16 February 2011

I'm Down With Upcycling

I ride the buses and subway in Los Angeles. I could work while I'm riding, and sometimes I do, but I don't always feel like it. I also can and do read literary periodicals and science fiction novels. But sometimes I just want to look at pictures, so the other day I picked this up at a newsstand.

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This is a pretty magazine (for the price it should be!) and it is printed on recycled paper, which is a Good Thing. But actual ideas, practical suggestions, are a little thin. Repurposing tablecloths, for example. Tablecloths are already purposed, aren't they? And if a tablecloth is no longer suitable to clothe a table, say because it is stained, I'm hardly likely to want to wear it as an apron or dress my baby in it. Speaking of aprons, doesn't the idea of making an apron out of last year's tea towel calendar just suggest that the whole tea towel calendar idea should be rethought? And no amount of artful photography is going to convince me that cut-up tyvek or a brown plastic grocery bag makes a good necklace or brooch.

Much of the stuff pictured is, in fact, quite lovely, but the text offers little guidance on how to reproduce the loveliness. To repurpose a small box, for example, we are instructed: "with a glue stick or glue gun, adhere bits and pieces of papers, including magazine pictures, catalog pictures, scrapbook paper, etc." to it, then "Add ribbon, buttons, fabric, and other embellishments." And then? Trash hot-glued together is still trash. Maybe if I use pages from this magazine . . .

Actually, I do have a one repurposed item I've cherished for many years. Here it is:

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It is a law school textbook for a class I taught, left behind by a student who dropped out to go to art school. (I added the sun glasses.) I keep it by my desk to remind me what the Socratic Method can do to the unprotected brain.


  1. "Trash hot-glued together is still trash." - I love it! And that textbook is hilarious. I do have to admit to sewing a few bags out of an old tablecloth though :-)

  2. I have never understood the desire to make things out of pillowcases. If they're not good enough to put your face on...?

  3. Good point! I am a fan of sustainable living, fashion... yet this trash re-purposing is something different, and it's all over the place, in books, magazines, blogs. Strange enough, there are people who really do it.

  4. What an amazing thing to do with a book I love it.