Even though I advocate minimizing the amount of material you own and buy, I understand that sometimes you need to buy someone a present or just feel like getting yourself a little treat. My personal form of shopping greed is generally in the area of jewelry, which I have a vast collection of, and which is almost entirely vintage (and thus, pretty environmentally friendly.) However, the magical world of Etsy offers many adorable and crafty items from reused materials, which are also a good choice for the environmentally-minded consumer.
I picked a few sellers to interview about their philosophy and process. I chose them based on the materials they use (both use plastic, which is not truly recyclable and suffers from a host of other problems, and is thus a great material to repurpose) and because I think they both make really nice-looking stuff. Below is the interview with Kim Baldwin of Life Accessories who makes jewelry and Sally Stokes of sararacha who makes jewelry and very cute baskets made out of recycled plastic bags.
1. What’s your main motivation for using recycled materials?
(KB) I enjoy seeing something different in an object then what it was originally created for and then giving it new life. I love art that you might not see the recycled pieces in at first glance, you just see the art, but upon further inspection you can see the upcycled gems that really make the piece special.
2. What is your process for coming up with a new item? Do you get
inspired by the material and work from there, or do you have an item
in mind and then find the appropriate materials?
(SS) I get inspired by the materials. I am always saying there has to be something useful I could make out of this.
(KB) I sometimes will have a new object in front of me for months and sketch all of the things I can imagine using the item. With my book dioramas I use old vintage puzzle pieces, and I will make up to thirty sketches before I decide on a design. I use my glass tabletop as a whiteboard to sketch the exact size of the pieces and get them into the right placement. Next, I make or find objects needed for the design and put it all together. This all takes time and love for the design!
3. Do you consider the environmental impact of the support materials you might use on the product (varnish, etc.) or the process (burning plastic?)
(SS) Yes, I do. My recycled baskets are made 100% out of recycled plastic bags. All I do is cut them into strips and weave. When I first started making recycled plastic baskets I had to try several methods including using scotch tape and hot glue before I was able to work out how to use only plastic bags. I am always trying new (to me) weaving methods which require other materials like wire.
(KB) With my bracelets I am a little worried about the resin I use. I looked into “eco-friendly” options but many of those products were less efficient. With my paper creations I try to use white glue as much as possible.
4. Where do you obtain the raw materials for your items?
(SS) I have been saving plastic bags for about five years now. I have one large bin full. Being an old environmentalist, I have always used reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping. Once in a while, though, I will end up at a store without my bags and will end up bringing home a few single-use bags. I also have several friends who save me their single-use bags. I know someday single-use plastic bags will be a thing of the past.
(KB) Most of the things that I like to work with were discarded (used gift cards from friends or businesses, old wood, cardboard) and others are found at garage sales, thrift stores and sometimes others trash. ☺
5. Do you feel that working with recycled materials changes the way you think about waste in general?
(SS) It does. I have always been an environmentalist and grew up recycling, reusing and thinking about the impact I have on the earth. It also changes the way my friends think of waste. They are always asking me if I could use something they are tossing out. I am not a hoarder but if a creative idea comes to me the instant they ask I will accept the challenge.
(KB) Yes. I am always thinking about our world and the impact of the waste we as consumers create. I think we need to take more responsibility for the destruction we cause and not look at the earth as if we were consumers of it, but the caretakers.
Thanks so much for participating, Sally and Kim!