Category Archives: Art

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:

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 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:

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:

Artist Spotlight: The Grownup Noise Part II – Touring, With a Side of Fries

It has been about two months since Boston based musicians The Grownup Noise completed a veggie oil fuel conversion on their superfly 1980’s van. The band became committed to make a positive impact on the planet during their cross country tour this past summer and their veggie fuel conversion was a giant, carbon reducing step in the right direction. As a frequent visitor to the band’s Myspace page, I had been keeping up with the progress of the van and the band through terrific blogs and photos they were able to post along the way. It was enjoyable to read how people reacted to the van.

My main contact in the band, bass player Adam Sankowski, also kept me up to date through emails detailing some of the challenges they faced on the road as well as funny success stories related to their ability to acquire veggie oil. One of my favorite quotes came from a blog written by Katie Franich (Cellist) when she referred to their fuel collection efforts as “death-defying grease missions”. Luckily, all four band members (also including Paul Hansen, vocal and Attis Clopton, drums) were able to thwart an early demise in order to share their travel journal with us, greasy thumb prints and all.

Feel free to read back over the first two installments of this tantalizing saga; Part I is here and the mid point story here.

After touring on both gas and veggie oil, tell us a little about how they compare.

Well, first off there are the obvious differences like paying for gas versus not paying for gas. There is a lot more work that goes into running on grease including the collection of it and the learning curve that goes with the whole system. For example, there is a system of three filters that need to be changed, but there is no exact rule to follow for when to do such. If you find “dirty” grease then its about 2,000 miles, but cleaner grease can go to 4,000 miles. And we learned that you want to change all the filters at the same time cause nothing stinks more then no knowing what filter is dirty and changing a filter and still not having it work.

The funniest thing/ scariest thing is that there is no sensor or alarm that goes off when you need to change a filter. The engine just cuts off and stops working… so suddenly you have to pilot the van to the side of the road while going 80mph and, of course, you then have no power steering when the engine cuts out. After a while we got really good at preemptively changing filters, but there was a BIG learning curve for us.

The other main thing is that a part of your day is taken up with finding grease. Eventually we got our system down, but it does take up some time. But… it’s nothing that is so time consuming or tough that I would discourage people. In larger cities it can be hard to find grease, but in the suburbs and rural areas it is still very easy to “score” grease.

Do you feel that the band saved money overall on travel expense as compared to prior tours?

Oh my god, it’s not even comparable. We ended up spending about $400- 500 on fuel for the ENTIRE tour. That includes starting in Boston, then going to NYC then back to Boston and then traveling on the most random zigzag trip across the country. From Ohio to Minneapolis to Denver to Seattle to LA then back up to San Fran… and we ended up actually buying pre filtered veggie oil twice. So about $300 was on veggie oil and $200 on diesel fuel. We ended up buying veggie oil because in LA and Austin Texas we found it very difficult to find veggie fuel.

Do you feel you reduced your carbon footprint?

Without a doubt. At first I thought that it was zero, but we started to hear conflicting reports. Here is the direct quote from [Grease Not Gas] (the BEST website on running on veggie oil ever, Mike who runs it is our hero, and the main person responsible for us doing this)

This testimony is the best scientific proof I have that running on veggie oil is environmentally sound, although I was shocked to hear that its not a zero emission’s vehicle:

Mike is quoted as saying:

“When I purchased the Winnebago Lesharo (nicknamed Soy George) for the Grease Brother’s project, I got a trip permit for the shoot and then actually got it registered with the state, after the conversion. When I pulled into the DEQ (Department of Emissions Quality) I told them, “This vehicle can run on either diesel fuel or vegetable oil” They were intrigued and asked me, “Well what do you primarily drive on?” I told them I planned on running it on vegetable oil as much as possible, to save money. They said, “Alright, go through on vegetable oil and we’ll how it goes”. The results were amazing. They said that it was by far the cleanest diesel they’d EVER seen. In the curiosity they asked if I’d drive it through again, this time on diesel. I picked up my “pass” certificate, purged out the veggie on a short drive and went through again, this time on diesel. They said these results were more what they would expect from a junky old motor home. I would have barely passed on diesel, whereas with veggie I made it with flying colors. It was a very interesting experiment; I wish I still had the results. Maybe one of these days I’ll replicate the experiment.” – Mike Parziale,

Being that our van is already cleaner burning than a motor home when running just on diesel, I think that we saved a ton of emissions!

Was it easy to acquire fuel on the road? Is this something all four-band members took part in doing?

The ease of acquiring grease was completely dependant on the area of the country. The west coast was difficult and the rest of the country was easy. We found that every third restaurant or so (non-west coast) was receptive and totally cool with us taking their grease, or that had clean enough grease for us to take. We definitely got our grease routine down after a while… and it did take all four of us. First we would scope out their grease trap, and then if it looked clean, Katie and I would go in and ask if we could grab some. That’s when the language barrier adventure began, trying to explain that we had a car that ran on their used waste. We heard “like the back to the future car?” more than once!

I’m going to be honest and admit that we did have to grab it sometimes without asking, and after a while we developed our “grease ethics”. We always asked first but exceptions were if the restaurant was closed or if it was Taco Bell. Sometimes though, there would be a grease trap in the middle of a parking lot that no restaurant would claim, so we would just take it from there. We starting calling these “blockbuster’s” grease trap, as there were several Blockbuster video stores that had grease traps near them for no apparent reason. Very weird. We started hypothesizing that they have an underground Chinese buffet that they are running.

The actual “grease getting” included one person with a “dirty bucket” in the trap and then transferring it to a “clean bucket” that put it into the filtration system. That way were weren’t dripping grease everywhere. We tried to be “grease boy scouts”, not leaving a trace… especially at the restaurants that were really nice to us. Nothing would be worse to piss them off and make them think that people who burn grease are slobs. We learned all of our “greasing” techniques from Aaron Stuart from Angel City Motor works… he’s the one who used to be in Piebald and who installed our system and who took us out “greasing” all around Boston and taught us the ropes.

What was the most common type of place you acquired your veggie oil?

There really wasn’t a formula. We usually would start by checking out all of the Asian restaurants in our area, because that was the advice given to us. But we soon found that Mexican restaurants were good, and even some chain ones. Asian restaurants are good (especially Japanese and Thai) because tempura has to be a golden hue; therefore they can’t get away with dirty oil and must change it more often. The more they change it, the better it is, and often times the better the restaurant is. You can tell a lot about a restaurant from their grease trap! Props go out to the Olive Garden, Taco Bell, and Denny’s. Shame goes to IHOP, and Ruby Tuesdays…

We also started calling ahead to the venues that also served food and they would save their oil for us. That worked Portland, Oregon and in Washington D.C.

Did anyone flat out tell you no?

Yes, and some meant it and some didn’t. There were a few Chinese buffets that had no idea what we were asking for, and they thought that we were trying to sell them something.

In some major cities and the west coast there are “bio diesel” companies springing up that are starting to pay restaurants to take it (although they are totally being ripped off) so they said no to us. The reason that they said “no” was that they were already “under contract” from these companies, even though they were paying them next to nothing for their oil. The silly thing is how some wouldn’t negotiate with us, even when we offered to eat at their restaurant in exchange, i.e. paying them much more than the grease companies were. We felt that the “contract” was a sticking point… especially if maybe the restaurant had some workers who weren’t legal… they might have felt like they couldn’t break a contract. One restaurant in Minneapolis totally was cool with us eating there in exchange for like 80 gallons of grease. I love that this allowed us to “barter” our way around the country. There is a whole industry that is springing up around used veggie oil, and its part beautiful American enterprising and part sleazy bottom feeding… taking advantage of people who don’t know the worth of what they have. Often times bio diesel companies are paying the restaurants 5-20 cents a gallon for their grease and then reselling it for 3 dollars. I’m sure that an owner of such a company would debate me on this, but it feels sleazy to me… or at least they should lower the price for broke bands! This kind of business is fine if the restaurant just doesn’t care and doesn’t want the oil, but many of them didn’t even know that it was returning such a profit. We found that part of our job was then educating the restaurant owners to the fact that they have a gas station in behind their place. A restaurant in Asheville, NC is actually now going to convert their delivery vehicle as well as a Mexican restaurant in Bakersfield, CA.

Somewhere between the restaurants and the bio diesel companies are where we exist; Bands that are simply trying to be able to afford to create art and play music. It makes me want to start a used veggie oil collection company that makes a profit but that also gives it away to any bands on tour… I have actually already been talking to some other grease car users around Boston to create a veggie oil collective so that we can survive when things get weird around here like they already have on the west coast.

I actually talked a lot about bio diesel companies and us competing with them in a blog that I wrote on the tour. Here is an excerpt of it here:

“As far as the veggie oil goes it is amazing what we are witnessing out here. I feel like I am first hand seeing an industry taking shape. Seeing the “American dream” in action. It is impossible to score grease in L.A. because all of the restaurants have already contracted out to bio-diesel companies, where as just a hour and a half east in Bakersfield no one has heard of running your car on veggie oil and the manager of the Mexican restaurant we stopped at was amazed and excited to watch us take 50 gallons of his grease and load it into our van. It’s becoming harder and harder for bands to score grease in larger areas, like in Austin it were impossible, and every grease trap was locked. Its really cool that this is becoming an industry but I just hope that the restaurant owners realize what a profit is coming from their waste. One of the companies that we met pays their restaurant owners 20 cents a gallon and then re-sells it for 3 dollars a gallon. I mean, don’t get me wrong, one of the main reasons we converted was for the environmental reason, but it’s also the only way that a band like us can afford to tour. I just wish that these companies would make acceptations for broke touring bands, because we are both competing for the same grease. And in the end, we’ve become very sneaky and good at “grabbing” it from grease traps. I just wish that restaurant owners would realize that they are basically sitting on a gas station and that they should at least convert their delivery vehicle before they sign their rights to their veggie oil away to some “bottom feeding” grease collection company. But I guess that this is all capitalism and the way that things work… also; I understand that not paying for gas was too much of a good thing to be true. At least we have made it this far, from Boston to Cali and back to Nashville at this point on only about $200 of diesel fuel. And I can sleep well on the fact that I haven’t ruined the planet too, too much in the process.”

How long of a process is it to gather the oil (from locating to filtering to installation)?

It’s actually pretty fast once you have found some decent oil. That’s what really takes the time. But that’s why our conversion cost us so much too… you can get “do it yourself” kits for next to nothing to convert your diesel car, but then you have to be able to filter veggie oil at your house. Aaron, who installed our system, put in a custom build 90-gallon tank with a built in filtration system, so we literally just pour the grease in and its filtered. But you have to be very vigilant on changing filters… that’s where the learning curve comes in. It really doesn’t take too long to get the oil though, and when we were just taking the oil or being “grease ninjas” we could grab it really quick!

As touring musicians how easy did you find it was to run this kind of fuel source?

I mean, it has its issues, and you have to work more time into your tour (kinda), but I can’t imagine any other way to tour now. Paying for gas? Destroy the planet to play music? Nope! At least right now, it’s not that hard to do.

Although it did take a bit of time to do, I feel like it really helped the band to connect on a different level. Nothing bonds a band together like all donning aprons and headlamps and getting totally dirty. I would recommend it to any band! It really made us feel like a family. Also, it actually helped cut down on stress levels in relation to finances. Its not like we made money (we took on a lot of debt to convert the van and other tour things) but it definitely was calming to go and get grease rather then stress out every time you had to put gas on a credit card.

Did you have any issues with breaking down or running out of fuel? How did you learn from those experiences and change to accommodate for them?

Like I said, it took us some time to realize how to budget time to change filters. The other problem was that none of us were mechanically inclined at all so we had to go to a Jiffy Lube every time we wanted to change the stock fuel filter/ water separator. Now I know how to change that, so it shouldn’t be so much of an issue. You become mechanical really quick when you run on grease!

As far as running out of fuel, it doesn’t happen because you can always switch back to diesel fuel. We had to do that a few times in order to make it to a show on time, but then after the show we would find veggie oil and would be good to go!

What is your most hilarious experience with gathering oil?

Outside NYC we found a diner that ha d a beautifully full grease trap. We pulled up and the owner was outside in the back. There was a language/ mental health barrier though and he thought that we were trying to sell them cabbage. He just kept screaming at us that he didn’t want any more cabbage and that we should go away. Finally his son came outside and explained what we wanted. He then started laughing and told us to take whatever we wanted… we ended up fueling our drive from NYC to D.C. on their grease.

Do you think this type of conversion would be practical for people who drive far less miles?

Maybe… if you are driving from say Framingham to Boston everyday, yes. If you are just driving around Boston, maybe not. For us, parking is an issue being that we have the largest van ever made, so sometimes I’ll take me car (don’t tell anyone) because I know that I can’t park downtown. Although I just parked last night during a Red Sox game in the Back Bay! Basically if you are going to drive anywhere on a regular basis for a half hour or more at a time then it’s worth it.

Did it surprise you to learn what areas of the country had and had not heard of such a thing?

Not really! With the political climate right now, I’m not surprised in the least bit that people are either not informed or unaware of anything. Sorry, I’ve been freaking out about political things recently and their inevitable environmental impact.

Did your fans take interest in learning more about your conversion?

The fans did to some degree, but the other bands that we played with were the most interested. Many of them were amazed that they would be able to tour again without going into extreme debt. Many were so excited!

What is the most important thing you learned about using alternative fuel sources?

That it is still an inexact science at best, but that you’ll learn a lot about yourself while doing it.

Now that you are back home, do you plan to continue to drive the van or will it be reserved for long distance touring only?

Well, we are definitely going to use it for all of our regional touring. I am writing this at my girlfriend’s house right now, and I got here in the van. I have no money for gas, so I’m going to be using the van a bunch as long as the weather is warm because you can run it much more on veggie oil in warmer weather (you have to run it for longer in cold weather to heat up the engine and before you can switch to veggie fuel). I am looking forward to eventually selling my car and buying an old diesel car and converting it. I can’t say enough about running on veggie oil. The weirdest thing is when you switch it from diesel to veggie when the van is going 80mph and you notice no difference at all. Diesel engines really like running on the oil and if anything we noticed an increase in performance. Also, when we were desperate, we put some gross and dirty grease in there, food particles and all, and although we would go through filters faster, the van ate it up and we didn’t notice any chance in the way it drove. Diesel engines can put up with a lot! And nothing beats driving for 10 hours and having the fuel needle stay in the same spot the whole time.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Jess Pillmore of A Second Chance

Jess Pillmore can not simply be defined as a Fiber Artist as she is skilled in various, eclectic endeavors including Teaching Performance Art and playing music of her own. Although A Second Chance is based out of Austinville, Virginia, Jess herself claims “we’re on the road so much, a lot of the time I’m creating in hotels and in the car”. When a business in Fiber Arts is based 100% on reclaimed yarn it is easy to imagine acquiring material to create those pieces in a car! Jess has a real focus on the planet not only through her Fiber Arts but in many aspects of her life and she was excited to share her experiences with us.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

When I’m home (which is rare but glorious), I enjoy the benefits of freelancing and being my own boss… aka I stay in my pj’s while I correspond, send out contracts, research new pieces, write new songs, create new designs and enjoy the quiet of rural Virginia. I’m obsessed with a whistlepig (groundhog) that eats from our apple tree. He’s a riot and huge! Then, when I’m on the road, I have to focus more on meeting new people (audiences, students, staff, artists), the ever-changing views from our car, NPR, creating a “home” where we are right at that moment so my husband and I never lose our footing, lose our roots. Kind of general, but we have to do all that in a day when we’re touring/teaching/performing.

How do you balance your life in music with your other endeavors?

Well, I have to keep reminding myself (’cause sometimes it doesn’t feel this way) that the common thread to all these “different” occupations – theatre, music, dance, fiber arts, producing and running a business – is me. So, the balance has to come from me. I have to focus on the moment and what inspires me in that moment. I move back and forth from all these occupations constantly, sometimes within the same day, depending on the situation. But I love it and that’s what helps. If it was stress or a chore, then I wouldn’t do it. Life’s too short to be bummed out. I try and exercise a lot, eat well and appreciate all that’s around me… the rest is play.

What type of actions do you take while touring to reduce your carbon footprint?

I tour in a Prius (love it!). I’m an electronic girl, so that means electronic press kits, contracts, etc. It helps lessen all the paper and plastic in my business on and off the road. I’m uber conscious of my tour routing – making the most of every stop and trying not to back track or travel out of the way. I combine a lot of my other occupations with my touring in order to do that better – teaching workshops in neighboring cities when playing a gig, etc. I try and travel light and buy local wherever we are.

What suggestions do you have for touring musicians to lessen their own environmental impact while on the road?

I’ve found that choices that help the environment help you too (and vice versa)… being smart and economical about your tour routing is better for everyone, including your wallet (which is really important as in indie on the road). Pack your own food (in bulk), be self contained to lessen your trash across the country. And with everything, the more research and pre-production work you do, the more you save in the long run – save for yourself and save the environment.

What drew you to fiber arts?

My great-grandmother, grandmother and mom were/are big time crafters – cross stitch, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, quilting, sewing, you name it. I picked it up from them when I was little and loved the quiet feeling of community sitting and creating with them. And there’s a great feeling of accomplishment, for me, seeing a piece I made from scratch. Plus, the colors and textures are a ton of fun to play with.

Who or what inspired you to pursue creation of fashion?

See above, it’s a family thing!

Where do you acquire material to create your wearable art?

Thrift stores all across the country. I hunt out the “I can’t believe someone tossed this!” pieces of clothing to deconstruct and then re-craft into something new. It was hard, at first, to take a part some of these pieces, but I started researching thrift stores more and found that they are up to their eyeballs in clothing. Most destroy them completely if they don’t sell within a certain time period. And the act of deconstructing helps me to understand each piece/material better, understand where it’s coming from. Just like listening to a person and finding out what makes them tick. Plus, shopping at thrift stores lessens post-consumer trash and donates funds to local charities.

When did you begin teaching and what do you teach?

Even as a director/choreographer, I was teaching and didn’t call it that. But I would cast artists that were amazingly capable but needed to be challenged…that’s where the teaching came in. I started officially teaching at 20 and haven’t stopped since (I’m 32 now). I teach theatre (mask, commedia, ensemble work, team building, contact improvisation, musical theatre, stage combat), dance (all types and choreography skills) and music (songwriting and music appreciation). My theatre company, Creatively Independent, also teaches artists how to become independent in their work and their business, as well as teach people how to boost their creativity within their work (even if they’re not professional or amateur artists). My husband, Chris Beaulieu, and I teach all ages and skill levels (pre-K to professional adults). That might sound wild, but we teach to the student, so it’s no sweat for us to alter our approach depending on the age, intent or skill level. That’s part of what allows us to do so many things and be Creatively Independent.

When teaching, do you place any emphasis on green concepts?

Yes, but not in a preachy way. I feel that, with anything, if a person can’t find the benefit of it within themselves then the change isn’t going to happen. We’re all selfish people (because our self is all we have), so I don’t think it’s a bad thing for me to say this. So, when I teach or perform, I try and show how it works for me. I try and question, promote and educate so it might spark something inside them.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

Yes, the momentum and availability of information definitely fueled me. And I personally made a connection to my grandparents and great-grandparents’ way of life (which was very green)… use it until it breaks down, then fix it, then use the parts that work for something else, keep going until it’s practically scraps. Compost, grow/buy locally, run a lot of errands at once or the “while you’re in town” list, lessen chemicals in the body and the home, natural cleaners, work with nature not against it…

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

Natural cleaners, energy efficient appliances, less paper products (doing most things electronically), washing with cold water, hanging the wash on the line, opening windows (hardly used the a/c this year), putting a sweater on in the house (helps with the heat bill), conserving water, using my dish cloths to wash the dishes instead of disposable ones.

Tell me about your home renovation. What are some of the green products you used while remodeling?

We’re working on our 100 year old farmhouse using repurposed materials as much as possible, as well as insulating more to help with heat and air issues. It’s a blast to work with recycled glass (I’m getting into cutting old wine and beer bottles to use for stain glass installations). I think the main thing for us, is to use what we can (not just gut it and start over) as well as make sure what we have is energy efficient. We also repurpose what we’ve had to take out of the house for either craft projects (I build frames for my hand embroidered pieces with the old stairs) or for our new theater. We’re in the process of designing a black box theatre/studio, focusing on using what’s already there – shade, wind, the rise and set of the sun to heat and cool the studio. It’s exciting and challenging… but that’s where all that pre-production work comes in handy.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

I think the earth is trying to balance itself (as all things do) and as humans we’ve tipped it onto one side pretty hard. I’m just trying to do what I can to balance – give back what I’ve taken. Also, I feel that the instantaneous, “gotta have it now” feeling that’s in most of our culture presently is without depth. A lot is lost by jumping right to the prize without experiencing the process of attaining the prize. For example, we don’t have a microwave anymore because we realized it was important for us to make ourselves stop working for 30-60 minutes and cook. Enjoy the smells, the act of creating the meal, cleaning up, sitting down to eat and talk about the day. We were missing all that because a microwave allowed us to zap our meal in 3 minutes and eat it practically standing up. We’ve noticed a huge improvement in our physical and mental health because of this choice and others like it. So, I guess that all goes back to what I was saying earlier, I had to find a reason why it benefited me to be able to benefit the environment.

What challenges have you had to bring eco-consciousness into your work?

Me. The challenge was my “easy outs”. I had to change, slowly but surely, my schedule, my time line, my wants/needs. Let’s put it this way… it’s easier and faster for me to buy yarn all ready to be knitted. It takes more time to find the sweater, clean it, take a part the pieces, unravel the yarn, wind it up and then knit it…. but it’s much more fun. The impact for others is greater and the impact is greater for myself. The challenge is to embrace being unique. When we do things ourselves for ourselves, each moment is unique, no one else can do exactly what you do. But we lose ourselves and our creativity when we grab the easy, the quick and the brainless… aka the pre-packaged, millions like it, the same in any city product. The challenge is to be me.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

I’m a positive gal, so I’m gonna say positive influences! More access, more information, larger audience for someone’s work…love it. I’m able to have fans all over the world for my music, theatre and fiber arts. That’s amazing to me. I just have to balance within my self, how much time I spend on the Internet. I get overwhelmed with all the possibilities and then discover I haven’t created anything…ha ha ha, so I have to balance the research/inspiration with the actual creation. The Internet also allowed me to work with incredible musicians on my last album, Reveal: Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Bill Frisell), Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, David Bowie), Craig Barnette (Mofro, Donavon Frankenreiter) and Dan Phelps (Tori Amos). I was able to have Viktor create stunning bass and keyboard parts in his home studio in Nashville, while we were recording in Seattle with Matt in his home studio for percussion. My producer, Dan, was able to work with me via the internet, sending ideas and prodding me artistically. I could send lyric changes, and new tune ideas via my home studio. It was thrilling and an honor that they wanted to create in such an intimate way using a normally disconnected format (the internet). But it also made it possible for me to afford them as well, since I banked my own project with my alt. americana label, RoadWorm Music. I co-created it with my father, Bill Pillmore, and we have fab artists on there… please check them out.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

With fiber arts, I’m combining knitting and crocheting right now – just finished a Rainbow baby blanket that I love and a funky tea cozy made from the edges of sweater sleeves. I’m also working on holiday fun with my sweater pieces… maybe stockings that I embroider on, ornaments… that’s later on today. In theatre, Chris and I are researching/writing a clown ensemble piece to start producing/directing this year for the festival circuit… it’s about family dynamics shown through the raw honesty and absurdity of the clown’s point of view. I’m also writing a folk rock musical with fellow label mate, Ron Morris. It’s about living in the moment and how we all struggle to own and then let go of our stories. The music is new – audio pointillism – with each song broken up into different character’s point of view to show that each moment has many variations of grey in the meaning. With teaching, Chris and I are starting to teach internationally this year, so that’s a thrill! And at home, Chris just started up a vegan/gluten free baking adventure on Etsy. So, I’ve been helping him with that, working on the repurposed cookie tins that I cover in reclaimed fabric. The house smells great!

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Do your research. Be prepared. Create because you love to not because you want someone’s approval or sales. Know your needs (rent, food, bills, etc.) and reduce them if you can to allow you to work as an artist full time. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Put a price on your time and creativity – artists can be good at math! Don’t buy the hype that you have to suffer to be an artist. You have to be open to all emotions and opportunities without judgment to be an artist – that includes happiness, joy and success. You, not others, must define your success… and I promise that definition will constantly change. Be patient, breathe and smile.

What Green Product would you recommend to our readers?

Prius, big time.

What is your best going green tip?

Baking soda can be your best friend from absorbing odors in your fridge, trash can, rugs – cleaning a clogged drain – to healing an icky boil (yucky, but true). Seriously, natural products are rad, look around/ask around and find out about baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice. 🙂

How would your friends describe you?

Busy. hahaha, okay, I had to ask my friends on this one ’cause I describe myself as shy and quiet… they said collectively “silly, caring, compassionate, dedicated, busy, cute, funny, giving…” there was more but I find it hard to type without laughing uncomfortably!

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

Yes, ma’am! Here’s the list… hee hee hee
A Second Chance – Fiber Arts – Recycled Knitwear
Etsy store

Yes You Can! – Vegan/Gluten Free Insanely Good Treats
Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Sharon Tevault of Lucky Sustainable Designs

What happens to all of the wood that is removed from a construction site when a building is demolished or rehabilitated? That was a question on the mind of Sharon Tevault who owns Lucky Sustainable Designs based in Houston, TX and she decided it was time to do something about it! Sharon reclaims and salvages woods, some of which are difficult to find or very expensive when they are “new”, and turns them into items that are both beautiful and functional. She has a solid mind for business and was excited to share her love for the Earth and what she is doing to show it.

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

I make functional and decorative objects from reclaimed, salvaged, and sustainable wood.

What prompted you to start Lucky Sustainables?

I had been a hobbyist woodworker for many years, mostly designing and making furniture (desks, tables, case pieces) for myself and for friends and family. Over the years, I started using more and more reclaimed materials – wood that I found around the neighborhood or that people brought to me. A lot of times there wasn’t enough of any one species to make a piece of furniture, so I started making boxes and other smaller objects with it. My friends kept insisting, “You should sell these,” so I started doing some local art shows and selling them on-line.

Is there a story behind the name of the company?

My business name is really Lucky Sustainable Designs; I had to shorten it for my user name on Etsy. Actually, Lucky is my old Girl Scout Camp nickname (I hope that Sustainable and Designs are a bit more self-evident). I used “Lucky” because my real name is kinda hard for some people to spell and pronounce. I chose to use the word “Sustainable” in my business name so that people could get a sense of my commitment to using reclaimed, salvaged, and sustainable materials.

Where do you acquire the reclaimed wood that goes into your designs?

I’ve done my fair share of scrounging around demolition sites, and making use of broken-down furniture that has been set out by the curb for trash pick-up. Once friends and neighbors became aware of what I was doing, they began to bring a lot of wood to me. Sometimes it’s beautiful hardwood flooring that they’ve found by the curb, or some boards they found in grandma’s garage, and sometimes it’s big sections of fallen tree logs.

Why is it important to you to use salvaged pieces?

I live in an older neighborhood where a lot of people have torn down old homes and built new ones. It was unsettling to think about how much of that material – especially the old wood from the existing homes – was just going straight to the landfill. And because I have an interest in wood, I had read about some of the shameful forestry practices used to harvest many of the exotic tropical hardwoods. I recognize that in the overall scheme of things, the amount of wood I keep from the landfill is miniscule. But I also know that change only occurs when individuals make their own commitments to do so.

What types of stains and top coats do you use?

A lot of the reclaimed wood I find/acquire does not have a lot of inherent beauty – it’s wood that was not meant to be on the “show” side of a table top (think plain woods like poplar, birch, and cedar). So it’s important for me to be able to make them more visually appealing by using finishing techniques to supplement or enhance the surface of the piece. One of the most fun things for me is experimenting with natural stains and dyes made from things like walnut husks, turmeric, beets, vinegar with iron, etc. And I like to finish each piece with a durable, non-toxic topcoat, primarily using shellac (a natural finish made by lac beetles) and water-based finishes.
How do you find that natural alternatives hold up compared to synthetics?

It depends on the application. For example, I use shellac as much as I can because it’s natural and non-toxic. But the solvent for shellac is alcohol, so while I might use it as an undercoat on a table or wine stopper, it’s not the best choice for using as the final coat. It is, however, great to use as both an undercoat and a topcoat on the boxes and other items I make. Water-based finishes have really come a long way, but they probably don’t have the same level of clarity as lacquer or shellac. As far as the natural dyes, the ones that produce a chemical reaction with the tannins in the wood (for instance, the vinegar and iron) are pretty color-fast; some of the vegetable-based dyes are not great choices for outdoors because they will fade in sunlight.

What inspires you as an artist?

I love trying new things…..having an idea and figuring out how to make it happen. I also get pretty excited when I find a trove of wood destined for the trash heap that turns out to be incredibly beautiful or unique. I recognize that the people who are most successful at making items from wood are those who make “production” items; they create designs that resonate with customers and continue making those designs over and over. Some of my boxes have similar styles, but they are all a bit different; I don’t use patterns and I seldom have enough of any single type, size, or thickness of wood to make several of one thing. Maybe someday that will change, but for now, I relish the notion of doing something different every day.

When did you first start working with wood as a medium?

After I bought my first house, I started doing some minor repairs. (I had originally learned to use tools in the scene shop as a theatre major in college). At one point, I decided I wanted a side table and I couldn’t find one that met my needs; so I made one. It really turned out pretty well, for a first endeavor, and I’ve been designing and making furniture and wood objects since.

How long have you been selling your art?

I’ve done a number of commission pieces over the last several years, but I just started Lucky Sustainable Designs about two years ago.

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

My parents always emphasized reusing things, keeping the thermostat set at a moderate level, turning off lights, etc., so my interest is inherent and ongoing.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

I like the whole notion of leaving a very light footprint.

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

Probably like most of your readers, a lot of practices have become second nature to me: recycling, conserving electricity and water, minimizing fossil fuel consumption, etc. The one thing that may be a little different is my ongoing pursuit of finding and utilizing wood discarded by others.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Rehabilitate your old furniture instead of throwing it away.

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

Shellac is an old-timey furniture finish that is eco-friendly and non-toxic (makes a great finish for kids’ toys).

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Finding enough suitable markets for my work so that I can be self-sustaining.

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

Learn: don’t be afraid to ask questions; there may be some people who try to protect their expertise, but most of us enjoy talking about our work and are glad to help someone just starting out. Practice: you’ll likely make a lot of mistakes before you ever make anything that you’re proud of; getting better takes practice. Have fun: do what you enjoy, not just what you think will sell. Try to live with love, compassion, and kindness; especially on days when you really don’t want to.

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

Yes, my work can be viewed and purchased at Lucky Sustainable Designs and I maintain a portfolio at Trunkt. I also offer wholesale and quantity pricing for some items; the bottle stoppers are popular as client gifts or wedding favors.

Editor’s Note: Sharon also maintains a separate Online Storefront where additional items can be purchased.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Kass Wilson Decorative Finish Artist from Wallstreat

Kass Wilson is a Decorative Finish Artist based out of Georgia who truly believes that “Good design follows the trends. GREAT design sets the trends.” Because she is a Finisher, I definitely wanted to discuss the environmental benefits of her job. As a Finisher myself, I always fascinate to review other artist’s work and see their specialty. While perusing Kass’ website to acquire photos to punctuate this interview it became clear one of hers is imitating wood grain. Creating items to present as expensive and less available wood species while utilizing a water soluble base and not having to cut down a single tree to do it is an environmental impact I can certainly get behind! Almost all of the below built-ins were white, before photos can be seen on Kass’ website at the end of the interview.

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

I am a decorative finish artist in the Atlanta area.

How long have you been providing custom decorative treatments?

Finishes and design have been my passion for about 15 years.

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

Usually, I am called into a client’s home by a designer or a builder. The objective is to take an ordinary space and make it extraordinary, they are looking for the WOW factor. I take inspiration from the fabrics and finishes that are in the space. Rather than just doing acres of mediocre wall finishes, I help the designer to bring out the architecture of the home. Usually this means doing OUTSTANDING finishes in smaller area.

What products have you abandoned to become more Earth friendly?

When I first started in this industry, solvent based products were commonly used to create finishes. The smell alone was enough to make me search out other products that were not so toxic. Knowing that I would be exposed to these products on a daily basis, it was common sense that my health was not worth the risk. It did take some effort, however, I found many substitutes that work just fine. In some cases, they work even better. Like anything else, there is always a learning curve. But many manufacturers have seized the opportunity to create more eco-friendly products and offer the training to go along with them. I have found many of these products to be even better.

Do you find that the alternatives hold up just as well?

Yes, sometimes better. Over the last 5 years, water based products have improved so much. There is very little that cannot be accomplished with water based VS oil/solvent based products in the hands of a well educated finish artist. A good example is the use of topcoats. Oil based products dry so hard that they will chip. They are difficult to repair and over time will yellow. Water based products will not.

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

When I first decided to not work with solvent based products about 15 years ago.

Why is it so important to go green? In what other ways do you work in an eco friendly manner?

For the health and safety of myself and my customers. Also, when disposing of leftover products.

Recently, I teamed up with a company that builds custom wine cellars. The biggest selling point for them was the products that I would be using. Apparently, certain chemicals can penetrate through the cork of a bottle of wine. They were very careful about reading through my material data sheets to evaluate what I was proposing. They were even concerned about lime based plasters. Fortunately, there are products that I can use that easily mimic that same look.

How did you approach your first client with green design concepts? How long ago was that and were they immediately receptive?

People were immediately impressed by my concern for their health. As recently as 5 years ago, there was still an ongoing struggle among artists to be true to the traditional products and methods. Harsh chemicals were common. I found it very beneficial to be able to tell clients that there would be little (if any) odor to the products that I would be using in their home. Everyone found this quite attractive especially if they had children, any existing health issues or the possibility of pregnancy.

There are often occasions when it would be easier, quicker and cheaper to just use an oil based glaze but I won’t. Usually, when I explain the benefits of my products to customers, they are very appreciative of learning about the differences. If they still choose to use the solvent based products, I will gladly refer them to someone who is still willing to use them. But, that list is becoming shorter.

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

I usually plan my projects very efficiently to reduce my trips to the jobsites which saves on gas and emissions. No solvent based products are used. While working on a job, all of the dirty tools are spritzed with water and sealed in a plastic bag. This way, they can all be cleaned at once which reduces the amount of water that is used. I keep a bag full of my previously used plastic grocery bags in my car. These are recycled as finishing tools, garbage bags, carriers for dirty tools, etc. Plastic buckets that contain product are cleaned when empty. These are recycled as my mixing containers. The ones that are not salvageable are kept and filled with any excess product that would normally be washed down a sink.

I rarely use disposable plastic sheeting as drop cloths. Instead, I use recycled bed sheets, old vinyl tablecloths or anything else that will work. When purchasing drop cloths, I always get the ones that can be used over and over. In time, the added cost initially pays for itself over time.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Use water based paint, top coats and stains rather than oil.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

A big challenge for me is to stay current. My typical client is looking for something new and creative. They are not interested in just sponging or ragging their walls. It is my job to bring innovative ideas to the table. Therefore, I am always searching for classes or products that can push me to think about finishes in a different way. Especially fun is when I see a new twist on an old product or process. That gets my wheels turning.

What has been your greatest success to date?

My greatest success is the respect that I have achieved as an artist, from designers, peers but most of all from my customers. I never get tired of watching the look on their faces as we are taking down the blue tape. That is priceless. The ability to see color and visualize what a space can potentially be is a gift. But, the real gift is being able to share it.

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

For new artists 2 words of wisdom:

1. Learn all that you can from as many people as possible. Do not get stuck in your own city taking classes from the same person or group. Check out many different schools and get feedback from others who have attended. Be prepared to travel to learn. It may be more expensive but, this is an investment in yourself. Apprenticing is also a good option provided the teacher is truly interested in teaching you not just getting cheap labor to do some of the grunt work.
2. NEVER sacrifice quality. This is your reputation on the line. For example, I have watched finishers substitute sheet rock mud for quality plasters to cut costs. It comes back to haunt them usually within 6 months. If they are lucky, the customer will at least call them back for help. But, most of the time, the customer wants nothing more to do with them and tells all of her friends. Good quality equipment (like ladders and scaffold) may be expensive but is the most effective form of health insurance you can buy. Quality brushes will save you time since they do a lot of the work for you. Always allow plenty of time, plus, a little extra. The quality of your work will be compromised if you are rushing through prep work, too tired or rushing to meet a deadline.

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

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

Locally, here in Atlanta, my finishes are incorporated at Designs of the Interior at both Windward and John’s Creek, Ceramic Technics, The Joint and numerous show homes in the area. Publications are ongoing and my book, Creative Finishes, can be ordered on Amazon.
Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Eve Marcoux of Lilith Evy in Quebec City Canada

When I came across Lilith Evy online I was tickled by the creativity of the items and how their functionality blends seamlessly with a positive planetary impact. Although we faced a mild language barrier where I speak English and Eve speaks French primarily, we were able to communicate that we are both working towards making Earth a better place to live. No matter what language a person speaks that message is clear.

I am posting Eve’s interview without edits to her responses because I do not want to mess up her quotes and truly I was smiling the entire time I read through this. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do!

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

I do a lot of things! Jewelry, knitting, photography, paint (acrylic and watercolor) and many more. I like to discover new type of art and try it. If I can up cycled something, then I do!

What was the motivation behind the creation of Lilith Evy?

I’ve made a lot of articles for many years and I can’t keep it for myself. A friend of mine told me about Etsy and I decided to sale some of these articles on this site. Besides, I’m a new mom and it’s a great way to express my creativity/imagination and it’s a good way to do some money while staying at home.

When did you first start creating purses out of recycled shirts?

A few months ago! I’ve seen some recycled jeans purses before and I’ve just transpose the idea on shirts sleeves. The skirt bag came from the same idea.

What is the reaction of people when they see one of your Blouse Bags?

First of all, they laugh. Not a laugh meaning “it’s ridiculous” but “how did you think of this” laugh. They are impressed by it and find it very original and exotic.

Where do you acquire the pieces that go into each design? Is it important to you to use salvaged pieces?

Must of my pieces are used and come from my personal stuff. I keep a lot of things and I reused it when I find something to do with it. When I’m in the process of creating something and I know what I need, I go ask my family and friends if they already got it (like a button, for my button necklace). It’s really important for me to use salvaged pieces. This helps our earth and my storage place :o)

When did you first learn to crochet and what motivated you to create a purse from plastic bag yarn?

I learned crochet about one year ago. When I knew I was pregnant, I wanted to knit multiple things for my baby. That’s why I have learned to knit first. As a start, I bought a knitting book containing the plastic bag project. I fell in love with the idea and it was a fantastic way to pass a lot of grocery bags that I had accumulate over the years.

Where do you acquire the bags that go into these designs?

Except the grocery bag, my mother gave me a pile of bread bags that she bought a long time ago in a baker’s factory. I love these bags! They have a great color (iridescent purple and green) and they are easy to knit. I’m working of a new plastic bag, in milk bags this time. And I’m sure that it will be a very unique creation because contrary to bread bags, they are really difficult to knit. They are thick and I even got some hand blisters.

What inspires you as an artist?

Too many things!!! I’ve a lot of pop ups that comes in my mind and I don’t really know were they come from. Nature inspires me a lot. Its odors, its sounds, its moves and all creatures that lives in it. It may seems a little bit contradictory, but my other inspiration is my love for bright colors AND black and white. I don’t know why I’m fascinated by these two very different sources, but I do!

How long have you been selling your art?

Since July 2008. It’s really new but I have prepared most of my articles in the last years and waited to reach a considerable quantity before selling it to offer greater diversity.

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

Long time ago! I remember when I was in elementary school, I wrote a text about pollution publicized in the newspapers. It scared me! After that, I started to recycle and up cycled, used clothes line, bring my coffee cup …

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

Now, my son Rémi is a good motivation! I want him to grow up and see the sun, breath pure air (at least, without oxygen demijohn) and have free water to drink.

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

Recycled… I have been doing it for so long now. But there is a second one, use washable diapers.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Definitely try the washable diapers! Today, they are like a real diaper (no more folding), more soft for my little baby’s butt and less expensive (in long term) than disposable diapers.

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

For girls only, they should afford a DIVA CUP! It’s a menstrual receptacle. Its comfortable, clean, convenient, no leak, 12 hours protection, reusable, latex/rubber free, hypoallergenic, made in medical grade silicone and there is no association with toxic shock syndrome. And besides, no more expense for tampons or pads! Only one word to say: FANTASTIC! You can have more information at

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Sold my article to let my creativity do more stuff!

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

Let your inspiration flow and persevere! It’s not easy to get trough in any kind of art.

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

Come see my work at and enjoy it!
Thank you!

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Jessica Burko, Mixed Media Photography

Jessica Burko is a Photographer based out of the Boston area who typically works in mixed media application. In a chance encounter, we happened to meet during a concert and began talking about selling our art and where we do so. We left at the end of the show exchanging cards and when I began looking into her work knew she would be a perfect fit for an interview! In our short conversation there were many points we did not cover and I was delighted to learn that Jessica is far more eco friendly than even she originally let on.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

Since I am self-employed, I don’t have a standard schedule, and no two days are alike. This type of calendar agrees with me because I am then open to delve into different projects on different days and work as early or as late as I need. Two standards my days however are beginning the morning with reading emails and blogs over breakfast, and ending each day with knitting on the sofa.

Who or what inspired you to become a Photographer?

I have been studying and practicing photography, working in a wet darkroom and exhibiting my photographs since I was ten years old. I began this practice at an arts summer camp in New Jersey (Appel Farm Arts and Music Center) where I spent five glorious summers taking theatre, art, and music classes. My two earliest photographic influences were Dorothea Lange and Diane Arbus.

Can you tell us a little bit about what a Mixed Media Artist does?

“Mixed-Media” is a wonderful term meaning: anything goes. It is the theory that it is OK to mix different types of art materials onto one canvas, to not be bound by traditional methods of producing visual work, and to be free to experiment with found objects and art supplies equally. Mixed media is hardly uncommon in contemporary art, but in the past it was unheard of to blend different mediums and I even had a photography Professor once tell me that I should choose to use EITHER black and white film OR color film because my work would never be taken seriously if I continued photographing with both. Currently I photograph with a variety of film sizes, colors, and transparencies. I scan my film and print with ink jets onto watercolor paper, I then combine my original photographic images with found paper, vintage photos, and other materials such as thread, wax, and wood.

What is the largest scale mixed media installation you have completed?

In graduate school I produced an installation piece that consisted of three oversized, handmade pieces of paper each measuring approximately six by eight feet. The paper was made from pulped egg cartons, pages from old journals, drawings and letters, and consumable waste (coffee grounds, onion skins, tea leaves). The paper acted as oversized book pages and bore images and text transferred from photocopies with wintergreen oil. The pages were suspended from the ceiling in a dark room in an alter-like configuration and lit with strong spotlights. It was very liberating to work at such a large scale and made me view my work and process of creativity (literally) from a new vantage point.

What mediums do you prefer to complete your work on (canvas, paper, etc)?

I create most of my mixed-media work involving wax on wood panels, either salvaged plywood or store-bought wooden canvases. The simultaneously hard and porous surface of the wood accepts wax and other adhesives well. Much of the work I have created in the past year are paper quilts that are combinations of original photographs and found papers stitched together only with thread. These pieces are fairly fragile and I have been exhibiting them framed.

How do you find beeswax holds up over the long term?

Beeswax is a great archival material to work. There is evidence as far back as 100 BCE of the ancient Egyptians painting portraits in a material called “encaustic” which is wax melted with resin, and those portraits still survive today. There is a vibrant movement of encaustic painters in contemporary art who use wax, resin, and pigments to create works that have texture, translucency, and three-dimensionality not possible using other mediums. The wax that I use in my work as a collage material and over coating is a non-pigmented encaustic that I make from pure, granular beeswax and Dimar resin. The addition of the resin insures that the wax hardens over time.

Why is it so important to go green? In what other ways do you work in an eco friendly manner?

I remember clearly a musical instrument that we made in nursery school out of an old frozen orange juice container, navy beans, tape, and paint. All my life I have loved the idea of creating instead of wasting. Collecting scraps of paper, small objects, old books, postcards, and sketches to incorporate into art is something that I have always practiced, and once I learned how to make paper I delighted in asking all my friends to save their cardboard egg cartons for me to pulp and reuse. For me the idea of “going green” with my artwork has happened fairly naturally, and the more supplies I collect for my art from what other people discard, the less expense I go through in making my work, and the more I can experiment with bringing my ideas to fruition.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

I am constantly looking, writing, photographing, and collecting. It is what I see, thoughts I put into words, images I capture, and items of detritus that I have all around me that inspire my artwork. I usually create my work in bursts, gestating an idea and collecting materials for a couple of months and then going into the studio and intensely making work for weeks on end until I have amassed a new series/collection.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

My Husband and I are avid recyclers, and we have CFLs in almost every light in our home. I also read a few great tips for conserving water on a blog called “The Sietch Blog” and now I have reduced the hot water I use for showers, and when I run the sink tap to get hot water I collect the what comes out first and water the plants with it. We also have a whole collection of canvas bags that we use when shopping. Someday when we have our own house we plan to incorporate methods of conservation such as solar panels, a clothesline, and a rain collection system for garden watering.

What challenges have you had in your work?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is showing and selling my work. Making it comes naturally, and I hope someday having the work collected will come just as naturally.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art?

Very positive because through the internet art can be shared across continents, ideas can be discussed between artists and art historians from all over the world, and it is the most democratic way that art has ever been exhibited.

As a fine artist, what challenges have you faced by exposing your artwork to the world via the Internet?

None really, it has only been a positive experience for me. Since I first launched my own web site and have shown my work through other sites such as Etsy my work had been found by collectors, curators, publishers, journalists, arts foundations and all of these discoveries have led to getting my work exhibited, purchased, published, and written about. The exposure for the arts facilitated through the internet is very powerful and propels my work forward every day.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

My most recent series consists of paper quilts: collages of original photographs, found papers, and vintage photographs connected by stitched thread. With each quilt I create a narrative through text from old book pages juxtaposed with photographic images and colorful patterns. I love making this work because of the endless possibilities I find as I sift through piles of collected ephemera.

What advice would you give to an artist just getting started in their industry?

Do your homework. Research galleries that are suitable for your work before sending them a submission, go see lots of art, read about art, write about your own work and the work of others. The more a young artist becomes immersed in the art world and their local arts community the more opportunities they will find and the more their work will grow.

What green product would you recommend to our readers?

Canvas and fabric bags – any kind at all! I always make sure to keep bags in the car and at least one empty bag with me at all times just in case someone tries to offer me a plastic one I can say “no thanks!” and pull out my own.

What is your best going green tip?

Changing light bulbs to CFLs. They are better for the environment because they save energy and they are GREAT for keeping the electric bill low.

Is there one green practice you do daily that has become second nature?

Using less hot water in the shower. Really hot water is not good for skin, and by keeping the tap turned down I am not wasting water, so it’s two good things rolled into one!

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

My web site and I also have an on-line shop for my work

Is your work featured in a gallery or other brick & mortar location?
My work is currently on view at New England Bio Labs through September 8th
I also have work that will be exhibited in the 15th Annual Jamaica Plain Open Studios Juried Show from September 12-18 on view at Maliotis Cultural Center.
Additionally, my work will be on view at my studio (35 Wareham Street, between Harrison and Albany Streets) during the South End Open Studios September 20-21
Also during the Jamaica Plain Open Studios September 27-28, where I will be showing at The Eliot School.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Jaime Salm of MIO

When I discovered MIO online and began researching the company, run by brothers Jaime and Isaac Salm, it was clear their mission is one of providing quality products to the world with a strong focus on bettering it at the same time. The main office is located in Philadelphia, PA and the European sales office in Cologne Germany, giving them a true global approach. In addition to their three dimensional wall coverings MIO also offers lighting, furnishings and accessories that take advantage of closed loop manufacturing, truly embodying what it means to create lasting, stylish, design options that are also eco-friendly.

Is there a such thing as a typical day at MIO?

Every day is different but there are certain aspects that do not change. Days are usually split up for me into design and operations. Design work changes everyday but is based on research, testing and concept development. The operations side of things varies greatly as well. One minute I might be answering emails to suppliers and the next I will be preparing for a trade show. It is definitely never boring here at MIO. Most important of all all the work I do is work I love doing so it is very fulfilling.

Who or what inspired the creation of your 3 dimensional wallpaper?

It was inspired by the beauty and flexibility of the material and the technology used to make the product. The perception is that paper is delicate, disposable and not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing material. PaperForms challenge this notion with a truly innovative format for wallpaper. We get very excited around here with materials, technology and human behavior in all aspects of life.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your paper forms are created from?

They are made from post and pre-consumer waste paper. This simply means they are made from the cardboard waste produced inside packaging companies and with the packaging that is collected through curbside collection. This material is then made into a pulp and transformed into PaperForms.

What is the largest scale installation you have had an order placed for?

We have had orders for the ceilings of restaurants, trade shows, living rooms, bathrooms, TV sets… You name it and they have been used for it. We have removed from the waste stream several tons of waste paper with our PaperForms.

Are the paper forms recyclable?

They are recycled and recyclable. They are made of paper and nothing else.

What is the environmental advantage to using forms that are individual tiles?

Modularity means using wallpaper in smaller sections, only where it is needed. It works as wall art, wall accents or wall to wall. The design is flexible in its use and also in terms of maintenance. If a tile gets damaged, only one tile needs to be replaced vs. conventional wallpaper where damage can mean replacing all of it.

What are some of the other sustainable products your company offers?

The entire MIO collection is designed with sustainability as the central reasoning behind choices in manufacturing, materials and function.

What has it been like working with your brother as your company grows?

We are able to bridge the gap between design, sustainability and business because we work together. One can view each of us as a set of filters. If an idea gets through my brother and myself than the design has a chance, otherwise we scrap it. It can be challenging, but I believe the constraints we have set up for our company are what makes our company work.

Why is it so important to go green?

Because being “green” is about common sense. I truly believe that being “green” is about efficiency and humanity, it is not a luxury. Sustainability is a smart way to think about design because it is about the big picture and I believe makes for more beautiful and effective design.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?
I ride my bicycle everywhere. I do not own a car. I turn the lights off and keep my windows open instead of running the AC at home. I replace my bulbs with compact fluorescents. I turn the water off when brushing my teeth and have installed soda bottles in the tank of my toilet. I recycle and will be setting up composting for MIO very soon. I believe the small things make a difference. Being aware of ones impact is VERY important.
Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

I was not aware of it in the 80’s and what seems to be forming right now is not a movement but an environmental, social and economic revolution which will influence and impact us all. We started MIO in 2001, when -as my brother puts it- green was just a color!

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on artistic endeavors?

It has a VERY positive impact on almost everything. The tools are not the problems it is the application of those tools. Dynamite never hurt anyone, it was people who hurt others. The internet is the “dynamite” of our age. MIO would not exist in its current form if it were not for the internet.

What challenges has your company faced since its inception?

Numerous. Every day there are new challenges. I started without much experience which has been an asset but has also led me to unusual places in business and design. The important thing is to learn from all these experiences and to not repeat your mistakes. I know this sounds trite but it is true and that is why it sounds trite.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

We are doing quite a bit of sustainable design consulting at the moment. Aside from growing the MIO collection we are expanding our reach in Europe and are in the early stages of re-developing our site.

What advice would you give to an artist just getting started in their industry?
Do the things that you love and believe in. Choose the options that give you more options. Be VERY persistent.

What green product would you recommend to our readers?

Products that you really need or really really want because they mean something to you.

What is your best going green tip?

Start with the simple things that you feel won’t “inconvenience” you and make yourself aware of these choices as often as possible. Next thing you know you will find that the other things you can do won’t feel like an inconvenience anymore. The biggest component to comfort is perception.

Is there one green practice you do daily that has become second nature?

Re-usable shopping bags, riding my bike as a method of transport and of course the soda bottles in my toilet take care of themselves.

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

Our work can be seen here

Is your work featured in a brick & mortar location(s)?

Our products are available in stores worldwide. You can contact us to find a retailer near you.

All photos courtesy of Robert Hakalski for MIO
Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Victoria Case of Victoria Case Art Designs

Victoria Case is an Illustrator based in Las Vegas, but to say she is simply an Illustrator would grossly undervalue her work. I was more than excited to interview Victoria as I have personal experience with her creative hand, having bought a blank inside card, her new zine and a custom drawn 5×7 portrait. As an avid reader of her blog and frequent visitor to her online storefront I was thrilled to read she was championing an effort to go green through her use of materials and immediately requested an interview. Her concern for the planet has existed for many years and she was excited to share how she is making a difference through her efforts.

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

I create what would be considered “old school” artwork- I draw with an ink pen and color pencils on basic white paper.

What inspires you as an artist?

I love to illustrate the silliness of people and animals and life in general. My kids honestly are the best source for pure humor- they come up with the funniest things. Plus for a bonus- I live in Las Vegas- Sin City- so there is an array of inspiration here, as I’m sure you can imagine.

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

I am a compulsive list maker and my daily activities are written out each morning so that I don’t get sidetracked. I am drawing by 7 am and don’t usually quit until 5 pm. Then it’s family time. After the kids have gone off to bed – back to drawing until the late hours of the night. I start with rough drafts of an idea in pencil and once I’m happy with the set-up and placement- I’ll ink, erase the pencils marks and do my most favorite part….color.

I carry paper and pen always, so whenever or wherever I have an idea I can quickly jot it down- whether it be a few words or a quick rough sketch. From those sketches- I’ll decide whether it should be an illustration or a note card.

If I could give everyone in the world a coloring book and crayons, I would. It’s amazing just how relaxing it is, your breathing becomes very rhythmic, your muscles relax and it’s I guess, spiritual- to create something. If you don’t believe me, grab a coloring book and crayons and sit by yourself at a table for awhile.

How long have you selling your art?

A little over 20 years. Although my online retail has only been for six of those years.

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

Yes! My first sale was exhilarating and full of stomach butterflies. Each and every sale after that one feels exactly the same way. It is overwhelming to me when someone actually likes my work enough to purchase it. It’s the highest compliment someone can give. *smile*

What mediums have you changed over to become more Earth friendly?

I have been on the search for eco-friendly inks and pencils. I have always used recycled and/or earth friendly paper.

I also collect and re-use cardboard whenever I can find it for shipping my work. And I prefer working by natural sunlight.

How do you feel that recycled paper holds up in comparison to other papers you have used in the past?

I used to find working with recycled paper quite challenging. It always seemed to have a dingy quality to it and I would find specks and spots within the grain. Even more disheartening, it was the most expensive choice. The recycled paper that is sold today is very vibrant, smooth and although it may still have a higher price, it is always well worth the few pennies.

What does the Green Movement mean to you?

Standing up and taking responsibility for our environment/planet by educating ourselves and others and actively participating in it’s preservation. Most importantly, demanding LOUDLY to government officials and corporations for change.

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

I’d have to say that it really became a focus for me in the late 70’s early 80’s with the “Earth Day” movement. Recycling became mandatory where I lived and I bought a “compact” car. With time, I became more informed about the world around me and my impact on an every day basis- from what I purchased to what I threw away and my choices on how I live my life. Some decisions have come with no choice- for instance, due to allergies – I have to live mostly organic.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

I could not state that I’m a loving and nurturing parent to my kids and not take care of the surroundings that will sustain them. When I look into my children’s eyes I see my grandchildren, and their children, and generations ahead. How could I not be inspired? It’s just the right thing to do.

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

Recycling of our plastics, cans, glass and newspapers. It’s a habit to carry items out to the bins.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

We all shop. So, I would highly recommend that everyone use cloth tote/grocery bags instead of paper or plastic.

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

The Strathmore paper company has a wonderful selection of recycled papers and a new Wind Power Series paper that is eco-friendly.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Time management.

What has been your greatest success to date?

I have had many fantastic opportunity’s over the years, but one that stands out in my mind, is an opportunity a few years back to work with Ted Bergman. He was the writer on Sanford & Son, Three’s Company, All in The Family (just to name a few). He had written a hilarious play called “Whoops”, and hired me to create the playbill artwork. Such a funny man and writer.

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

Be passionate about your work. Have patience. Practice every day.

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

I have a website
A little shop on Etsy
and I sell periodically on eBay: vcad001
My blog

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Debby Arem of Debby Arem Designs

Debby Arem creates the most eclectic pieces out of none other than old circuit boards for her company Debby Arem Designs in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Reclaiming these pieces saves so much plastic from being placed in landfills and repurposing them into such fun Geekery has given the unique items a very well deserved second life. Debby enjoys her niche market and does very well creating everything from home goods to jewelry; even cufflinks for men! She loves the environmental impact her work has as well and had fun sharing her thoughts on all things eco friendly.

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

For close to 16 years, I’ve been committed to recycling circuit boards into useful and functional as well as decorative products. I design a line of jewelry (pins, earrings and men’s cufflinks) as well as clocks, picture frames, sun catchers and light switch plates all using recycled circuit boards as the main component. My husband works with me and we also make a line of green office products such as clipboards of all sizes (including magnetic ones), bookmarks and key chains. New products are constantly being brain stormed and added to the line such as our most recent merchant clipboard for credit cards which also doubles as a coupon holder to be used in the kitchen! We also recently introduced eyeglass or badge holders that are made out of recycled circuit boards, anodized aluminum and colored wire.

What was the motivation behind the creation of Three Ring Circuits (3RC)?

Back in 1990, my husband had a company that assembled PC’s. One day I was in the back room where these computers were being assembled and I saw a circuit board for the first time in my life. Being an artist, I was fascinated by all the gorgeous patterns of circuitry and I remember that I immediately thought “WOW, what great jewelry you could make from these things!” I was a bead artist at the time, creating designs for the Smithsonian’s museum shops and mail order catalogs as well as doing quite a bit of custom work for my own customers. But having worked with beads for about 12 years by then, I was excited at the prospect of having a new medium to work with!

Oddly enough, we had a neighbor who had a company which manufactured circuit boards. Any boards which were found to be defective had to be hauled away and destroyed by being burned or dumped in a landfill. We stepped in and acquired these circuit boards and after a lot of trial and error, found a way to cut them into interesting shapes to be used for my jewelry line.

There were also circuit boards which were prototypes and made in limited quantities to verify functionality. After two years, our neighbor’s manufacturing company was no longer obliged to keep these prototypes so once again, we were able to rescue these boards from being destroyed. The huge variety in size and color of these prototype boards fired our imagination and got us thinking about many different products that could be made from them. My husband came up with the idea for the green office products line when we realized there were so many other uses for these discarded circuit boards besides my jewelry line. Around this time, I also began designing clocks, picture frames and then light switch plates as well as Three Ring Circuits line began to really expand.

Are people surprised to learn what your items are made out of? What is their reaction?

People usually do a double take when they realize that my jewelry is made from recycled circuit boards or that the clipboard they are holding was intended to be a motherboard when manufactured. When I first began creating my recycled circuit board jewelry line in 1992 (Three Ring Circuits) people weren’t as aware as they are today of the need to recycle – we really were ahead of our time in that respect and always joke that finally the world caught up to us in terms of salvaging circuit boards (or other found objects) and repurposing them into other new and useful items. What was once met with skeptical looks and indifference, is now applauded as a great way to recycle circuit boards into new products and everyone I meet thinks it’s terrific what we do with these otherwise useless circuit boards.

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

In addition to the enormous amount of circuit boards that we acquired back in the early 1990’s, we continue to find new sources all over the United States and even Taiwan believe it or not ,who are happy to see their boards repurposed in imaginative ways. As far as my jewelry line and other decorative objects such as my clocks and picture frames, I am always searching for vintage components. I’ve also done my fair share of dumpster diving at scrap metal facilities where I’ve found all sorts of wonderful metal pieces. The phrase “What’s one man’s trash is another’s treasure” is the essence of our business!

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

The concept of our business has always been recycling and repurposing of what would otherwise be scrap material. Salvage literally means “saving” and so the word itself defines what we are all about! To be able to create art from what would otherwise become trash, just makes me feel good – not only in a creative way but in helping to promote a green way of living.
What inspires you as an artist?

I have always had the ability to see art and utility in what others might consider junk. Again, back in the early 1990’s, people didn’t quite get it when I would get all excited when we acquired a new batch of otherwise useless circuit boards. And all these circuit boards that we use weren’t just destined to be used in computers – some were to be used in radar equipment, some for telephone switches – just about anything electronic. When others were discovering old buttons and watch pieces as items to be used in art, I was seeing the potential in electronic products such as diodes, transistors, and resistors. Anything was fair game! And again for me, there’s almost nothing that matches the rush of finding a new source for scrap metal, circuit boards, or electrical components or coming up with a new product that I can make from these discarded circuit boards!

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

Everything usually starts when I see a circuit board with an interesting pattern or color. Many times the size and shape may determine what the product will ultimately become. Other times, I have a new product in mind, and then I begin my search in my studio to find recycled items that will help me create this final product. My palette may consist of vintage jewelry pieces, electronic components, brass stampings, anodized aluminum, vintage beads and colored wire. Then it’s just a matter of sitting down and designing. If I know I want to make a pin that resembles an animal or insect, I will look through all my various metal stampings to find pieces that will help create this image which will then be mounted on a recycled circuit board to create what many call mini collages.

How long have you been selling your art?

I have actually been selling my art since I was 15 years old and made earrings from beads and wire!

After graduating from college with a degree in Fine Arts, I was fortunate enough to have a number of positions within the Smithsonian Institution such as an exhibits specialist and then the matter/framer at the National Gallery of Art. I’ve always found it ironic, that many years later, I was back at the Smithsonian but as a vendor – selling my Three Ring Circuits line to the Air and Space Museums’ gift shop! During this same time period, I also sold my beaded jewelry line (which goes by the name of Beadles and uses vintage beads from the 1950’s – 1980’s) through the various Smithsonian museum shops and their mail order catalog. So I guess you could say I’ve been selling my art for a long time – but professionally for over 25 years.

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

It’s always gratifying when someone appreciates my work so from that point of view, every sale is exciting. I do vividly remember my first sale when I was 15 years old and sold a number of my earrings to a gallery in Provincetown, Mass on Cape Cod. I remember the thrill of marching into that shop and leaving with cash in my hand and a look of shock on my face! It was the first time I realized that I could create a piece of art that someone would want to buy other than a family member!

Now I think it’s almost more about seeing the look on someone’s face when they realize that I am using circuit boards in my work and of course it’s wonderful to realize that my work has caught on and so many people appreciate it .

What does the Green Movement mean to you?

It means never throwing anything away that could potentially be used for something else! And unfortunately, my studio attests to this with boxes of circuit boards waiting to be turned into something new, bins of brass stampings, boxes of vintage beads and cabochons, containers of electrical components and reels of colored wire just about everywhere you look. It’s also exciting to know that being green is now a movement which means that many people are concerned about preserving our natural environment. Our society used to be referred to as a throw-away society and to know that people are working hard to change this image and way of living is extremely gratifying to both myself and my husband.

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

The Green Movement is something that has been a part of our lives since the early 1990’s. When I saw my first circuit board and learned that so many of them were discarded I think was the pivotal moment when I realized that I could make use of these beautiful hi tech items and turn them into something other than their original intent . I realized that there was SO much trash being dumped in landfills that need not be and we made it our business to do our own part not to contribute to this disaster but recycling whatever we could at the time.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

The thought that if we don’t, future generations are going to inherit a world that has even more air and water pollution than we have now. How can you live with yourself if you don’t?!

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

Every time I go food shopping, I bring my own bags to carry my groceries home in rather then keep on bringing home more and more plastic! And we try to remember if we’re going out to eat in a restaurant, to bring our own containers to bring home any leftovers rather than bring home a Styrofoam container.

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

My husband and I recycle all our packaging materials. We re-use padded envelopes and tissue paper. I have also approached a large local department store that sells a lot of breakable objects and they are happy to let me dumpster dive to recycle all the bubble wrap they get in on a daily basis. It gets me sick to see how many POUNDS of this stuff are thrown out each day by this one store. So I highly encourage any artist that ships their art, to try to use as much recycled packing material as they can and to seriously consider asking a local store if they can have their bubble wrap! For years I’ve also saved all wrapping paper from presents so I could re-use it -which I used to get a hard time about from my family but now I think they all see I wasn’t so crazy and I was recycling before it was even called that!

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

We use energy saving light bulbs and whenever possible, I try to use natural cleaning products like vinegar or baking soda.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Actually my greatest challenge, believe it or not, is putting restrictions on myself not to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week! I’m always trying to come up with new products and I spend countless hours each week promoting my work online, so to put limits on how many hours I’m going to devote to my business each day is hard for me and something I’m working on.

What has been your greatest success to date?

I have sold my work in many galleries in the U.S., Canada and even Europe, but I think that my greatest success to date has been selling my work in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum shop. Having people from all over the world come to that museum and see my work is a wonderful feeling!

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

Let your imagination run wild! I think the worst thing that an artist can do is to put restrictions on their creativity. Don’t be afraid to try something new because you never know if it’s going to work if you don’t try it.

I also know that as far as marketing is concerned, you need to get your name out there. I started out doing craft shows back in the early 1980’s and from there I branched out to selling my work in upscale department stores, art galleries and then mail order catalogs. Of course when I first began, there was no such thing as the internet but now with so many online boutiques I think that networking is of the utmost importance and contacting people and asking them to take a look at your work in hopes that they might want to carry it is necessary if you want to have a successful business and an online presence.

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

I actually have three online presences. I sell my Three Ring Circuits line on my own website where you will find my jewelry items and green office products.

I always ask though that people contact me first before placing an order as many of my items are one of a kind or may be out of stock.

I also sell my work in my Etsy shop where I sell not only what I sell on my own website, but more of the one of a kind items such as my clocks, picture frames, light switch plates, sun catchers, and eyeglass or badge holders.
I [also] sell in my DaWanda shop

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