By Amanda Norris, CG Lifestyles & People
Going green is the newest trend in Athens and local artists are being swept up in the craze.
Local artists have embraced sustainability in many ways, from using old doors and scrap wood to repurposing used painting canvases. By cutting down on new supplies through recycling, artists are lessening the strain on their wallets and the environment.
Fiber artists have also picked up this trend. The popular social networking site www.ravelry.com— like Facebook, but for knitters and crocheters — has over 40 groups dedicated to sustainable fiber techniques, giving rise to this slogan: “Follow the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, ravelry.”
Followers of that slogan use techniques such as unraveling old sweaters and using the yarn for new projects, swapping yarn stashes between users so nothing goes to waste, and creating yarn out of non-traditional materials such as newspapers and plastic bags.
Ohio University students are proud to be a part of this go-green artistic movement.
OU junior Bailey Tarleton has tried her hand at an array of eco-friendly crafts. Recently, she finished making a quilt out of old t-shirts that, though having sentimental value, had ceased to be useable until she repurposed them. Tarleton’s commitment to sustainable crafting can be seen most in her knitting, a technique she has practiced since age 13.
“Knitting is probably where I do the most recycling,” Tarleton said. “Anytime I have any leftover bits of string, yarn, even ribbon – if it ties together well with the yarn I’m using, I put them all together into a project.”
The results of this synthesis are vibrant, multicolored scarves and hats that receive compliments from friends and strangers alike.
Tarleton, who receives most of her yarn from others in the form of gifts or leftovers, urges everyone to try and see the potential in materials they already posses.
“I think it’s important for anybody — not just artists — to do,” Tarleton said. “Why would anybody go out and buy something new when the things they have are just as good or even better? I feel like spending that much money and not giving credit to the things you already have is kind of sad. Don’t discount the value of things.”
Allison Hight, an OU sophomore, is also putting a spin — literally — on eco-friendly knitting.
In response to the extreme use of plastic bags by OU students, Hight spins strips cut from the bags into yarn using a drop spindle. The resulting “plarn” is a durable material that can be used for many things, including the creation of reusable grocery bags. In this way, Hight turns a problem into a solution.
“I’ve noticed so many people coming out of the market with half a dozen bags every week and the waste of plastic really concerns me,” Hight said. “I think this is a good use for them.”
Hight urges anyone interested in the “plarn” movement to do a little online research, because there are many websites dedicated to the technique of creating and using this material.
Hight said these techniques give art credibility in addition to sustainability.
“I think it gives art a practical purpose as well as an aesthetic one,” she said. “A lot of people criticize art and artists for being flighty and not having any real foothold in the world. But if you combine it with sustainability it disproves that assumption.”
Hight is conducting a freelance survey to find out how many plastic bags the campus market system uses with the goal of starting a “take-a-bag, leave-a-bag” program. But until then she is content to keep the bags from becoming waste by making them into art.
Knitting is not the only technique OU students are turning to for their eco-friendly crafting fix.
OU sophomore Mel Byko does several eco-friendly crafts using found objects. Most notable are her “bottle cap images.”
Byko goes to Athens bars and takes leftover bottle caps off their hands. She then places interesting images or small trinkets inside them. The resulting bottle-cap images can be used to make magnets, room decor and jewelry.
“For me, it’s just a matter of wanting to be able to efficiently use all of my materials, and I don’t like purchasing new things,” Byko said. “There’s so much you can do with stuff that you find around that would be thrown out otherwise. Anything you find, you can use.”
The key to the eco-friendly craft movement, both globally and locally in Southeast Ohio, is to be aware of one’s surroundings. Looking at discarded objects in a new light and seeing the potential in unusual materials results in interesting art pieces, efficient techniques and, above all, kindness to the environment.