Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Exploring All Thrifty States: Jenna's Excellent Adventure

We've all had those moments when we hear about a product, project, or idea that someone else has put out into the world and we think, "Geez, why didn't I think of that?!?" I had just such a moment recently, whilst reading a Washington Post article on the creative Jenna Isaacson Pfeuller.  Jenna's idea was born of necessity, as she shopped in thrift stores during a period of unemployment. A photographer with fond childhood memories of trips to thrift stores with her grandfather, she began taking photos of the stores she shopped at during her economic dry spell. This lead to a Kickstarter campaign and a partnership with Goodwill Industries, to document American culture through visits to thrift stores in every state--a project aptly titled "All Thrifty States."  What a fabulous, fun idea! I'm so jealous. Not of the unemployment (which is thankfully over), but of having such a bold, brilliant idea, and fearlessly following through. And of all the cool thrift store finds, of course.

Check out her web site, complete with slideshow at http://www.allthriftystates.com/. Although the "Stores We Hit" page implies that there are still several states left to go, the Washington Post article and slideshow testify to the fact that she has visited shops in the lower 48, with only Hawaii and Alaska remaining. Way to go, Jenna.

I think this would be such an interesting project to do with students of all ages--to visit local thrift stores and create a photo essay of the local community by documenting the discards and donations. Also, consider all the different types of stores and activities that might fall into the "thrift store" category. Sure, there's the local Goodwill and similar stores that sell reclaimed items for a cause, but what of used book stores, materials for the arts shops, consignment shops, antique malls, vintage vinyl vendors, etc.? What about the cadre of local garage sales? Does your area have a set of homes that seem to be in perpetual yard sale mode? And what about the online reuse landscape that spans eBay, Etsy, Freecycle, Craigslist, etc.?

I've written before about artists HA Schult and Chris Jordan, whose work reflects our society through what we throw away. Jenna's work, and the spin-off student project I've suggested, are a different way to paint a similar picture, showing who we are by what we cast aside. But the view is slightly different, for in thrift stores and the like, we see what we choose not to keep, but cannot quite let go of; what we no longer value, but which we believe will be of value to someone else. Why don't we see everything as having some value, to someone, somewhere?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Beyond Geek: Making Old Tech New Again

While enjoying our winter break, the kids and I came across an interesting series called Beyond Geek. We caught an episode that really piqued my interest, highlighting reuse AND electronics. Host Dan Reynoso interviews a married couple that make beautiful music together--using old computers and game consoles. Their instruments of choice include the Commodore 64, Apple II, and Gameboy handsets. They've even developed software (on floppy disks!) to use this old technology to generate electronic music. Where many see electronic waste, these folks see--and hear--art. Score one for reuse!

The episode also highlights the practice of "homebrew" NES game creation--intrepid geeks programming new games for the Nintendo NES system. Some of these "homebrewers" reuse old cartridges to house their new 8-bit adventures, while one pair actually have a manufacturer create new NES cartridges (read "job creation"). I love to see ingenuity extending the useful life of a product, and these folks are providing fun and nostalgia for gamers with technology that most would consider obsolete.

Check out a preview of "8-Bit of Fun" below.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Hatch Creative-Reuse Art Festival Application Deadline Extended

For those in the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois, applications for THE I.D.E.A. Store's Hatch Creative-Reuse Art Festival are due by November 16, 2014. The deadline has been extended. Hatch will consist of a juried Art Exhibition on February 28 to March 14, 2015, and an Art Fair on March 14, 2015. Items in the exhibition must be made from at least 75% reused materials. Items for sale at the fair must be at least 50% reused.

For more information, see www.abouthatch.org.

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Re-Solutions

We're on the brink of a brand new year, but as we consider our resolutions, let's try to make the year one of the few "brand new" things we look forward to. Make some "re-solutions" instead of "resolutions" by resolving to reuse items and materials as much as possible in 2013. If you no longer have a use for something, donate it, sell it, or give it to a friend or relative who can benefit from it. Need something you don't already have? Look around at what you DO have and try to come up with a way to re-make your current under-used possessions into the "new" item that you need or want. If that turns out not to be possible, try to find what you're looking for at a thrift store, or online from a previous owner. Consider sharing items that you only use some of the time with friends and neighbors instead of owning something exclusively. Investigate how to recycle or donate most, if not all, of the items you might normally consider trash. There really are companies that will take just about anything--from old hole-ridden clothes, to used shoes, to your old furniture--I'll write about some of these options in the coming weeks and months. Try your hand at composting to turn even your food scraps into something new.

However you decide to approach the challenge, do your best to find as many ways to reuse in 2013 as possible. Our resources truly are precious; it can be so easy to forget that living in a privileged nation where most of us have want we need. Always remember that not all of us do in this world, and that if we do not value what we have been given, the day may come all too soon when resources that were once plenty are scarce. Show your gratitude for what we have by refusing to see any of it as waste. "Waste" is a failure of the imagination, a misnomer, a miscategorization. Be more imaginative in 2013. Seek out new friends, new experiences, new memories, new hopes, new dreams, new ways of looking at things, but not new things.

Peace, and Happy New Year! ~ Joy S.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cap-tivating Whistles

People who know me well know that I have a minor obsession with, and modest hoard of, metal bottle caps. I just can't toss them into the trash, or even the recycling bin. I love the different designs and colors that can are printed on them, and their size and composition mean they can be easily repurposed into lots of things. I've used them to decorate bird houses and make magnets. I've glued them together and attached floral wire to make Christmas tree ornaments. When I make Christmas tree ornaments out of old painted light bulbs, I sometime use them for "hats" on the snowmen, penguins, Santas, etc. that I paint. I've used them as mini paint pots when my kids are making art and need just a little bit of paint from a big jug o' paint. They make great mosaic fodder. They can be made into beads and other jewelry. They can adorn belts. I've even seen them turned into cool fishing lures. And now that spring has sprung, and I'm outside listening to my glass wind chimes, I'm itching to try making some bottle cap wind chimes.

But I would never have thought of the application I just came across, and it may be just about the coolest bottle cap reuse yet. Loran Scruggs uses bottle caps and pieces from old tins to make working whistles. Check out her Etsy store at http://www.etsy.com/shop/BottleCapWhistles. The use of the caps for the whistle sides shows off the artwork on them. I'm delighted to see some of the same caps I've saved because of the unique animals or other graphics used in her whistles. My kids would recognize them as matching some of our Christmas tree ornaments. She even has a whistle with one of my favorite caps--an owl from Hitachino Nest Beer--as her profile image. I have bought that beer just to get more of those caps (it's not bad beer, but the cap is the real draw for me). Now I desperately want some of her whistles for me and the kiddos. If I ever decide to unload some of my cap hoard, I may have to see if she would accept them. Reuse, bottle caps, and kid friendly items--this makes me smile.

Loran's other items include toys and art made from caps, tins (like old Altoid tins), and cans. Very creative!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sale Ends Never

All items 100% off, sale ends never--one can imagine the radio and t.v. commercials that might be used to promote the Brooklyn Free Store, an interesting concept and location where items can be taken for free or dropped off for someone else to use. Read Colin Moynihan's article in the 8/15/10 edition of the New York Times for the full story.

I love this idea. It reminds me a bit of what we do in smaller cities and towns when we put something out on the curb with a sign that says "FREE" and hope someone who needs the item snags it before the trash haulers come. It also is reminiscent of online swapping services like Freecycle, but there is something about having a physical place to go and browse that I think is valuable. Sometimes you don't know what you need or want until you see it, or maybe your desire isn't major enough for you to search for it online, but if it was in front of you and free, you could take it and consider yourself lucky. Plus, it may be that seeing this sort of give and take community spirit in person is what is necessary to inspire folks to set their unwanted items free, as indicated by the person in the NYT article who left a reusable tote bag at the Free Store in order to feel he was involved.

At any rate, I wish every town had a store like this one.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fine Art Fridges Make Reuse Art Cool

ComEd is sponsoring a display of reuse art involving old refrigerators along the Magnificent Mile in Chicago through September 15, 2010, as a way of promoting their refrigerator recycling program.

Check out the coverage of this display and the ComEd program in Waste & Recycling News and on WGN.

The "VooDoo Hot Rod" shown in the WGN video clip is my personal favorite.