Author Archives: Jenn Flynn-Shon

About Jenn Flynn-Shon

Jenn Flynn-Shon is a freelance writer and Author of two fiction books. She's been published on several Green blogs, on Yahoo! Voices, and she runs four blogs. When she's not watching an NHL game, the DIY Network, or tackling her own home improvement projects, Jenn loves to travel around the southwest United States. View her website at http://copywritethat.com

Artist Spotlight: Louise Cady-Fernandes of The Hole Thing

For the past couple weeks I have been publishing environmental news and reviews on a new blog called Green Leaf Reviewer. Louise Cady-Fernandes of The Hole Thing in Lexington, Massachusetts was pleased to share some information with me and I felt that now with both blogs it would be fantastic to give her double the exposure so this interview will be posted on both blogs today.


Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

I create a line of whimsical felted wool sweaters, housewares, and accessories, that are made from recycled sweaters. Many of my sweaters have die-cut holes in them which create windows for whatever is worn underneath. The circles that come out of all the holes are recycled again onto other products.

How long have you been creating felted items such as clothes, housewares and accessories?

I came up with the design concept in November of 2005 while I was at Susan Bristol Inc. I worked there in knitwear design for 16 years. I made a felted “hole” sweater for myself never intending for it to turn into a business, but the idea quickly caught on. THE HOLE THING hit the market in September of 2006.

What is the creative process behind your work? How does an idea take shape?

THE HOLE THING grew out of my love for both polka dots and felted wool. For years creating a sweater with holes had been on my list of things to make for myself. I didn’t want to knit it though as that seemed too monotonous. Then one day, while I was making a blanket out of old sweaters that I had felted and cut into squares, it came to me to make my hole sweater out of an old felted sweater. The creative process for my line is continually evolving and expanding which I love. Now I have 18 products that include among other things, scarves & hats, candle holders & vases, note cards, and a felted jewelry line that incorporates the leftover holes that are punched out of all the sweaters.


Where do you acquire the wool used in your designs?

I shop at thrift stores, but I also get lots of hand me downs from friends and family. My 86 year Mom also gathers old sweaters for me occasionally. I usually buy between 30-50 sweaters at once.

Why recycled/upcycled wool?

Why not? There is so much of it out there. Anytime we can use what is already available a new product doesn’t need to be produced. This is terrific because virgin resources aren’t being used for production. New products take precious energy to create, and often have hazardous environmental waste such as dyes and other pollutants. New products also consume lots of energy because they need to be packaged and shipped long distances.


How do you feel that using upcycled, and natural, wool helps the environment?

see above.

When did you first become interested in living and working in a green way by repurposing?

Both of my parents grew up in the depression and living a more minimalist life kind of seeped into me like osmosis! My dad was forever running around turning off lights, my mom cleaned out jars of mayonnaise etc with a spatula to “get every little bit”. For me being green isn’t a sacrifice or a challenge, it is something that brings me pleasure. I am forever thinking about how I can do things more thoughtfully. The beauty of THE HOLE THING initially for me was as much about the design as it was about having a business that upcycled.

Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?

I would have to say that my greenest practice is being conscious about what I do- I am always wondering how I can do something in a more environmentally mindful way. For me it’s just about paying closer attention.


What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Gosh there are so many! How about this- try getting organized enough so that you only have to grocery shop once a week. I know this sounds horrendous but it honestly only takes a few minutes of planning each week. Shopping once a week not only saves on repeat, gas guzzling trips to the grocery shore, but it also saves on trips to get take-out food and all the wasteful packaging it creates. My website has lots of other great green tips.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

All the different hats that need to be worn. My favorite thing is to design. Luckily though, I think I am about equally right, and left, brained so at least the book keeping and other logistical tasks are a little more satisying for me than for most artists. For instance I like to balance my checkbook and I know that this is a rare thing for most everyone.

Do you remember the feeling of your first sale? Has that feeling changed now that you have sold many more items?

I do remember the excitement of my first sale. I think I like doing craft shows because although the excitement has diminished, the feeling gets created over and over again. I love to see the happiness that my whimsical designs provide people. It makes me happy.

What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?
Figure out how much you want to make per hour for your work. Then keep track of how much time it takes to create what you make and how much your supplies cost etc. This has been very helpful to me because I know immediately which of my products are cost effective and which aren’t. My other advice in business is to plan on making mistakes. They will teach you and will act as arrows pointing you in which direction to go in next.


Do you have online presences where readers can learn more about you?

Yes — The Hole Thing
(Editor’s Note: Louise also has an Online Shop on Etsy)

Is your work featured in a boutique or other brick & mortar location?

I am in nine stores. The newest one is a wonderful new store called Bead and Fiber in Boston’s south end on Harrison Avenue.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: Sharon Kutz of Studio Musings

I was pointed in the direction of Sharon Kutz’s Santa Maria, CA based shop by a former interviewee, Judi FitzPatrick and when I viewed the items in Studio Musings, I knew Sharon had to be featured! As an Artist Sharon works with varied mediums such as glass and interesting thrift store finds to create out of this world mosaics and funky windchimes. Her items utilize principals of recycling, repurposing and upcycling to create one of a kind pieces that will stun your senses! Sharon truly embodies what it means to make a difference and was thrilled to share her thoughts with us.


Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

I take a found item that is unwanted and distressed, clean it up, and make it into something that’s wonderful, appealing to the senses, and is just plain fun!

How long have you been creating mosaic art?

I have been doing mosaics for about 5 years.

What is the creative process behind your work? How does an idea take shape?

Unless it is a commissioned piece, it sort of evolves. Sometimes I will find a tray that looks interesting and I can see it finished with the mosaic already on it. Other times, I just play with the stained glass colors and all of a sudden it hits me. Then I get to work. Even as I work, other ideas come, and I may go down that trail of thought, finishing with something completely different than what I started with- and loving it!

Where do you acquire the glass and gems that go into your mosaics?
There is a stained glass studio in town that sells its left over scrap glass. I get most of my stuff there. The glass gems are bought at garage sales or friends give them to me. Once in awhile, if I need a certain color, I will buy at a craft store.
What made you decide to use recycled type pieces to create your art?
I have been a thrift store shopper for a long time, and I would find these awesome pieces that were damaged or neglected, and I started thinking- I could do something with that! – help it, make it useful again. Better than new.
How long have you been creating windchimes from teapots and other surprising household objects?
I began with wind chimes about 8 years ago. I made a gift for someone out of an old copper teapot, put a plant in it, and attached some old silver plated utensils and I was hooked. It sounded so nice and the person loved it. I got my husband to buy me a power drill and I took off. I can’t help looking at things as “potential” and have even been scolded at some craft shows for using a particular pattern of silverware in my piece. “Don’t you know how much this spoon is worth?” When I tell them it was destined for the dump and I cleaned it up and repurposed it to be used as a chime, they usually change their tune.


What was your inspiration in creating those pieces?
My inspiration comes from a lot of places. First, I love old, antique things. I see something as beautiful, when others say its ugly, or too damaged, and want to throw it away. Secondly, I want to make something of quality- that will last. It has to elicit some emotion, or its just not right. Many of my repeat customers say, “it just makes me smile” when looking at my wind chimes. That’s what I want.
When did you first become interested in living and working in a green way by repurposing?
I think it started when I had to close out my mom’s house, and sell it, I realized that she was always “green”. She never threw anything away and had items from my grandmother. She lived simply and was happy with what she had. I learned a lot from that and have been trying to repurpose ever since.
Aside from repurposing materials, are there other ways do you work in an eco friendly manner (sealants, energy conservation, working from home, etc)?
I have a room in my home that we made into a studio. I sit by a big window and most of the day, I can use the sunlight for my projects. The glue I use on my mosaic pieces is a non-toxic product. The grout sealer is water soluble but I haven’t found a true ‘green’ sealer yet.


Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?
We have an acre and a half of land, and we are in the process of planting drought friendly plants (deer friendly too) and using gorilla fur to cover large unplanted areas. We have a vegetable garden and an apple orchard and all of our produce is completely organic. On the trees, we hung old milk cartons with molasses and vinegar to dissuade the apple moth. It works pretty well and is all natural.
What green practice do you recommend readers try?
Most of your readers probably can tell me more than I can tell them. I’m still learning new things. I am so encouraged though, by the younger generation, and their willingness to get on board with all the recycling-going green. My youth was spent in the 50′s and 60′s and we weren’t so concerned with preservation. There is hope!
As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge as an independent artist is probably- selling my art. Having people “get it” when they look at my pieces. Realizing how much time is in each piece.
What has been your greatest success to date?
My greatest success to date was my first sale on Etsy! It was so encouraging.
What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?
My advice to a fellow artisan would be to never give up. Believe in yourself and keep on going, keep on creating.


Do you have an online presence where your work can be viewed?
My online presence is at Studio Musings. Eventually, I will have a website at studiomusings.com but it is not quite ready. I bought the domain name, and my husband’s still working on it.
Is your work featured in a gallery or other brick & mortar location?

I will be doing some craft festivals this year. Autumn Arts is held in Santa Maria on Oct.4th. I will be showing with the Los Padres Artist Guild. Also, there is a big Country Christmas Crafts Fair and Boutique on Nov.28&29th at the Veteran’s Memorial Bldg. in San Luis Obispo, where I will have my own booth.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: Beth Hinson of Junkyard Gypsy

What is assemblage art? That is a question I was most intrigued for Beth Hinson of Junkyard Gypsy in Albemarle, NC to clarify through her interview. She is an avid collector of all things, breaks them down and reassembles them into interesting pieces of artwork. Some are funky, some are creepy, some are cute but all of her work operates from one simple principal: items that others deem trash are really a gold mine of treasure to her! Read on to see how she is committed to a better planet and how her art contributes to that mission everyday.


Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?

Well, I recycle old, assorted bits and pieces to create assemblages that resemble people or animals.

What was the motivation behind the creation of your assemblage art?

I had boxes and boxes of “stuff” that I couldn’t bear to throw away, as each piece seemed to have a history or story behind it. Most of what I use has dings, rust, holes, whatever, and to most people that would make it useless, something to throw in the trash. But every time I would start to load a box in the truck to take to the dumpster, I would spy something that seemed to be a treasure. As time went by, and more and more stuff accumulated, pieces started to acquire a life of their own – especially when a clock would chime unexpectedly, or the sun would hit a piece of silverware.

Where do you acquire the pieces that go into each design?

Oh, almost anywhere, but the dumpster is my favorite place – I get a thrill out of rescuing something that’s about to go to the landfill. I’ve made friends with the workers at the local dumpsters, and they often save things for me they think I might like. Now that I’ve started making the assemblages and selling them, friends will sometimes drop by with their “trash” to see if I want any of it. I’m also usually part of the “clean-up crew” at estate auctions, buying things at the end of the day that no one else wanted.

Why is it important to you to use salvaged pieces in your designs?

It’s really the whole premise of my art – rescuing lost treasures. Sure something might have a ding or a bad patch – but don’t we all? It’s just my little way of trying to fight back against our disposable society.

What is the creative process behind your art? How does an idea take shape?

My creative process involves a lot of staring – I’ll line up pieces I’ve accumulated and just sit and stare at them a while. Eventually this cracked croquet ball seems to like that vase, or this lonely doll head tells me she likes that candlestick. And sometimes pieces just fall together into a fun shape in the box.

What inspires you as an artist?

Almost everything, but especially nature. I always feel close to my maker when I see a beautiful sunset, or a field of wildflowers. That inspires to keep everything I can out of the local landfill.

How long have you been selling your art?

I’ve been selling about a year – making and giving gifts long before that.

Do you remember the feeling of your first sale? How has that feeling changed after selling for so long?

Gosh, yes, I was soooo excited – I could hardly believe that anyone would actually buy one of my little creatures. It’s still a thrill, each and every time, and I love to hear back from folks who have given one of my creatures a home.


What does the Green Movement mean to you?

Just simply for each person or each family to do whatever they can do to minimize the danger to their surroundings. We don’t go all the way with solar panels and electric cars – there is a lot of expense associated with some aspects of going green. But there’s also any number of things anyone can do that are cost-free and that hold significant benefit over time.

When did you first become interested in living and working green?

I grew up as a child of the 70′s energy crisis, so I’ve always had some awareness of the issue – my dad would cover the windows with plastic during the winter, and during the worst of the energy crisis we had no lights on our Christmas tree LOL. But it’s only been for about the last five years that my family has really made a concerted effort to be more careful about our impact on the planet.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

Really, it’s when I think about the generations of my family that will hopefully come after me – my children and their children. I want a healthy place for them to live. I was also fortunate enough to visit Alaska recently – being on a glacier is about the closest you can come to heaven. The fear of losing such a breathtaking, inspirational part of our planet is certainly motivation.

Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?

There are lots of little things we do every day. Just cutting off lights, cutting the oven off before baking time is over, turning down the thermostat, line-drying clothes, driving 55 or below, using curly-q light bulbs, cleaning the air filter, using re-usable shopping bags, re-using aluminum foil and zipper bags, growing and canning our own garden vegetables, raising our own eggs – all simple things, but every little bit helps.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Having a compost pile! It’s a great way to dispose of food scraps and garden/lawn/leaf trimmings, and you’ll have the prettiest flowers on the block :-)

Is there an eco-friendly product you use in your home that you would recommend?

We really like the curly energy-saving light bulbs, and we love the water filter on our tap water – we never use plastic water bottles anymore.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Just getting my product seen – I know next to nothing about marketing. And it’s still surprising to me that there’s a market for what I do – I just thought it was a fun way to recycle “junk”.

What has been your greatest success to date?

The reception I’ve gotten on the Etsy website has really made me feel like an actual artist – it’s been great learning from the other artists there, and applying what I’ve learned to my craft.

What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?

Just go for it – don’t let anyone poo-poo your ideas. If you like it and get satisfaction from it, that’s the most important thing.


Do you have an online presence where your work can be viewed?

Junkyard Gypsy
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Environmentally Conscious Movie Spotlight: Bio-Dome


Released in 1996, Bio-Dome attempted to bring an eco-conscious attitude to the forefront of the burned out minds of teenage boys everywhere through use of crass humor and wild fantasy (such as the fact that not one but two attractive and intelligent women could actually be interested in the lead characters Bud and Doyle). If there was not an environmental back plot this flick would be classified, like many other movies starring Pauly Shore or Stephen Baldwin, as a “stoner” movie but because there is an effort to include a fantastic moral message, the bad acting and terrible script take a back seat in this review.

The plot is simple — A couple of unattractive, lame guys with a generally cavalier attitude about the planet miraculously manage to date environmentally stringent and beautiful women then through a course of predictably moronic twists, somehow become locked inside, destroy and subsequently end up saving an entire, working eco-system.

Does this concept sound a bit far fetched? Remove the idiot character factor and that leaves us with a sealed, working eco-system. This notion is one that dates back to the early 1800’s when a British physician discovered that plants could grow under glass. It would be fair to assume that Nathaniel Ward would be proud to learn his findings were used as fodder for a comedy which is the basis for why this movie will get a positive review here.

Some concepts discussed in the movie are recycling, land clean up (litter is discussed several times) and an appreciation for Earth Day. The movie is not a motion picture epic but holds a slight bit of predictable humor while it promotes bettering the environment. That is a notion we should all support so I give this movie 2 out of five “green” leaves.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Everyday People Making a Green Impact – Spotlight on Ginger Cooke

Recently while perusing blogs I read all the time, I came across a post from one of my favorite authors, Ginger detailing how she had fought for, and won, a new recycling program in her office. Immediately I thought “hooray for fighting for planetary change Ginger!” and asked if she would be interested to share her experiences in how she achieved her goals with our Organic Mechanic readers. She was thrilled to do so!

It is important to note that Ginger does not work for an environmentally focused company; she is in accounting at a large automotive corporation in Colorado outside of the Denver area. She truly embodies what it means to make a difference on our planet and I hope others will take a queue from her actions and fight for the betterment of the Earth in their own offices, cities, towns and states. Take action – write letters, create proposals, pick up trash in the street – every little bit helps and that is something Ginger takes pride in working towards every day.

How long ago did you become interested in a more eco-friendly lifestyle?

I’d have to say that my interest really began to form about 3 years ago. I moved into a 1 bedroom apartment by myself and the owners didn’t have a recycling program. I did a little research on recycling for apartment living and realized that Denver’s not all that up and coming in the green movement quite yet. There are virtually no apartment complexes in this area that have a recycling program for their residents and that really weighed heavily on me. Recycling is supposed to be one of the easiest ways to reduce and re-use so I decided that I would begin looking into different ways I could make a difference as one person and perhaps spread the word through example. That’s when I began blogging too. I wanted to write about environmental and energy saving tips I’d found and implemented for myself.

Do you remember the first green effort you personally completed?

It seems small, but I was so proud of myself. While in that apartment I found a free recycling dumpster placed by the Shriners next to a grocery store and I would carry all of my recyclables to the dumpster every week. I started keeping a recycling bag at work and I would do the same from there. It felt really good that I had made an effort and was doing something that was good instead of turning my head because it was inconvenient at times. It just blossomed from there.

When did you first approach the powers that be in your office to discuss setting up a recycling program?

Back in February of this year we were currently recycling paper, but that was all. We give out free bottled water and there are so many plastic bottles that get thrown away and it’s pretty heartbreaking to have to tell a customer that no, there’s no recycling container, sorry.

How did you approach the topic (written proposal, mounds of research, etc)?

The company I work for is really great, they have this program set up where a representative from each department gathers ideas and suggestions from their co-workers and takes them to a committee to discuss, plan and possibly implement these new ideas. That’s when I first planted my seed. I was told that if I did the research and got all of the details worked out then we could have a recycling program at work. It was pretty simple actually; I called the waste company we use, asked a few questions and found someone to provide me with all of the details. She faxed me everything I needed from programs, plans, pricing and dumpster sizes and I was on to the next step of getting the actual approval.

What was their initial response?

The approving manager seemed a little hesitant at first because we’d have to find room for another dumpster and it would add more expenses every month. I heard from a representative of the committee I mentioned above that he was going to approve it anyway; then he moved and we got a new manager. After we presented him with all of the same information he was very enthusiastic, but didn’t want to spend the money so it stopped there…it was about May by this time.

What motivated you to continue to pursue this venture even after meeting with resistance?

I never really gave it up; I just let it sit and waited for another opportunity to present itself. Then, last month my comptroller and I both noticed that our trash service was doubling in cost every other month. One month it would be about $300 and the next, $600. We’d never noticed before because frankly, we’d never really been watching our expenses so closely until money began getting so tight (there’s my silver lining around the economy cloud). Our bill was doubling every other month because of the frequency we’d have to call and have it emptied. I started wondering that maybe we could curb that cost by recycling. It makes sense, right? Less waste = less roll-off dumpster service = less money.

Did you involve the help of others in the office to champion this effort?

Yes! I absolutely couldn’t have done this by myself. A couple of days later, a co-worker came to me and asked me where that plan went since she hadn’t heard anything in a while. I explained the situation and made a copy of the information for her so she could give it a whirl too. She went to another representative of that committee who hadn’t heard of the plan before because he had just joined. He came to me and asked me some questions so he could present it again. I told him what had been discovered about the trash service and he presented it in such a manner to show that, in the long run, we would actually be saving money because recycling is considerably cheaper than trash service.

What did it feel like when your proposal was finally approved?

It felt like a victory for the planet! I think I did the wave right there in my cubicle.

Were the other employees immediately receptive to the idea of recycling at work?

The news spread around the whole store and there were a lot of excited people that I didn’t even know were supporters.

Do you find that it is being adhered to?

Well, we’re still in the roll out stages since this just happened recently. We have to have the dumpster delivered and set up recycling containers in the store. I have a feeling it will really take off though. When I first transferred to this location last year, hardly anyone was using the boxes we have placed for paper shredding and they were just throwing all of their paper in the trash. They didn’t know that everything that got shredded in those boxes was recycled. Since that word has spread we’ve had to add more boxes because they’re always full now. I think this will be the same way.

What are some other ways you are green in your own daily life?

I take public transportation 3 to 4 times every week to lessen the demand on oil and create fewer emissions…I get a lot of reading done too. :)

I only use household cleaners, detergents, body care and cosmetics (pretty much everything) that are free of petroleum products, bleach and are 100% plant based.

I buy organic and items made from recycled materials when I can.

As my light bulbs run out, I replace them with energy saving ones and I try to unplug electronics when they’re not in use so they don’t leak energy when they’re not even on.

I make an effort to never use disposable water bottles and to use my own cup when I buy coffee or tea away from home.

I’d have to say though, that the biggest effort that I’ve completed is to transform my diet and my lifestyle and go 100% vegan. It’s not just good for people and for the animals that we eat, but raising and feeding those animals for human consumption really takes a large toll on the environment.

Are there other Earth friendly causes or programs you are attempting to institute at your job or other locations?

Next up at work: the transition from bottled water for customers to a water cooler system….one step at a time, right?

I’ve recently written a letter to Starbucks on their website encouraging them to curb their excessive water usage and to make recycling mandatory in all of their United States locations. I encourage anyone and everyone to write them as well. We need to make a big voice to be heard with such a large corporation. Use my letter or email it to everyone you know and have them get involved as well.

I’ve also recently joined a local animal rights group and have gotten involved in raising money for farm sanctuary, a non-profit animal rescue, and for yesonprop2 in California, which is coming up in this November’s election.

Editor’s Note: This month Ginger is posting one post a day on her blog for veganmofo and I strongly encourage everyone to check out her wit and way with words during a month where she will be sharing lots of yummy vegan recipes; just another check in the Earth friendly box Ginger.

From all of us at TOM, thank you for your inspiration!

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com