think green

Reclaiming The Big Box

It's no secret that I am addicted to National Public Radio. After all, I can absorb a huge amount of balanced, intelligent news stories, sprinkled liberally with culture, arts and entertainment while doing an equally huge amount of work! Eyes not required!

Every once in a while, I hear a story that I'm compelled to share here. Today's pick, from NPR's All Things Considered, is about the work of artist and professor Julia Christensen. Recognizing the enormous blight that big box stores and their hulking remnants have left on our country's landscape, Christensen set about documenting the fate of those large, rectangular structures that were abandoned by their makers - doomed due to the inevitable outsizing perpetuated by their dominance on our consumer spending. With the sheer number of large footprint stores X-d off of the active storelist by the world's hungriest companies, many communities are attempting to reclaim the disused space.

"on this site... a commentary" - photo by Marc Levin - Creative Commons: some rights reserved

Above: "on this site...a commentary", Photo by Marc Levin, via flickr

Christensen's new book, "Big Box Reuse", published by The MIT Press, documents how (Main Street!) America is taking back millions of square feet through adventurous, mixed-use projects that benefit their communities. While Hormel's homage to SPAM isn't necessarily the most gloriously useful example; Lebanon, Missouri's public library and Route 66 museum is. Just click here to listen to the full broadcast.

Waste Not: Another DIY Project

Having hauled yet another disposable plastic cheese plate home from last night's art opening, due to the shady value of "6" showing in its triangular stamp (which, in Rhode Island, destines it for the landfill), I felt that it was high time for another creative up-cycling post.

I'm a fan of minimizing packaging and paperwork on both my incoming purchases and outgoing packages wherever possible. On occasion, however, a little excess sneaks through, so I like to challenge myself to reuse these unwanted materials in creative ways.

Upcycled Gift Box: DIY by meredith cutler, studio debris

Here's a sweet little gift package of locally-made goodies that I put together for my friend Sara's birthday gift earlier this month. A sturdy, low-profile box originally used to ship me health and beauty products breathes new life as a re-usable gift box.

<<How did I do it? Click here to find out!>>

I Heart Personal Space: The kitHAUS Modular Oasis

After spending this last, (fabulous!) weekend sharing a cozy, lumpy tent with my husband, and the past three weeks lending my home office/guest room to my visiting brother-in-law, I have personal space on the brain. What better way to create your own personal studio oasis than with the KitHAUS modular building system!

kitHAUS K3 modular unit - available at DWR

kitHAUS offers modular, lightweight prefab units that assemble with a minimum of labor and offer extensive customization options. With an eye for sustainability and efficiency, all kitHAUS units utilize a lightweight, recyclable aluminum support structure and recycled/recyclable GreenWall™ Structurally Insulated Panel (SIPS) wall infills, with an impressive R-14 insulation value. They have even partnered with an outside California alternative energy provider to offer an optional 1-KW solar kit for the roof!

With my background in exhibit design and retail merchandising, I am also impressed by the kitHAUS concept team's adaptation of traditional slatwall as a canvas for endless accessorization possibilities. The icing on the cake? The kitHAUS K3 unit's modest 9'x13' footprint falls below most municipalities' regulations for special building permits, so this little baby can be installed on your property as a guesthouse, studio or office without any unpleasant fuss with "the man". With a little creative planning, a deck or breezeway can connect multiple K3's to create a dream compound! Yeah, I'm currently gazing out my back window and dreaming of my own...

kitHAUS K4 modular unit - available at DWR

CONTEST: Rolling In Goodies: Befriend A Designer Today!

Often, the best creative materials can be found off-the-beaten-path, rather than at your local art supply store or out of that glossy wholesale catalog. As a supply junkie, some of my most triumphant finds have been courtesy of tag sales, personal or business move giveaways, and downright dumpster diving!

Over the years, I have utilized my collection of unique materials to create many pieces of original artwork and, more recently, collectible designs and accessories.

Assorted Designer Footwear Sample Fabrics

Today, however, I hit the supply jackpot. My lovely studiomate, who enjoys a very interesting career as a trend forecaster, let me have at a gigantic pile of sample books that have outlived their rather short life at the top of the trend pile. Because she forecasts color and material trends four years ahead, the sample selection (albiet yesterday's news for her) is super space-age in my book!

Assorted Designer Footwear Sample Fabric

I'm already drawing up a list of project ideas so that I can breathe new life into these squares of fabric, leather and beyond!

Assorted Designer Footwear Sample Fabrics

Readers: if you have creative ideas for reuse of sample fabric and material swatches, post them to comments below. I will be putting together a "Wicked Cool" crostini*VS grab-bag prize from these designer footwear sample materials that will go to a winner, chosen at random from your project idea comments. The winner will be chosen next Friday, May 30th! Good luck!

DIY: Upcycled Book Jacket Flower Bows

I have always had a love for paper that goes beyond the expected excitement of a blank, white sheet ready for the artist’s first mark. As a small child, I spent hours poring over the decorator’s hefty wallpaper sample books, left over from our 1977 home renovations: the mirrored backgrounds…the bold florals or geometric patterns rendered in one exciting colorway after another. In my early days, these enormous, psychedelic volumes rivaled even Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle for my affections.

Many years later, I helped fund my way through art school by working in the cataloging department of my college library. My love for found papers, combined with my passion for words inspired me to stash away hundreds of colorful book jackets, typically discarded during the cataloging process. Fast-forward another decade or so, and here I am in my studio, surrounded by several Tupperware storage bins full of vintage paper ephemera that desperately needs purging!

Unlike my vintage giftwrap and wallpaper collections, these heavyweight, coated book jackets don’t offer enough regular patterning or figuration to make them appropriate for the mixed-media art collages that I often create. They are text heavy, and extremely varied in coloration. With some creative experimentation, and using some tools I had available, I created this unique DIY project for my sturdy and colorful paper source. Click here for my full, illustrated tutorial:

DIY: Upcycled Book Jacket Flower Bows - handmade by Meredith Cutler for crostini*VS


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