Growing Up Thrifty

My childhood years were an adventure in all things reuse. My growth as an artist is an homage to my parents who lived a simple life filled with enduring examples of creative and utilitarian reuse. Very few things were thrown away.  And any item could have a second, third or fourth life beyond its original purpose.

My father built our kitchen cabinets with lumber he reclaimed from dilapidated pigpens that stood on our property.  He extracted and straightened nails from that same lumber and reused the nails in building the rest of the house. He used coffee cans and baby food jars and cigar boxes to organize nails and screws.

Christmas ornament from childhood made from bottle cap and magazine image

My mother taught me how to create holiday ornaments from bottle caps, magazine pictures and used flashcubes. She crafted delicate Christmas tree garlands from styrofoam meat trays, using a paper hole puncher to cut the styrofoam into tiny circles and then stringing the circles with beads.  She meticulously cut pinholes in eggs to extract the whites and yolks for cooking, and then used the intact eggshells to craft ornaments.

Other family members provided additional inspiration. One of my aunts was a prolific scrap quilter, making over 100 scraps quilts that she mostly gave away as gifts. Another aunt used scrap fabric to make intricate doll clothes. An older sister created a magazine collage for a high school art project that blew me away in its intricate detail and simplicity of execution. The collage is long gone, but I remember it often as the memory of that work continues to inspire me.

My parents are gone, but their spirit beats strong in my heart and guides my hands in my work. In 2012, I collaborated with two of my siblings on an exhibit that celebrated their lives of reuse. A Legacy of Thrift was exhibited in the Green Gallery at The Scrap Exchange, a creative reuse center in Durham, NC.  Art critic Blue Greenberg named it one of the 11 Best Exhibits in the Triangle region of North Carolina in 2012, calling it “a love letter to our parents”.

College, Work and Motherhood

I studied Communication Arts at Marist College, graduating in 1982 with First Honors. Following college, I worked at IBM Corporation and IBM United Kingdom from 1982-1990 in a variety of public relations, marketing, and information development positions. I left the corporate world in 1990 to raise my children. During the years spent as a stay-at-home parent, I also began pursuing a more art-oriented career.  I started creating and selling quilt-related items at shows, in craft stores and on Ebay.  I also helped with costume design at a dance studio, winning a Best Costume award at a regional competition.

The Scrap Exchange Years

In 2005, I began volunteering at an amazing place called The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit creative reuse arts center in Durham, NC.  The Scrap Exchange collects over 100 tons of discarded materials from the local and regional community, and makes those resources available to the public via a retail store and a wide variety of creative reuse programs. In addition to helping sort and process donated materials, I was also able to put my marketing and communication skills to good use again as I helped write their monthly newsletter and press releases. In 2010, I was hired on to a staff position as the Program Manager for Marketing, Promotions and Online Sales. During my 5 years as a staff member I built the social media programs, helped redesign the website, and established an online sales program.

While working at The Scrap Exchange, I also continued to develop as an artist, and participated in multiple solo and group exhibitions in their Green Gallery and Cameron Gallery. I also taught creative reuse technique classes through The Scrap Exchange’s Creative Classes program and Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program. My years at The Scrap Exchange served as a critical factor in my creative development as I was surrounded by other passionate reuse artists and immersed in the daily business activities of a nonprofit creative reuse center that has grown to be the largest of its kind in the country.

The Future (Looking Bright)

In 2015, I said goodbye to family, friends and The Scrap Exchange, and moved with my husband to Bradenton, Florida. Bradenton is a gulf coast town nestled between Sarasota to the south and Tampa to the north. Bradenton is also home to the Village of the Arts, an amazing community in the center of town where artists and other creative makers live and work.  Colorful Florida bungalows are home to a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, shops, studios and galleries. I knew when we first visited The Village of the Arts that I had found my creative home for our next phase of life. I am currently in the planning stage to open a small reuse art center that will include my studio, a shop, gallery space, Make and Take program, reuse art classes and more. Put on the shades, the future is looking bright!