Some years ago Bryan Parks was living in China. During lunch with a friend he started pondering about how many disposable chopsticks must get thrown out every year. That is when the seed got planted in his head.
Once he returned to Oregon, he made arrangements with nearby Asian restaurants to gather their used disposable chopsticks. He then sanitizes them, paints or stains them, and finally, handcrafts them into functional products.
Bryan says, “I saw a resource that there was plenty of and was only being used once. Why would you not want to try to re-use a perfectly good material!? ” Check out the folding baskets and more out of recycled bamboo chopsticks.
Not all creative efforts become art. Not all reclaimed items are for visual enjoyment. Some, like the cast iron cookware Julie Wilson is offering, are for use….and a LOT of cooking creativity and enjoyment.
Cast iron has long been a treasured cookware, typically used over time in more rustic environments like cattle drive chuck wagons and at grandma’s house out in the country. But modern cooks everywhere are rediscovering the benefits of cooking in cast iron. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to care for the cast iron and it can rust and become unusable for cooking.
That’s where Julie Wilson and The Department of Work steps in, complete with elbow grease. She refurnishes the cookware she finds at yard sales and thrift stores by scrubbing off the rust and reseasoning the pans so they are ready to go, good as new.
This is another kind of zero waste; one that restores old items to make them usable again. Julie says, “We rescue unloved cast iron cookware. We clean it and reseason it so it can get back to work. 100% sustainable, healthy, and affordable.” And better than that, Julie adds, “Cooking is a creative act of love which makes the kitchen the heart of the home. When food is prepared in cookware, especially cast iron with a history, magic is at work.”
“I grew up recycling before there was even a name for it; it’s just what you did. I learned from my mother and grandparents. I learned to sew by watching my mother which lead to a career as a professional costume technician: From a two dimensional sketch I made three dimensional items of clothing for performers to wear. I specialized in the non-garment items, the fun stuff like armor, jewelry, hats and shoes. So I used my hands and was often given materials of unknown origins to make the desired object. This life took me to Ashland for 12 seasons, 7 years in Seattle at the various performance venues, and almost 3 years in Las Vegas working for Cirque du Soleil.
I returned to my beloved Oregon and in so doing, knew I was retiring from costuming. There are only so many jobs and I was ready for a “big shift”. The shift came when, after vending vintage decor at flea markets, my beloved and I went camping and he realized he needed the activity of slow cooking to keep him busy – I was good with sitting in the sun with a good book. His research into the use and (consequent restoration) of cast iron cookware created an overstock of items that we needed for that next camping trip. So it got sold at the next flea market, and the next one, and the next one…….. His cast iron became the main attraction and I realized that I had just walked through a major door of opportunity.
I am now fully committed to rescuing unloved cast iron. I love that I am offering an affordable, healthy, and sustainable product. I love bringing these pieces back to life and find such joy when a customer finds just the right piece, whether it is adding to their collection or is their very first piece. I have created a vocation where I continue to use my hands, interact with folks who are passionate about cooking, and am always learning about these amazing products from so many different peoples and cultures. I am living the life of a crafts person and hear from customers, “Thank you for doing this!”, when they see the huge variety of rescued cookware. It’s a good life!”
Julie Wilson and The Department of Work is located at Table #26.
About a year ago a friend and I were talking about stuff we couldn’t do anything about, and “wasn’t it a shame”. She mentioned that she had become involved with an organization called Zero Waste. I had applauded their efforts at events like Turkey Rama and the UFO Festival but knew little about them. In fact, I had always assumed they were part of Recology, like many people in town. I never gave it more than an idle observational ‘Hmmm…’ I soon learned this was an independent group of people who just want to do the right thing as my friend explained the group was separate from Recology and suggested I stop at the booth at the Thursday Downtown Farmers’ Market and offer a couple of volunteer hours.
I’ve been recycling, repurposing, and stretching resources for decades (since way back when it was only us fringe nuts that did). But it was always just something I did because doing the next right thing made me feel good. And this seemed like the next right thing.
But commitment is scary, and I’m not a joiner.
So I put my cynical hopelessness about making a difference and my social anxiety in the back pocket of my jeans and went to check it out.
Volunteering for the market and for special events was easy. It was only a few hours. I determined my schedule. I was enthusiastically taught the parts I didn’t already know and then I had the opportunity to talk about refuse resource recovery and saving the planet one milk jug at a time, and it left me feeling good.
Source: Thrive Global
It was a personal accomplishment to be able to help individuals sort through the frustrations of the ever-changing landscape of recycling and occasionally see an idea light up their eyes as they figured out how to solve some system challenge in their own home, or discovered that there really is a way to recycle that pesky thing that you hate yourself for using but just can’t do without. Sometimes it was just an opportunity to share feelings of helplessness and fear about this world which has been so kind to us.
I have risen to a whole new level of conversational competence about things I, as an individual, can do nothing about. I realize some would say I have become a certified fringe nut but I recognize when in a group of like-minded people, it is normalized.
I have come to deeply appreciate the difference a group of dedicated people (not just fringe nuts) can make when they focus on a common goal.
These small accomplishments spurred me to seek out further opportunities to make a contribution. The first actual Zero Waste meeting I attended at the Carnegie Room at the city library was intimidating. Nobody went particularly out of the way to put me at ease. I was, in fact, a little put off by their failure to recognize my genius, and ask how they could best help me to showcase my superior talents. In other words, they treated me as if I were a person among other persons with a sense of shared purpose and I told myself to get over it. Join in. Add to the effort.
The Green Schools Committee wanted participants. That seemed like a good fit for me. I have always tried to involve whatever children are around in the specifics of living a lifestyle which leaves a lighter footprint. So I just said, ‘I will do that.’ What needed to be done revealed itself organically as we went along in the group. At this point we are actively assisting several local schools in developing sustainable systems in their schools with the help of student Green Teams. And there will be more to come. By empowering the upcoming generation it is our hope they will be better prepared to live realistic synchrony with the environment.
It took a while, and some personal growth on my part, but eventually I came to understand that I do have some skills which can help me be useful in a community of other individuals with particular skills of their own, and that in pooling those unique capabilities we become much more than the sum of us as parts of a whole. O. Synergy.
I seem to have become a joiner, after all, and it is helping me to be a more productive member of the human race. Will I change the world? Meh. Can I/we make a difference? Most certainly.
In any case, doingthe next right thing, becauseit’s the next right thing, always makes me feel good.
John’s initial introduction to woodworking was watching his father-in-law working on his ShopSmith woodworking system. And when he let John try a few things, the die was cast. No issue, when his father-in-law passed, it was decided that John should get the system.
However, it sat for approximately 25 years as John was working and didn’t have time to devote to it. Upon retirement he decided to give it a try. “Soon I was churning out boxes and bowls to the point my wife asked if I could find a way to “get rid” of some of them which led me to the Saturday Market/ Bazaar world.”
Not being wealthy, John looked for materials everywhere. “My initial source was my firewood pile then when I noticed neighbors tossing trimmings into the trash, I grabbed those hoping I could transform them into something useful. Recently a neighbor was replacing a wooden fence that had fallen and was going to toss the old boards. I offered to swap him new boardsfor the old ones giving me a wealth of 20+year-old weathered planks to use. They now have a second life as treasure chest boxes or wine caddies.”
John Houston and Papa Sam’s Workshop is located at Table #36. John is one of the organizers of the festival.
Back in 2007, having just gone through a divorce, Jenni was looking at ways to redefine herself. While cleaning out stuff, she ran across a box of old flatware she had collected with intentions to ‘teach’ herself to make bracelets and rings…at that moment, her passion for creating artful things out of what others might discard was born. Jennii is a self-taught artist, whose art has morphed and grown out of a lot of trial and error and whose craft has changed by the cool ‘junk’ she has salvaged. What others see as trash; Jennii sees necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more.
In college, Jennii had one more elective to take to graduate; Astrology or Environmental Conservation were my choices. Guess which one fit best into my schedule? Correct! Environment Conservation! Jennii is excited to share, “Fate stepped in to make the best choice ever! I’ve always loved natural and all things outside but through this class I learned how fragile our environment is and how without good stewardship we will destroy this amazing gift. Working with reclaimed and repurposed materials is just cool but more importantly, it has allowed me an avenue to talk about the importance of reducing waste, conserving resources and just being good caretakers this place we live.”
Jennii handcrafts one-of-a-kind jewelry from old wire, hardware, leather and metal scraps. To attach my pieces, she likes to use rusted screws that she might find along roadsides or by rummaging through salvage hotspots. My latest rescue is a bucket of spent bullet shells which I etch & turn into necklaces; adding wish messages or dried flowers making something delicate and decorative.
Jennii Childs and reUNIQUE designs by jennii is at Table #6.
Marj Engle began making paper mosaic art in 2009, developing her technique through trial and error. She wanted to replicate the look of tile mosaic, but in a less messy form using paper.
However, in 2014, she got a new idea and her jewelry line, started in 2014, is the an off-shoot of her paper mosaic art. Marj liked the creative challenge, and it was fun playing with and refining the idea to be what it is today.
“My biggest challenge when developing my paper mosaic jewelry line was what material to use as a platform for the paper. After trying various materials that I had found at SCRAP in Portland, I stumbled on vinyl flooring samples and scraps, which is the material that I ultimately settled on.”
Marj is a long time user of cast off items. “I didn’t initially start with the idea of using only recycled materials in my jewelry making. I have long been a recycler and re-user in other areas of my life, and have frequented thrift stores all of my adult life, so a place like SCRAP was where I naturally gravitated to. Finding the vinyl, and realizing as I searched for paper sources that the more interesting paper (to me) was to be found in old magazines and books, I decided that I really liked the idea of making something completely unique and beautiful from sources that many folks would simply overlook or consider garbage. Re-use makes sense to me – it feels like the natural and responsible choice in caring for our environment.”
You can find Marj Engle and Marj Engle Designs at Table 2.
Brunhilda’s mother Beatrice always wanted to be an opera singer. She spent her days singing loudly, although those around here often left the area to avoid the sound. When her daughter was born, she named her Brunhilda in the hopes that she would find success in opera. Brunhilda spent her childhood going to lessons with a variety of voice instructors. Some called her brilliant, but those who were more honest advised her mother not to waste any more time and money on these sorts of lessons. Finally, in her late teens Brunhilda and her mother came to the agreement that voice lessons were finished. This left Bruni (as she was now called) to spend time with her beloved pet shrews. Bruni grew up to start a very successful business breeding pet shrews. To her mother’s delight, Bruni’s careful breeding resulted in a trio of meercats that were known worldwide for their beautiful music.
Stella is named after the stars in the night sky. Her parents are dreamers and spent hours gazing upwards and dreaming of her future. Stella, thankfully, was born a very practical gnome. Though she loved her parents very much, she soon knew that she would need to provide income and stability for her family. At an early age, Stella identified a beautiful spot under a large tree that was at a crossroads frequented by traveling gnomes from around the world. She started with a small food cart to provide hearty sustenance and soon built a thriving restaurant at which no traveling gnome would miss noshing. Her parents act as the perfect hosts, providing a magical atmosphere where stories are shared by all. Stella, runs the kitchen and business with a firm and cheerful hand enjoying meeting all who travel through.
Kellen is an Irish gnome born in a small town near Dublin. Kellen always had the urge to wander and frequently got lost as a child. He had a special fondness for birds and often followed one that caught his eye. One day, his roaming took him on a ship across the English Channel. Far from home and rather enjoying his adventures Kellen decided to continue on. He frequently sent notes via bird back to his family to let them know of his travels. For the next five years, Kellen had many adventures and met many interesting gnomes and animals. One day he stopped in at the Gnome Nosh, a restaurant that many had told him about. He was hungry and excited to try out the hearty fare about which he had heard so much. Kellen was immediately charmed by the beautiful setting and magical atmosphere as he was welcomed by an older gnome couple when he walked in the door. As he turned to hang up his cloak, he was stunned by the rosy cheeked beauty who came out from the kitchen. Kellen instantly knew that his traveling days were over as he fell in love with Stella, the keeper of the pub. The two married and now happily run the Gnome Nosh together.
As you can tell, Joan Steiner loves using found objects to create collages. She keeps her eyes open and collects random items and incorporates them into her work. Small boxes become a canvas that is filled with unwanted or broken toys and jewelry, old photos, greeting cards and any other small items with an interesting shape. These come together to tell a story. In addition to the collages Joan reuse old furniture, wooden utensils and ceramic tiles, upcycling them with resin, ink and paint to make them unique and useful again.
In 2003 Will Eikleberry enrolled in the Summit School of Guitar Building in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia with the intention to learn to build acoustic guitars. In his free time between classes he built a ukulele out of scrap wood from other students’ projects that was otherwise destined for the burn pile. And so it began……
Upon graduation he was hired by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, where he worked for two years before starting his own business. “At one point a friend asked me if I could build an instrument using an old cigar box. Through trial and error I built one, and then another, and over ten years later have sent more than 250 of them out into the world.” And so it continued…….
There are several reasons Will works with reclaimed materials. Economy is the most obvious. The less he spends on materials, the less he has to charge for his work, and he enjoy putting affordable art into people’s hands.
He also enjoy the story that reclaimed materials tell. Every piece of wood has a unique history that gives the finished product its own personality.
And finally, as a woodworker Will is often shocked at how much perfectly good material gets discarded because some people can’t find a use for it. He takes pride in being able to make something both useful and beautiful out of something that would otherwise never be seen again.
Will Eikleberry and Sawdust Fabrication is at Table #30.
About 15 years ago, when needing a planter box, Michelle Griffin thought “why not?” and decided to learn how to use woodworking tools and build it herself. Using scrap wood, she realized she could save money and still create something beautiful. From there her love for the rusty, old, chippy, worn and curious grew.
Imagine entering her artist’s workroom and finding buckets of old doorknobs, boxes of window hardware, sheets of tin and sheds full of old, aged beautiful cedar. What a collection! Michelle finds they “talk” to her, and the stories they tell help her create a new life for them.
She says, “My love for all things old and discarded are lovingly blended to create new uses for items once thought to be trash.” When others see old buckets of paint, cast off window parts and chippy doorknobs, Michelle’s artistic skills are brushed off and give new life in creating delightful silhouettes and quirky birdhouses. The curvy colorful and functional birdhouses and 2D silhouette artwork are all crafted using recycled materials and found objects.
Check out Michelle Griffin and One Little Blackbird at Table #33.
Although Valeri has been selling her art for over 35 years, her turn to reclaimed materials started only a few years ago. She had been unemployed for a while and her desire to make art had not diminished but her budget for supplies had. Most of us can recognize that frustration, By changing her point of view, suddenly TP rolls, junk jewelry, cereal boxes and things most people throw in the garbage become objects of interest.
Learning how to work with all these pieces of “trash” became part of the challenge to get people to change from rolling their eyes to a stunned “One person’s junk IS another person’s treasure” recognition of a truth.
Valeri’s designs are quirky, sophisticated and whimsical. Each of her pieces are made of many things, repurposed items, scraps of old metal, broken jewelry and so much more. “Bringing back to life the old, worn out and discarded, is what makes it all worth while.”
Valeri Darling and Darling Art By Valeri will be at Tables #9 & 10.