I was second-guessing myself as I journeyed to the Reuse Convention – would this effort and expense pay off – would I learn something or meet up with someone who could help my business thrive?
I re-use upholstery leather scraps and felted wool coats and inner tubes in making my shoemaking kits, so the chances were good that SOMETHING would happen.
The excitement was high among the vendors, presenters and conference attendees – clearly these are Reuse zealots – and, as I was to learn, for good reason. And, I’m more revved up than ever..and convinced that my shoes are needed in this world.
Speaker after speaker talked about the abundance of usable materials that is wasted when it goes into a landfill – wood, fixtures, steel girders from demolished buildings, furniture, food, textiles, electronics, limitless art project materials….. Each material had a champion who was working feverishly to raise the percentage of that material that is reused.
There were multiple vendors representing creative reuse centers – for New England residents there’s http://beautifulstuffproject.com/ in Somerville. (For those in Western MA there’s https://knack.org/) Their tables were exploding with beautiful stuff – arty materials and projects made from them. I saw a wood stacking toy about 18″ high with maybe a dozen most beautiful pieces of wood stacked on it, each a different wood and in a different shape…and so much more..
One of my favorite businesses created recycled latex paint. Every time I have tried to mix paint colors, it has ended up being a pink-tan-grey-color that I had to immediately discard. However, “recolor” paints (http://recyclereuserepaint.com/recolor-recycled-latex-paint.html) are available in beautiful colors – a spokesperson said that they mix reds together, blues together, etc, 55-gallons at a time… They had a supply of chalk paint that they generously gave to inquiring persons like myself, so I accepted a purple chalk paint that I will use to make little chalk boards for guests at my granddaughter’s forthcoming fourth birthday party.
The little boards that will be painted with the chalk paint will come from Extras for Creative Reuse (http://www.extrasforcreativereuse.org/) – this store in Peabody Ma. has some perfect-sized formica sample pieces, the store owner told me. She said that the store has not only these treasures, but a generous supply of leather samples, some of which she had with her and gave to me. I think this is the MOTHERLODE of shoemaking materials I was hoping to find at this convention! I’ll be stopping by the store on my way to Portland, Me., where I’ll be teaching a shoemaking workshop this weekend.
Then there’s Damon Carson from http://www.repurposedmaterialsinc.com/ who accepts BIG things in his warehouses – he has 50 miles of fire hose used for fighting big wildfires in the northwest, giant chunks of concrete satellite dish bases that is now being used to provide ‘ballast” for empty trucks cruising across states like Wyoming with severe wind problems, and so much more. When I mentioned my interest in finding some material that could be used for shoe soling, he said he had just received a huge number of sheets of soling for bowling shoes! He’ll be sending me a sample, along with samples of conveyor belt and any other substance that might conceivably be used for shoe soles.
The epitome of reuse was found in Durham, NC. The reuse store there (http://scrapexchange.org/) has recently banded together with other local businesses to purchase a vacant shopping mall. Most every kind of maker machine, equipment and instruction will be found in the building – welding shops, wood-working shops, sewing shops – that everyone can use and learn in. There will be a “repair cafe” where people can bring their non-functional appliances, lamps, electronics, etc and receive education and help on how to fix them. The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse. Now if we can just duplicate this model everywhere…
I am so grateful for Mary Ellen Etienne and all the volunteers who made this gathering so inspirational. I would bet that each participant is fired up to make REUSE in the “recycle, reuse, reduce” slogan more “sexy” than ever!
(shoes in photo were made from reused materials by Eliza Bigelow)