash. I thought I was being environmentally friendly. Not so, I was delaying the inevitable. My trash may not be somebody’s treasure. Some of my items were just trash.

For Screen Door Studio’s upcycled clothing and jewelry line, 100% of the materials I use come from thrift stores and are fashioned out of recycled materials that I repurpose. I use every part of every piece of clothing I find at thrift stores.   I make weekly rounds to the half off senior days at both the Arc Thrift Store and Once Upon a Thrift in Fort Collins.

The Holy Grail for my art practice are 100% wool sweaters, jackets and coats.  I also look for embroidered patches for my hats, crocheted doilies, embroidered dresser scarves and linens, sewing notions and buttons. Or anything else that strikes my fancy.  It’s getting harder and harder to find wool items and my hunter-gatherer instincts come into play every visit. Who knows what I will find and that is part of the fun. It’s like treasure hunting. You never know what you are going to find. This week I scored dozens of covered button kits. All half off. 

Upcycled Coats and Hats Hit the Catwalk at the 19th ArtWear Biennial

The 19th ArtWear Biennial at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, a national juried exhibit and fashion show, features four of Screen Door Studios upcycled coats and ten hats. It is an honor to be chosen for this event and have my creations alongside the work of other gifted wearable art artists. 

Screen Door Studios upcycled coats and hats were part of a theatrical fashion show and are currently on sale at the Lincoln Center. The 19th ArtWear Biennial is dedicated to highlighting the work of wearable art artists. The goal of the show is to present innovative and wearable art of the highest quality. It also provides a forum for artists to share their enthusiasm for an exploration of techniques and materials. 

The 19th ArtWear Biennial sale continues at the Lincoln Center October 24, 25, and  26th from 12-6 PM and proceeds will be donated to the Lincoln Center Visual Arts Program.  

In addition, I have been invited to be a part of Technique Tables were I will share how I make my bottle cap bead jewelry and embellish my hats on Saturday October 26th from 12-3 PM at the Lincoln Center.  I invite all of you to stop by and visit and take in the fabulous clothes of this exhibit.

Prickly Pearther Replaces Pleather

Sustainable fashion and innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint are twin interests of mine.   Two young Mexican inventors Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez from Guadalajara have created an eco-friendly leather alternative made out of prickly pear cactus. People thought they were crazy and even engineers did not believe it could be done. They travelled to Milan, Italy to present their innovative leather to the top designers of the fashion industry at the Lineapelle Leather Trade Exhibition.

Making leather out of cactus caught my eye because I have seen the negative results of introducing the prickly pear cactus in Kenya and hope new, innovative ideas can help the plague of prickly pear cactus Kenya is experiencing. 

What is good for one ecosystem can be the kiss of death to another ecosystem. During colonial times in Kenya, the British decided to introduce the prickly pear cactus as an ornamental plant that thrives in dry climates.  An invasion occurred and the prickly pear cactus plague is the result. The cactus threatens grazing, one of the mainstays of the Kenyan economy, and is thought to kill baby elephants, which impacts the tourist industry. 

While the species of prickly pear cactus in Mexico and Central America have many uses, the species is Kenya is strictly ornamental and useless. It has a chokehold on the landscape and the economy. 

Each time, I visit Kenya and I am overwhelmed by the prickly pear problem that I can’t stop thinking of ways to stay this invasion. Two young inventors have devised an organic blend of prickly pear and cotton with the proper hand feel and attractive look leather consumers crave. Maybe this new innovation can be used in Kenya to help end the scourge of this invasive species of cactus.

Making Do with the British Royals

Little did I know, I share similar obsessions with Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth as outlined in the article, “The Life-Changing Magic of Making-Do” by Benjamin Leszuz.

My obsession with using every inch of every sweater, coat, or shirt that I have snagged from the Arc Thrift Store in Fort Collins is shared by Prince Charles. Leszuz writes, 

“The journalist Marion Hume discovered a cardboard box containing more than 30 years of off-cuts and leftover materials from the Prince’s suits, tucked away in a corner at his Savile Row tailor, Anderson & Sheppard. ‘I have always believed in trying to keep as many of my clothes and shoes going for as long as possible … through patches and repairs,’ says Prince Charles. ‘In this way, I tend to be in fashion once every 25 years.”

The article further praises Prince Charles for his penchant to mend his clothes rather than discard them. “Most modern consumers are not nearly so resourceful: The average person buys 70 new pieces of clothing each year, about 60 of which ultimately wind up in a landfill. (Thrift stores only sell one in four pieces of donated clothing.) According to a British study, the average article of women’s clothing is worn seven times before it’s discarded.”

I have an uncountable amount of scraps of material stored in my house patiently waiting to find their places in my recycled art. I never throw any item that may find its way on my hats or as embellishment on my line of upcycled clothing or my line of bottle cap bead jewelry. Nothing goes to waste just like Prince Charles, who insists on mending his clothing. The article reports on another recycling practice that I share with the British royals. 

“The Prince comes from a tradition of admirable frugality – the Queen reuses gift-wrap – but his inclination to repair rather than replace, to wear his clothes until they wear out, is an apt antidote to our increasingly disposable times.” 

Just like the Queen of England, I gift wrap my presents in old road atlases and reuse gift wrap. Just like Prince Charles, I save scraps.

Fashion Choices Heat Up The Planet

What you wear and what you buy and how you buy your clothes impacts the planet. It’s shocking to learn the apparel and footwear industries are responsible for 8 percent of the global climate impact.  Total greenhouse gas emissions related to textile production are equal to 1.2 billion tons annually or more than all international flights and maritime shipping trips combined each year. Fast fashion is leading the charge on this impact and that means your clothing choices can have a negative or positive impact on global warming.

Upcycling and repurposing used clothing is one creative way to reduce your carbon footprint and something I have been doing for 10 years. Out of wool sweaters, ties, shirts, socks, wool blankets, coats, jackets, buttons, bottle caps, zippers, resistors, floppy disc centers, old aluminum coins, fabric scraps, aluminum cans and other curiosities, I have designed a line of upcycled clothing and created a line of bottle cap bead jewelry. Most of the materials I use in my art practice are recycled and repurposed. 

For my line of clothing, I cannibalize wool sweaters to make my hats. Every part of the sweater is used for making hats and the leftover pieces are fashioned into flowers, polka dots and birds for decoration. The ribbing of the sweaters become tree trunks and leaves. I even save the labels of all the sweaters I cut up and use them for embellishment. In the end, the entire sweater has been used for in some way in my fashion line. 

My line of shirts and coats are repurposed and embellished with embroidery, buttons, rosettes made out of men’s ties or socks, lace dollies or whatever suits my fancy. I am always on the lookout for new ways to use cast off items in my line of clothing and jewelry.  Each item in my line of clothing and jewelry is a unique, one-of-a-kind creation and eco-friendly.

Beauty and Kazuri Beads

Before you go inside the factory, you can hear the faint roar of women talking and laughing. Seated at long tables were about 200 women doing a variety of tasks to make the finished beads. The workers are able to multi-task, they are able to hand craft beautiful jewelry from start to finish and gossip simultaneously. 

Some women rolled out the clay into beads and put them on small wooden skewers. Some had unpainted pottery beads in front of them, plastic tubs of glaze and paintbrushes and painted various patterns on the beads, others were loading the kilns or stringing the beads into necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  Some women tended the kilns. 

All beads are shaped by hand and the women used forms to make sure the beads were completely uniform. The woman working rarely used the forms because they were so adept at forming beads. The beads came out uniform every time without the form. Holes were made in the beads with a wooden skewer not unlike what we use for shish kabob. Kazuri beads come in small beads, large beads, ovals, triangles, squares—anything you can imagine.

Once the beads are made they must dry to leather hard before glazing. Rows and rows of unglazed beads were roasting in the sun on the patio outside the factory. One woman would step outside to check on the progress of the beads every once in awhile. 

I was dumbstruck by their storeroom, which had shelves and shelves and shelves filled with large glass containers filled with handmade ceramic beads in a rainbow of colors and assorted shapes and sizes. I was immediately inspired to use these beads in my work. 

Kazuri has branched out and is making pottery dinnerware, mugs, water pitchers, ornaments and figurines. One of their patterns is a giraffe print. Others patternspay homage to life in Kenya. 

I love how this company purposely employs women who need work to support their families. “I enjoy my job.” one worker explains, “I have learned how to do new things and is very satisfying doing something so creative.”

While it is fascinating to visit the factory, it is overwhelming to visit their store.  Entering the store is like experiencing the grand finale of a fireworks display. I was overwhelmed by the explosion of colors and the variety of jewelry. Every piece of jewelry was so beautiful, it was hard to make my choices. I had no idea how to narrow down my choices, but honestly, that was part of the fun visiting the Kazuri Bead factory store in Narobi.

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