Mollymoodesign: I have a passion for vintage fabrics, buttons and lace and enjoy upcycling vintage pieces to make beautiful gifts for today. I make much of the felt used in my designs myself, using merino wool tops and needle felting tools.
There’s no denying it – America has a sweet tooth. According to the National Confectioners Association, retail sales of chocolate, candy and gum amount to approximately $28 billion dollars annually. All of that sweetness, however, comes wrapped up in a problem. Because candy-wrappers are usually made up of mixed materials, they are generally not recyclable.
The hybrid of paper, plastic and metal that is responsible for keeping your treats fresh and tasty also prevents them from being conventionally recycled. As a result, millions of candy-wrappers end up in our landfills and eco-systems each and every year. Without avenues to recycle the wrappers, we can either choose to reduce waste by buying bulk candy (or candy with more recycling-friendly packaging such as paper or foil) or we can upcycle the empty wrappers into new, usable goods. Here are some Etsy sellers who are doing just that!
Tracy’s passion for upcycling candy and snack packaging came after a recent vacation to the Croatian Islands. She was so taken by the beautiful and colourful designs on some chip bags, that she packed the empty bags in her luggage and brought them back to her Seattle home. It didn’t take long before Tracy found a creative way to use her “souvenirs”. Clever quilt blocks made from the hoarded chip bags were followed by a mini-wallet, which ultimately became the inspiration for her line of accessories. “After making the Croatian chip wallet, I thought about all the chip bags, soda wrappers, candy bar wrappers & coffee bags that get tossed into the garbage,” says Tracy. And so, Squiggle Chick Designs was born.
The upcycled purse above is from Sparky Jones
Sometimes I get my greatest inspiration from other bloggers. This week was no exception – when I visited Going Home to Roost to see what Bonnie is up to these days I came across a post she had written recently on shopping ethically. I know this isn’t always the most popular topic, even amongst those of us in the handmade community, and I’m sensitive to that. At the same time it seems to me that the blogosphere is a great place for us to write about these types of things, and to learn from each other and share our thoughts openly. I hope that these virtual discussions can enlighten, encourage and challenge us. From week to week Bonnie gives us a glimpse into her world and shows us the joy that can come from living more harmoniously with the environment and exploring our creative passions.
Bonnie’s post on shopping ethically included a great checklist – questions that she asks herself before making a purchase:
– do i really need this?
– will i be able to use this for long time, then recycle it?
– how far did this have to travel to reach me?
– who made it and how were they treated?
– is it labeled honestly or with clever marketing?
Key rack above is from Half Pint Salvage
The issues surrounding these questions are actually what led me to blog in the first place, so reading them in point form on Bonnie’s site was refreshing. As my friends and family know – I love design, in any form – from a candy bar wrapper, to fashion, home décor and everything in between. But at some point I realized that my love of design and “things” was contributing to systems that reward unethical treatment of workers in foreign countries and hurting the environment.
Napkin holders above are from A Remark You Made
I can’t say that I’d give myself an A+ now as a conscious consumer, but I know over the last couple of years I have managed to reduce my consumption and now buy more goods that are made in ethical conditions. My heroes are the individuals who have really taken it to the next level, and I hope that these are areas I’ll personally continue to improve in.
iPad case from Chicken Willow
Today, inspired by this post, I’m taking my hat off to a few Etsy artists who do a wonderful job of upcycling and recycling. I hope you enjoy what I’ve found and as always I’d love to hear your thoughts on these issues!
I love the idea of pet beds – specifically dog beds, in my case, since that’s the only kind of pet I’ve had. I bought my dog a few beds over the course of his life, from the tiny basket that I brought him home in to a cozy padded fleece version that I thought he would love. He didn’t. No matter how enthusiastically I patted the bed and mimed how lovely it would be for him to sleep on it, what he liked was a mattress, and sleeping with me, or with any other human being in the house who would indulge him his ability to expand his 22-pound self enough that he took up the entire bottom of a queen-sized bed. Meanwhile, his beautiful bed sat idle, used as a repository for his toys when I decided to pick them up and organize them for the five minutes they stayed that way.
But perhaps you’re a better alpha than I am, or at least have better boundaries. Maybe you have an intolerant partner who can’t stand sharing space with an animal, or you are that intolerant party. Whatever the reason you decide to set bedtime boundaries for your pet, there are tons of sleeping options for pets of all sizes and needs, including some very cool hand-crafted choices.
Cody’s Creations – custom apparel for pets – features items like this cool “take me along tote” and travel bed. I like the camo version in particular, for the pet who’s trying to keep a low profile.
Vintage Renaissance believes in “recycling, upcycling, repurposing and reviving older styles to work for design today,” including cat beds fashioned out of vintage suitcases. If I had a cat at the moment, I’d own one of these pronto – and whether they actually sleep in it or not, it’s an excellent conversation piece.
For smaller pets who like to snuggle, Toni’s Desirables makes the Pawket Blanket in different shades of faux fur. Very sweet, very warm.
AngelCats offers hand-crocheted cat beds made with a cat’s need for a cozy space to curl up and a supposedly keen aesthetic sense.
Have a small pet like a rat or a small rabbit? Tree of Life has just the indoor hammock for them, made from two layers of alpine fleece.
As a child of the 80s, my formative years were spent watching John Hughes movies, crimping my hair and hanging out at the record store. I had an unquenchable thirst for new music and, even with my tiny allowance, I managed to collect a couple hundred albums. Although I’m still hanging-on to a few favourites, I have since replaced most of my collection with compact discs and MP3s. And, judging by the overflowing bins of vintage records at the thrift-store, I’m not the only one. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (pun intended), when I think of the thousands and thousands of records languishing in such bargain bins, I can’t help but wonder how many thousands more went straight into the garbage.
Sharing my concern are Lorie and Tom of Rock and Roll Coasters. In their four years selling albums online, they’ve literally had to throw away hundreds of scratched and unplayable copies. Frustrated by all of the waste, they came up with a clever reuse for otherwise unusable 45s.
Each Rock and Roll Coaster is not just a nostalgic spot to rest your drink; it is a little piece of music history. Tom and Lorie take the actual record (not a copy) and, using their own perfected technique, embed it in 1/4″ of High Gloss Acrylic. They’ve even included the little yellow spindle adaptor for even more retro-cuteness. Love it!
One of the records that I have carefully tucked-away in the back of my storage room is The Go Go’s 1982 release, Vacation. I must have logged about a thousand hours in front of my dresser mirror, hairbrush in hand, singing along to “Our Lips are Sealed”. It’s no surprise, then, that I was instantly drawn to this purse by Brinda K Design. Making use of the album cover, inner sleeve and the record itself, these upcycled handbags are as durable as they are eye-catching. Hardboard backings, vinyl fabric and tubing, rivets, varnish and coordinating ribbons are all part of the construction of each unique piece, and evidence of Brinda’s impeccable attention to detail.
Another spin on album upcycling is this awesome tray, also by Brinda K Design. Made from an unplayable album and its cover, with leather-like riveted tabs at the corners, this catch all will make itself useful in the bedroom, hall or office. At just over 7” square, it is the perfect size to hold keys, personal electronics, stationary, jewelry, change, mail and more.
Finally, do you have an earring collection worthy of Cyndi Lauper herself? Here’s the perfect storage solution for “green” girls (that just wanna have fun):
Karen, of Retired Records creates her way-cool earring stands (above) from unwanted records and makes sure to include plenty of spots to attach your treasures. Each one-of-a-kind table-top display will hold up to 52 pairs of earrings or can be used to show off photos, artwork and more. Turn it around and you’ll see the support that Karen has smartly fashioned out of the album’s sleeve. Conveniently hinged, it holds the record upright when in use and allows it to fold flat for storage or travel. (Just in case you decide to get the band back together and head back out on tour.)