Category Archives: Compost

Artist Spotlight: Beth Hinson of Junkyard Gypsy

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspires you as an artist?

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

How long have you been selling your art?

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

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

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


What does the Green Movement mean to you?

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

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

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

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

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

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

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

What green practice do you recommend readers try?

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

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

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

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

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

What has been your greatest success to date?

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

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

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


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

Junkyard Gypsy
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

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: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight: Karen Dengler of Retired Records

Karen Dengler is the owner and creator of Retired Records in Cincinnati, OH which is a company that focuses on upcycling old vinyl albums into functional home goods. The plain old bowl shapes of the past are a far cry from the inspiring and truly unique items that Karen creates. She keeps a solid focus on protecting the planet, upcycling little pieces of music history and producing house wares that are a form of sculptural art. Rock and roll.


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

I create functional art, mostly for the home, and some for the body out of recycled materials, mainly old vinyl and found or discarded objects. I have a BFA in art therapy and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I use art as a tool for creativity it provides an outlet for me an keeps balance in my life.

What was the motivation behind the creation of Retired Records?

The motivation began two years ago, after making a bowl, from an old record. I then made a purse, I can never find one I like at the store. I prefer to have something no one else does, people started to notice mine and began to ask me to make them . After encouragement from friends and family. I opened my Etsy shop in August of 2007. I continue to see what I can create I find it exciting to make useful items out of materials that are non-traditional and would otherwise end up in a landfill.

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

Most people are intrigued, and comment “Is that REALLY made from a record”, or how did you think of that? My comment is” I usually create items through experimentation, once I start creating my brain just goes on overdrive. I wake in the middle of the night dreaming of new and exciting items.

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

I have acquire a lot of my items from friends and family and well as thrift stores. I try to incorporate as much recycled material into a piece as I can. I think it makes the art more interesting.


What inspires you as an artist?

I am inspired by nature. The record label itself, specific colors will dictate a design or pattern to paint. Even an old belt will inspire a specific look for a purse, such a rock-n-roll or classic. I also love contemporary design with clean lines. My girls are also helpful in giving me their creative opinions when I am working on a project.

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

The process depends on each specific piece it changes and develops as I work. I do not always have an exact image of how it will look when I am done. If I do I usually make modifications as I work. This is why most of my items are one-of-a-kind. I use what I have then make it work into my design.

How long have you been selling your art?

About three years.


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

I remember making a purse for my daughters teacher at school, that was my first sale. I still get excited when making a sale and seeing where it will go. I have sold items all over the world from California to as far away as Norway.

What does the Green Movement mean to you?

It means helping out and doing my small part, to inspire future generations to continue to do the same.

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

I feel when I became a parent it started to mean more to me than it had previously. When you have kids you realize that you should be a good role model and practice what you preach. I also compost and have an organic herb, vegetable and butterfly garden that the family helps out with.

What inspires you to take care of our planet?

As a kid I was raised partly in the country my father has a farm in Kentucky and I always noticed that I felt better, stronger and more independent having been that environment. Playing in the fields, fishing, gardening, horseback riding and exploring. The planet is part of us, just like our own soul and we have to nurture it as it nurtures us.

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

Composting and recycling.


What green practice do you recommend readers try?

Recycling is an easy first step.

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

I use white vinegar a lot in my cleaning.

As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?

Making time for my work.

What has been your greatest success to date?

The creation of my wine rack.


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

Keep trying until you find something that you truly enjoy.

To view all of Karen’s amazing work please visit her online storefront Retired Records

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight Cynthia Toy of The Fairies Nest — Doll Maker

Cynthia Toy, based out of Greensboro, NC, makes dolls that look as if they could turn around and wink at any second. Her ability to construct the faces and bodies using natural fibers and still ensure each mystical beauty will hold up well is a talent she was interested in sharing. Cynthia lives and works green prioritizing the environment and constantly striving to find better, more Earth friendly alternatives to her already eco-conscious palate.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

I am so lucky to be able to work from my home…of course that does have a down side in that I can be easily distracted from making dolls by the myriad of things that always need to be done around a house. I’m a morning person so after I finish the garden chores, I do try to spend the rest of the morning in the studio and leave the daily household chores for the afternoon. My youngest son is still at home so evenings are family time, we eat dinner together every night and then play games, read, or just hang out together. Yeah, not too exciting!

Who or what influences your work and why?

I grew up in a family where sewing was second nature. My maternal grandmother was a professional seamstress and my mom was always making or altering clothes for us…with 4 kids that sort of frugality was a necessity! I made my first doll when I was 6, a simple cookie cutter shape with yarn hair that my sister and I started playing with before she was even finished. The poor thing never did get more of a face then one button eye! In our household, home made presents were considered an absolute and I picked up a lot of needle crafts from my mom over the years (as well as her fiber addiction!) but I wasn’t very good at any of them for a long time. I loved the feeling of cloth and yarns in my hands but I couldn’t quite figure out a way to use them that worked for me until I started making dolls. In college I majored in theater where I not only learned costume construction but also the fine art of creative illusion…a very important skill for a doll maker!

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art are innate?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. I believe that there are some people that are driven to create and for whom the creative process comes much more easily, but I can say as a teacher, that I have seen children who were considered “not artistic” find their creative voice when they were exposed to the process of making art. Perhaps it isn’t that there are people who are not innately creative but that their creativity has never found its outlet. Maybe the ability lies in all of us and it is our duty to make sure that all children are exposed to different ways of creating. And who’s to say that such exposure won’t lead them to creative work in fields other then the arts such as science or mathematics.

Explain your art- what exactly is it you do? How do you describe it?

I wave my magic wand…no? Actually I have several ways that I make my dolls. One is to build them from the inside out by making a wire armature and then wrapping it with wool and thread to build up the musculature. Over this I stretch a cotton knit “skin” The other method is to sew woven cotton fabric for the individual body pieces and the wire and stuff them. I actually combine these two methods for a third type of doll by stretching a “skin” over a doll made of the woven cotton.

When did you first become interested in doll making?

As I said I started early! But it was always just a “for fun” thing until I had kids. I made them several dolls over the years and they were a huge success with their friends. Before long people were commissioning me to make them a doll and a business was born!

Where did your first inspiration come from?

I would say that my earliest inspiration were Fairy Tales …the brother’s Grimm and all those various colored fairy books by Andrew Lang, I devoured them all. Growing up in a rural area surrounded by the beauties of Nature just seemed to fit right in. My sister and I believed we saw the work of fairies everywhere. Dandelions in the spring grass were put there by fairies, the twisted roots of trees were fairy houses, and the frost patterns on the winter windows were obviously fairy work. To this day I find nature to be one of the greatest inspirations for my art; there is nothing like a walk in the woods to bring out visions of fairies. As an adult, I am also inspired by the many wonderful doll and fairy artists that can be seen on the web. Brian Froud and his wife, the incredible doll artist Amy Froud, are my all time favorites.

Where do your ideas come from? Can you tell me about your creative process?

My head is so full of characters that just have to come out. I can find an idea for a doll in a piece of fabric, a funny looking mushroom, or the way the sun dances on water. I have two ways of processing these ideas. The first and most usual is that I have to let the piece “percolate” in my thoughts for a bit…I try out various colors and fabrics in my mind until suddenly something clicks and I can visualize the way I need to proceed. Usually I can work on other dolls while this happens, but sometimes I’ll get really stuck in the “percolating” phase and I’ll have to do something completely different for a spell. My recycled sweater wallets were the product of one of these periods!

Then there are times when the idea for a doll arrives in my head full blown and it’s all I can do to make it fast enough. In a lot of ways those are my favorites.

When did you first discover your talent and artistic ability?

That’s an interesting question! I was actually never considered artistic as a child; my sister was the “artsy” one. But in middle school I had this wonderful art teacher who opened up the world of three dimensional arts to me. I would putter in paper mache and clay all year with never a discouraging word. It was a marvelous experience! I still didn’t feel like I had any talent but I did discover how good it felt to create. And that has been something I’ve never forgotten (hence the above diatribe on exposing children to Art!)

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

Not exactly. My parents are avid environmentalists and I was raised to believe that taking care of the earth was one of my responsibilities in life. You could say that recycling is a family trait. We’re the people carefully unwrapping our presents at Christmas so we can reuse the paper and you’d be amazed at how much fabric I salvage from old clothes. My favorite new “green” art project are the sweater wallets. I’ve had a blast felting old sweaters.

What have you done to incorporate an eco-friendly approach to your dolls?

I am particularly drawn to natural fibers. I love cotton knit for “skin” and silk for wings. Natural fibers just feel so lovely when you create with them. When I make toys I try to use natural fibers exclusively, including using wool for stuffing, because wool retains body warmth and makes the dolls feel alive. With the more detailed art dolls I have to use small amounts of polyester fiberfill to prevent lumping in tiny spaces but I am looking in to some natural alternatives for that as well.


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

We have a garden as well as belonging to two local CSAs, we compost, recycle, use cloth bags and florescent bulbs, the usual stuff. One of our main goals is to live as locally as possible to reduce our carbon footprint and support our local economy.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Besides the above mentioned Frouds, I am a huge fan of children’s book illustrators like Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackam, Milo Winter, Nicola Bailey, and Eleanor Abbott.

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

The protection of the environment is the most important challenge right now. I want there to be wild spaces still existing in the future, not only because our survival as a species depends on it but because it is the right thing to do.

What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?

“The Woodwife” is my all time favorite. I love the feel she has and the expression on her face. Her lower half is curly willow and the material for her dress was made from bits and pieces of fibers and fabrics sandwiched between tulle and a green satin and then free motioned embroidered. Instead of tossing them in the trash, I have a box that I keep all these tiny scraps that are too small to use just for making this fabric.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Finding the time and space to work. I was working in a closet for years; we called it the sewing temple. But now that a couple of my kids have grown and moved on I actually have a studio…such luxury!

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

I think it’s amazingly positive! The exposure to new, exciting art is available at the click of a mouse. And the ability to get world wide feedback on my own work has been an amazing inspiration for me.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To bring a little magic into people’s lives and make a living in the process!

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

I’ve been making a lot of the smaller dolls in preparation for upcoming shows and the holiday season but I’m planning on making a pirate queen and a fall version of the Woodwife as soon as I have a good stretch of time.

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

Don’t listen to nay sayers and be willing to be flexible. Let your art take you to new places and try new ideas and approaches with out worrying about the “finished” product. The best work can sometimes happen from a mistake.

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

Mesh bags for produce so you don’t have to use those icky, hard to open, plastic tear off ones for your fruits and veggies.

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

Compost!! It’s so easy and the result is black gold. We do have a conventional compost pile that we use in the spring and summer but, starting in late fall, we just bury our scraps in the garden. It’s SO easy, it keeps the earthworms fat and happy all winter, and as a bonus in the spring the beds are super loose and easy to plant.

How would your friends describe you?

Obsessive, outgoing (though that’s really a façade), silly, and loyal.

Do you have a website or online presence where people can view your work?

You can view a gallery of my past work
And currently available work can be found in my Etsy shop

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Artist Spotlight — Jon Marro, Love Artist and Graphic Designer

Jon Marro is the owner and operator of Blend Apparel, a graphic T-shirt company unlike any other due to their strong environmentally friendly focus. All their shirts are made from bamboo or organic cotton. Not only is bamboo a renewable resource, it grows much faster than cotton, is breathable and soft. Even their servers are run using wind power. This is a company going above and beyond, truly displaying their love for this planet and Jon was eager to chat with us about their contributions.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

My professional life currently toggles between doing graphic design work and Blend Apparel. A typical personal day (which mind you, almost always involves some sort of professionalism) tries to incorporate at least one activity under the Mind, Body, Soul categories. Mind could be reading, writing, or meditating, body could involve working out, running, or doing yoga, and soul is something gratuitously creative, for myself or another.

Explain your art- what exactly is it you do? How do you describe it?

I create images which are my iconographic question marks aimed at the world. Some are meant solely to bring a smile or levity, others intend to raise awareness or self-love.

Do you find your imagery is a good conversation starter with people you have never met before?

Completely. And friends of mine who have worn the shirts have told me on their various travels around the world-the shirts always provoke questions. That’s ultimately what I’m trying to do, is snap people out of their world, if only for a second to smile or ponder the cleverness in the design. I see them as “coffee table shirts.” Eliciting interesting conversation, and in the best case scenario they will bring people/strangers together to talk about the bigger questions the shirts pose.

Who or what influences your work and why?

I’m pretty heavily influenced by cultural icons. Dylan, Marley, Lennon. Andy Warhol. The Dalai Lama, Gandhi, MLK. People who have been thrown into the public eye by just being who they are and standing behind their passions. I’m completely inspired by people following their dreams, being a bold stance for love and higher purposes, and people who try to make a difference with revolutionary compassion.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Funny, I’ve been asking myself the same question recently about true love. I really don’t know. I’ve heard of people just looking at an instrument and it makes sense to them. I guess it’s whether or not they apply that understanding, or actively follow their intuition or interest. Personally, I’ve always been insatiably curious. So my quest for deeper understanding of things (the universe in particular) and my own pathology, allow me to ever deepen my applied skills. I find the more I’m open to knowledge and new ways of seeing the word, the more I can grow as an artist. I don’t just have limited questions to ask, I can ask bigger and more diverse ones. SO… to answer your question: I feel the pursuit or free will to explore creativity, skill, or personal potential can meet and possibly overcome any innate talent.

When did you first discover your talent and artistic ability?

When other kids would go out and play-I just wanted to stay in and color. I LOVE to color. Even to this day. Coloring is such a cathartic process for me. So I guess that, but also I’ve been told that my first grade teacher told my mom that while other kids were drawing stick figures, I was rendering with advanced detail. Like form, and shape and minutia that other kids weren’t yet. I’ve always love details too. And I can see now in retrospect, that my youthful fascination with the microcosm has turned into an adult fascination with the macrocosm.

Who or what inspires your imagery?

The universe. The world. Humanity, and international icons. Not the celebrity kind, but the visual communication kind. I love international icons. They fascinate me. They have the power to communicate beyond any written or spoken language. They are like modern day hieroglyphs. Any of my designs that use only image (no words), you could take to Japan, Brazil, or Lithuania and people could make sense of them. They could construct a message or a question with it. They very much are art in that way.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

Usually it involves a problem that I want to try to make sense of or get others to join me in wonder about through the use of image. My images need to communicate. They need to provoke, and they need to ask bigger/deeper questions about humanity or it’s collective psychology. (side note: I’m writing two films right now, and they both do the same thing. Get the audience to look at their own humanity and how they could live a more fulfilled and connected life).

Where did your first inspiration come from?

I was designing a ton of merchandise for bands and musicians, and really enjoying it, but there were a few images that I wanted to put out there into the world without someone’s name attached to it. So, I initially started with four designs. The first of which was “Love Fuel.” Someone once referred to me as a full-service love station. I took it as a pretty great compliment and the image on the back of the shirt first came to mind, and then I added the front “Love Pump.” Pairing images and icons like that to give new meanings to banal objects is a fairly constant theme in my work.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

I grew up in Vermont, so I remember 1 day a year in school we’d always have Green-Up day, where we’d all go and clean up and pick up litter. So, growing up in nature, I’ve always been super sensitive to the environment. We knew we were going to go green with our shirts, and since we started the green movement has definitely sky-rocketed. Its everywhere now, and we’re so glad. We never were in it for the fad. We were in it (as you can tell by the designs) because it’s the lives we want to live, and the difference we want to make.

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

I have an eco-friendly toilet that has an up flush (you know, for those bigger flushes you need to make) and a down flush for the regular flushes. I have a compost and recycle every week. I’m a vegan. I only buy organic foods. And green products for house and business.

Do you try to discuss how to live a greener lifestyle at least once every day?

I don’t really preach it too much. That’s not my style. I just invite people into my world and lead by example. If I have friends or family come in from out of town-I’ll take them to my favorite vegan restaurant or my eco-friendly pharmacy. It all helps to open their eyes to how they could live a greener life if they chose too.

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

Well, I think most importantly this is what we have. We’re in an abusive relationship right now. We were born into this beautiful and divinely perfect situation: air to breathe, sunlight to keep us warm already abundantly provided. Soil to plant food, fresh water to drink. Without getting too biblical-earth was the Garden of Eden, and we’re completely taking it for granted. We can live such a life of harmony with it, if we use it in sustainable ways. But we need to think of the whole picture. Just pan back to space and see Earth from above. That’s what we’re dealing with. We’re all in this and on this together. It’s kinda that simple. Why not celebrate and share as opposed to separate and scorn? These questions are what I’m trying to ask.

What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?

My favorite two shirts are “Home To All” and “Worth The Weight.”

What challenges have you had in your work?

We’ve run into the what I would assume are pretty regular trial and error-ing of manufacturing. Some sizes a bit too small, production snags, website has gone down, international shipping has been tough to figure out, we had a complete manufacturing break-down with a huge client…We’ve had a little bit of it all, but we look at it as ALL learning. We’ve learned so much and it’s only strengthened our commitment and bettered our product. We are grateful for all the opportunities life throws at us to build a thriving company, and look for the lessons in all of them. “Failure” is only what you make it to be.

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

We love the internet. It provides us international visibility and it’s a 24/7 convenient parlor. In terms of art…it certainly allows you to have your finger on the pulse of the culture. We see it as just another medium to express yourself with, and a way to connect to people you might not have been able to otherwise.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To open up as many eyes, heads, and hearts as I can. And to become the Andy Warhol of the green movement.

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

Um…world peace and lots more designs. We’ve got a great shirt going into production around the election and politics in general. I’m really excited about it.

What are your long term career goals?

To have a business that’s completely sustainable. A worker owned and operated, off the grid, organic farm that harvests bamboo, cotton, hemp, soy…and whatever else we’ll be making textiles out of. Having a storefront on every continent (though I’m not sure it’s ever t-shirt season in Antarctica). Providing scholarship opportunities and forming our own charity organization. And continuing to create love propaganda wearable and otherwise.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?
Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Phil Hale, Joel Sorren, Shepard Fairy, Ryan McGuiness, Banksy, The Imaginary Foundation, Jason Munn, Susan Waters-Eller, Eleanor Grosch, Christopher David Ryan, Me (I Really do love what I do!).

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

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
Aside from Blend Apparel??? I recommend buying your normal house wares, but the green versions. Whether it’s dish soap, toilet paper, garbage bags, or laundry detergent. Start with what you use passively and incorporate them into your livelihood.

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?
Buy organic. Please, Please, Please. I would also say eating two vegan meals a week.

How would your friends describe you?
Funny you should ask, for an assignment recently I actually had to ask my friends. Here’s what they said: “Inspiring, fun, creative, a great listener, honest, enlightened, open, a social lubricant, passionate, easy-going, ever self-improving, and all anyone would ever need in that moment.”
Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

New Global Crisis: The Dirt Is Leaving!

There is a new environmental issue that should be taken seriously. It involves the recent reports of the Earth’s dirt levels. Dirt on our planet’s surface is quickly disappearing at alarming rates. According to the National Academy of Sciences the croplands in the U.S. are eroding at a rate which is ten times faster than the time it takes for lost soil to be replaced. On average, topsoil grows back at a rate of an inch or two over hundreds of years. Our planet is covered with a little more than three feet of topsoil. Topsoil commonly referred to as dirt is filled with nutrient rich material which sustains food and supports life on Earth. Although, most people take dirt for granted we desperately need it for survival. It contains billions of beneficial microbes, organisms, nitrogen-fixing fungi, nutrients, and earthworms which fertilize the mixture. Researchers believe we are currently losing an estimated one percent of our precious dirt every year to erosion. This rapid erosion is due to agriculture and poor land management.

The dirt is depleting because we are destroying it. The current misuse of topsoil and poor land management is increasing the deterioration of the Earth’s dirt. This loss will eventually begin to have an unyielding affect our food quality, food growth, and pricing. It also induces the risk of potential desertification and climate change. Converting farmland to metropolitan areas and farmers constantly tilling the land between plantings contribute to the erosion of topsoil. Some farmers are introducing others to “no-till” methods of farming which involves no tilling of the land between plantings. This process will leave crop stubble to reduce erosion and planting new seeds in between the stubble rows. David Montgomery is a geologist and author of the book called “Dirt.” In his book he brings public attention to the environmental issues concerning the depletion of our topsoil. The book describes modern agricultural practices as the main culprit of this environmental crisis. The U.S. is not the only country running out of dirt. The reduction of topsoil is a global environmental crisis as well. An example of what soil degradation can do is evident in sub-Saharan Africa where their soil erosion has led to a major food shortage and desertification.

Is there a link among desertification, global climate change, and biodiversity loss? Yes, desertification is a highly complex process with various contributing factors. The diversity of vegetation are the main elements for soil conservation. It aids surface water and local climate regulations. Desertification affects the global climate through the process of releasing carbon into the atmosphere from it’s dry land vegetation. Human activity can easily push the ecosystem beyond it’s natural limits. Any act which reduces the percolation rate of the soil promotes erosion by wind and water. Methods that reduce or eliminate plants which aid to bind the soil contribute to the process of desertification.

Desertification in many cases can be reversed. It is important to take steps to correct the current environmental threat of soil depletion and possible desertification. Promoting awareness of the consequences of continued land abuse is a positive step in the right direction. Incorporating government funded involvement in the process of preserving the Earth’s topsoil on state and local levels can be beneficial as well. Another method to help stop the disappearing act topsoil is making consists of farmers making an effort to use effective crop rotation to protect the fragile soil we are all dependent upon.


For a simple compost bin idea you can do at home visit:

http://www.doityourself.com/stry/buildacompostbin

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com