Archive for Recycled art and trash fashion

Creative Pumpkin Carving – for a Cause!

2013 collage

Carve for a Cause is a pumpkin carving contest event and fundraiser put on by Architects Without Borders –  Seattle (AWB-S), a nonprofit whose mission is to provide ecologically sensitive and culturally appropriate design assistance to communities in need.  This annual affair that The RE Store has been a part of these last 3 years was held at Copperworks Distilling Company in downtown Seattle.  The pumpkins are carved by a wide range of design, construction and other related firms who put their best and most creative carvers together to compete for the titles of best Traditional/Scary, Artistic/Freestyle, Starchitecture, Judge’s Choice, and People’s Choice.  Seattle store staff, Nichole, took the charge for creating The RE Store’s entry, and along with help from fellow staffers Henry and D’Andre, created The Lantern-o-Jacks (top, left).  While our entry received many compliments, we lost out on taking home a prize this year.  The competition was stiff and the judges had tough choices in front of them with over 40 pumpkins entered this year!  A few of the amazing entries can be seen above – even more can be seen on AWB-S’s Flickr set here. Thanks to AWB-S for a great event – and to Nichole, Henry and D’Andre for their creativity and carving skills!

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Things you never knew about The RE Store

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Cheri Kopp – Mixed Media Artist and Repurposer of Unconventional Objects

When I called Cheri Kopp, a Seattle mixed-media artist, about interviewing her for The RE Store website, she told me she thought it would be better if I visited her at her home, where she creates her art. “Seeing is believing,” she said. And she was right.

The first thing I noticed about Cheri when I met her in her studio was the unassailable confidence with which she talks about her work. She’s very articulate about what she does and how she does it. In my experience, that confidence is somewhat unusual for an artist, I tell her. “I just have a very strong sense about my art. I’m very focused, and I believe in what I’m doing.”

Artist Cheri Kopp and Shrine to Unfinished Projects

Artist Cheri Kopp (left) wearing her assemblage necklace”Beach Wear” made of shells, pieces of de-constructed jewelry, and leftover beads. She is sitting in her the “little house in my backyard”, built by recycling/salvage craftsman/builder extraordinaire, John Akers. “Shrine To Unfinished Projects 1” is on the right.


Cheri uses all cast-off materials in her art, and she found early inspiration at The RE Store. “One of my favorite pieces, Shrine to Unfinished Projects 1, includes materials I found at the store,” she says. Shrines description from Cheri:

Incorporating red envelopes (a.k.a. lucky paper) from monetary gifts from my first marriage, this piece is meant for personal reflection. True to my reuse/recycle aesthetic, the shrine pieces came from a Shinto shrine that was converted into an entertainment center. The kitchen cabinet and pull were salvaged; the paint left-over from a fence project and the mirror is a thrift-store find.”

While all of her pieces share elements of mixed media mosaics or assemblages that share a 3D sculptural quality, the scope of her work is broad ranging, and perhaps that’s one reason she has found some success. She is always looking at used things with new eyes, and is always open to inspiration.

materials bins and foil yogurt tops quilt

Cheri’s bins of organized cast off materials (left) and “Not Your Grandma’s Flower Garden Quilt” made of foil tops from food containers, appeared in the 2011 Seattle Recycled Arts Show.


Cheri’s basement and garage are filled with numerous bins and containers (above, left) of very neatly organized cast-off materials that she has either found or generated as a result of household consumption—in other words, trash. She collects whatever strikes her fancy. “I have no idea how I’m going to use any item, until one day it all just comes to me.” She has collections of plastic caps and lids sorted by color; foil yogurt tops, all washed and neatly flattened (see more about this piece in the caption, above, right); popsicle sticks that have been run through the dishwasher; a cluster of multicolored hair bands, often picked up while walking in her Ravenna neighborhood; beach items trekked home from walks along the shores; and other seemingly random items too numerous to name. “I’m almost a hoarder,” she laughs. I assure her that hoarders are far less organized than she is. Her collections of working materials are almost unobtrusive in the rooms in which they’re housed.

you are what you eat and ART

Left to right – “You Are What You Eat”, “Can’t Top Vegan” and “Mostly Organic” – two of which have been in The RE Store’s Recycled Arts Shows over the years. And marquee letters found at The RE Store, now in Cheri’s studio.


Cheri’s first art show was the Fifth Annual Recycled Art and Fashion Show at The Seattle RE Store in 2006. She entered her compelling piece entitledYou Are What You Eat. She has since gone on to exhibit in 24 juried and/or curated group shows, 13 group shows, and one solo show. Her work was recently included in the Center on Contemporary Art’s (CoCA) Collision curated show, on display through September 14th, with 150 other artists from across the country and Switzerland, and her work is currently available for viewing at the group show The Meaning of Wood at The Rose Center Art Gallery at Lower Columbia College in Longview, WA. You can find out more about Cheri at her website,


Special thanks to Christine Clifton-Thornton for authoring this article.


Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people

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2013 Trash Fashion Show at WWU

5 Trash Fashion Designs on the runwayQuestion: What do you get when you mix a bunch of junk with Western Washington University Industrial Design program students, professional event production staff from the College of Fine & Performing Arts? Answer: The 2013 Trash Fashion Show at W.W.U..

View our photos from the trash fashion show with behind-the-scenes dressing room shots as well on Flickr.

Trash Fashion designs: Black and White Swan

Designs included gowns and bodices made from discarded rubber, plastic, paper and metal materials. Bicycle and computer parts, electrical conduit, and old VCR tape were turned into skirts, pants. Caution tape and vinyl upholstery became haute couture. All of these designs were created in two short weeks as an assignment from Arunas Oslapas. Arunas is the lead faculty member of W.W.U.’s Industrial Design program and  long-time proponent of reclaimed materials .

Trash fashion design - Analog by Jolee Nebert He has been assigning trash fashion design projects to his students since 2010. Those designs have been strutted on the fashion runway as a part of The RE Store’s Trash Fashion Show in 2010 and 2011. Arunas continues to innovate with reused materials. He is taking a sabbatical from teaching this spring to work with a Mexican village on developing products with reclaimed materials, designed by his students. We hope to get more of the story.

We applaud WWU’s efforts to carry the torch of the Trash Fashion Show. The RE Store partnered on the event for many years, with Robin Worley, Ballard’s New York Fashion Academy, WWU and others until our final curtain in 2011. But the show has gone on, coordinated by Arunas and event production master Courtney Hiatt, the Marketing and Special Projects Manager for W.W.U.’s College of Fine and Performing Arts.

Trash Fashions - Aluminum Fox and the Hipster

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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Where Do You Wear a Chair?

Allied Arts Gallery - pieces by Luci Lytle and Jim DixonQ: What do art galleries, beach cleanups and salvaged materials have in common?
A: The RE Store’s 12th Annual Recycled Arts Show opening weekend

The Recycled Art Program has been showcasing creative works made from used materials since its early days in the late 1990’s, with partners over the years that have included: Whatcom Museum, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Blowing Sands Gallery, Haute Trash, New York Fashion Academy, the Museum of Northwest Art, Habitude and many others.

Eberhard wears a chair at te gallery openingThe weekend of April 5th and 6th kicked off the annual exhibition of art made from reclaimed and scrounged media. Downtown Gallery Walk in Bellingham on Friday night debuted the Allied Arts gallery, which was packed for most of the evening. Live music and a spread of hors d’oeuvres were provided by the good folks at Allied Arts. Artists, designers and appreciators mingled amongst the artwork and The RE Store’s own Eberhard Eichner walked around wearing a chair with some hilarious puppet legs, scaling down his normal 6’3″ stature.

Two pieces had interactive elements. Bill Englander’s electrical spark gap Jacobs Ladder with the big red button that sent an arc of electricity up between the two rods. Check out this previous blog post about Bill’s hands-on electrical gadgets. Big Daddy Grungeness by Jim Dixon is a wall-hung crab whose legs and claws do a fun shimmy when you yank on the counterweighted reclaimed rope.

Art Hyatt's piece titled Buchenwald LaceOne potent piece, Buchenwald Lace by Art Hyatt, was a wall-hung set of curtains made from rust-eaten corrugated metal roofing. The piece with its fabric-like folds referenced one of Nazi Germany’s first and largest concentration camps. Art shared that he had debated with himself quite heavily about whether or not to use barbed wire as the curtain ties, but opted for a less intense representation.


Allied Arts Gallery Opening 01

Self-illuminated pieces by one of Bellingham’s well-known lighting whizzes, Alana Coleman showed up at both of the Bellingham galleries, including these two pieces. Special thanks goes out to all of the participating artists and designers. Other pieces of note include:

  • a pair of custom-built ice-climbing tools made from bike parts, reclaimed carbon fiber  and other random bits by William Bradley
  • a bodice and skirt made from maps and computer parts titled “Analog” by Jolee Nebert
  • two larger than life-sized sculptures of semi-human looking creatures by Eberhard Eichner and Jason Brown
  • light sconces made from drill bodies and old lp records by Graham Schodda who gets special kudos for helping hang The RE Store’s gallery in Bellingham



Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, You can do it yourself

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Show Us Your Junk – 2013 Call for Recycled Art & Functional Designs

Recycled Art piece - Jubilee by Julia HaackOne of the harbingers of Spring is The RE Store’s annual Call for Recycled Art and Functional Designs. The RE Store’s Recycled Arts Show will bring fresh examples of fine art and useful things for it’s 12th year. Galleries this year include:

  • Blowing Sands Studio and the Laura Frost Fine Arts Gallery in Seattle (Ballard)
  • Allied Arts of Whatcom County in downtown Bellingham
  • The RE Store in Bellingham.

The Bellingham galleries will exhibit during the month of April. The Seattle gallery show runs from mid-April until mid-May.

You may experience wonder or amusement at people’s creativity and fabrication skills after seeing something like Jubilee by Julia Haack (above).

You may question our wasteful ways after seeing pieces like Kuros Zahedi’s “A Glimmer of Hope” (below – represents only a small portion of the piece that took up an entire pallet)

Recycled Art - A Glimmer of Hope by Kuros ZahediAnd we want to see whats been brewing in your studio, garage, or right on your kitchen table. We welcome submissions from Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia province. The deadline is March 1, 2013 by 11:59PM for online submissions. Mail-in submissions must be postmarked by March 1 for. There is a $10 fee for submitting up to 3 pieces. Get all the details at the following links:

Call for Submissions for Seattle Recycled Arts Show
Submit your recycled art or functional design pieces to show at Blowing Sands Studio in Ballard. Deadline: March 1, 2013 by 11:59 PM

Call for Submissions for Bellingham Recycled Arts Show
Submit your recycled art or functional design pieces to show at Allied Arts of Whatcom County or The RE Store. Deadline: March 1, 2013 by 11:59 PM

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, You can do it yourself

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The 2012 End of The World Window Display & Video

In the spirit of light(ness) during this holiday season, we celebrate the kooky cacophony of doomsayers and hopefuls with a tongue-in-cheek window display at The RE Store in Bellingham as we pass through another apocalyptic date, 12/21/2012.

  • Shabby crabby bomb shelter decor blending vintage survival gear with reclaimed building materials
  • Paranoid protection wear on Calamity Jane contrasted by Skippy’s celebration finery
  • Basic food staples displayed in opposition to large quantities of sugary junk food
  • Out in the big world, threatening end-of-the-world prophetic warnings counter-balance with inspirational messages of the new Mayan calendar cycle that begins.

Please take our attempts at lightness as they are intended.

Now can we all get on with it?

“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”

~ R.E.M.

Special thanks to Dana Lyons and John Seed for song permission in our funky little video!

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Video posts

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Trucks Keep The RE Store Rolling – and Spreading the Word of Salvage

We introduced you to our truck fleet a few weeks ago here on our blog, connecting you to our trusty flock – Lily, Herman, Blue, Possum, Fuso and Clutch. They are at the root of what we do here at The RE Store, giving us the ability to stock the stores with great stuff, and fulfilling our mission of keeping useable materials out of the landfill.  Besides their main ‘day jobs’ of previewing and picking up materials from close to 2000 job sites each year that they bring to the stores, they also help us with all sorts of other outreach tasks allowing us to spread the word of our mission beyond the stores:

  • Getting our inspiring displays to the many trade shows and educational community events that we participate in – such as our annual Flower & Garden show garden display (above, top left), and countless community festivals
  • Transporting recycled art materials and recycled art pieces as a part of our Recycled Arts Show (above, bottom right)
  • Bringing raw materials to schools and festivals for folks to get creative with ‘junk’ at our Art Station (above, bottom middle)
  • Hauling trash from our annual beach clean up events partnered up with the North Sound Bay Keeper (above, bottom left) – creating art out of trash on these occasions
  • Supporting meaningful events that our parent organization, RE Sources, puts on with keynote speakers like Denis Hayes, Bill McKibben, and Daniel Kammen
  • Dressing up for parades, including winning the Mayors Award in the 2006 Bellingham Ski-to-Sea Grand Parade (above, top right)

Thanks to Lily, Herman, Blue, Possum, Fuso and Clutch for selflessly helping us keep spreading the Word of Salvage!

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store

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Appliance Soap Box Derby video – crashes, injuries & mayhem

Our friends at Appliance Depot know how to have a good time, even if it means spilling a little blood. Refrigerators, stoves, washers and random appliance parts became vehicles racing down Maple Street in Bellingham. The annual Appliance Art Revival & Derby celebrates reuse, creativity and the good work that Appliance Depot does, rebuilding appliances and providing job training in Bellingham, Washington. Yours truly at The RE Store sponsored the Revival, including recording and editing this wacky video!

Thanks to Matt McDonald of for supplying the missing epic “crash into the crowd” photo footage and to Adam Nash Photography for the fork failure shots of Blue Steel and others.

Are you bold enough to race next year? Awwww, come on.

Posted in: Green business, Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about stuff, Video posts, You can do it yourself

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One man’s junk is another man’s musical instrument

Guest post by Doug Banner

Doug Banners instruments on display

Doug Banners instruments on display at The RE Store in Bellingham

I am always surprised at how often people tell me that they are not artistic or creative. In our culture you must have exhibited in a gallery or performed to be called an artist. I play at playing music and music keeps me sane or at least as sane as I can be in this sometimes-crazy world. I am therefore a musician and so are you. Your heart keeps great time. Music is a great way to come together in community and share joy. I have played with people in Japan, Thailand, and China where our only common language was music and everybody had a great time.

In making instruments from recycled and repurposed materials I achieve several goals:

  1. I take stuff out of the trash stream. My wife laughs when I wont let her throw out old salad bowls and wooden spoons.
  2. I make instruments that sound good, are relatively easy to learn to play, and are affordable. Many people shy away from learning to play music because cheap instruments usually sound bad and good instruments are too expensive.
  3. I have fun creating usable art for public consumption. If it’s not fun, why do it, Right?
Doug Banner's Satori flutes

Doug Banner’s Satori flutes     Photo by John D’Onofrio

The RE Store is my primary source for materials and I draw my inspiration and design ideas from indigenous instruments from around the world. I spend a fair amount of time in the plastic pipe section. My didgeridoos are the least expensive and easiest to make and the most difficult to play. They’re made from 1.5” to 2” PVC pipe. I have heard $100.00 didgeridoos that don’t sound as good. My Santori Flutes, modeled after Native American Love Flutes, are made from ¾” PVC. I add wooden mouthpieces turned from wood I find in the scraps bin. The great thing about the Satori flutes is that they are indestructible. Throw one in your backpack and you’ve got music in the wilderness. Practice 15 minutes a day and you’ll be sounding pretty good in just a month. The Fujara, a Slovakian overtone flute, is both difficult to make and difficult to play but it’s so odd that just having one will draw attention.

I am always looking for 1” x 12” boards and door skins or thin paneling to build box drums known as a Cajon (sounds like ka-hone), tongue drums, or anything else I am inspired to try. I also use paneling and large plastic drainpipe to build great sounding conga drums. Reclaiming wood is a lot of fun for me. The instruments seem to have a special feel to them. It’s almost like the wood is saying, “Thanks for not throwing me in the fire.”

I find my greatest limitations to creating and playing instruments is my own imagination and my willingness to try new things. My bamboo Zither is an example. I didn’t know how to play it or even if it would sound good, but I gave it a shot. It worked and sounds great. I am sure more of those are on the way. Even if it sounds trite, you don’t know what you can do until you try.

~ Doug Banner

You can view Doug’s musical instruments on display in the Meridian windows at The RE Store in Bellingham through August, 2012.

Doug Banner is a professional storyteller and multimedia artist that plays music weekly with the Monkey Puzzle Orchestra. He also uses many of my instruments in his storytelling performances and can be found online at

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, You can do it yourself

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Four galleries of recycled art and a third-grade welder

What happens when you mix an arc welder, an eight-year old boy, and a handy grandfather? You found out if you visited Bellingham’s Allied Arts gallery in April, one of four galleries in The RE Store’s 11th Annual Recycled Arts Show. This year’s multi-city exhibition attracted professional and semi-professional submissions from a talented pool of regional artists, designers, makers along with a unique entry from Culver Bontrager.

2012 Bellingham Recycled Arts Gallery collage

2012 Bellingham Recycled Arts Show Galleries at Allied Arts and The RE Store. Culver (in red) at top center. Click to enlarge.

Culver’s welded piece, Mr. Bones, dangled from an 8-foot high hook, with articulating joints. He would dance if you got the whole thing swaying ([GASP!] PLEASE do not touch or dance the artwork, sir!). Culver started doing metal fabrication with his handy grandfather, Romeo Gonyea when he was seven.  Romeo has been doing metal fabrication for a majority of his life along with “heavy equipment, wood working, cabinetry and pretty much anything else that needs to get done” according to Romeo’s daughter and Culver’s mother, Melana Bontrager. She remembers dumpster diving in industrial areas with her dad when she was young, pulling out things that he would fix and sell “for a few bucks.”

2012 Seattle Recycled Art Gallery Collage

2012 Seattle Recycled Art Gallery

Culver and his grandfather now make the rounds of scrap and junk yards in Everett and Lynnwood, looking for old car and farm equipment parts for Culver’s projects.  Culver is an avid lego fan and technical little guy. “He is very detailed in building things and great at sticking with the details. His attention span is longer than most kids his age,” says his mother, Melana Bontrager, who has shown her own artwork in galleries around the greater Puget Sound region. The young welder was excited about the possibility of selling Mr. Bones. He has other family members besides his mother who have shown in galleries before so he has had exposure to the world of selling art in galleries. Culver unfortunately could not be reached for comments, due to a busy schedule building lego creations with a couple buddies.

Melana mused, “Culver cracks himself up with mishaps like singeing his hair bangs. But he is not my emergency room child. He stands back, observing things carefully, then jumps in and thankfully comes out fairly unscathed.”

See more about the Recycled Arts Show on The RE Store’s page, including reviews, events and years worth of recycled art photo galleries. This year’s galleries included Seattle’s Blowing Sands Glass Studio, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Whatcom Museum and The RE Store in Bellingham. The Blowing Sands exhibit is up until May 9th. If you subscribe to our email newsletter we keep you in the loop about upcoming workshops, recycled arts happenings, calls for art or designs, DIY videos and more.

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