Fun Upcycled Tire Art in Costa Rica

When my family and I drove around Costa Rica, we noticed a lot of upcycled tire art in various parts of the country. Tire toucans hung at restaurants. Tire hens decorated hotels. Several gift shops offered colorful tire birds for sale. And then, on our very last day of traveling, we happened to come upon the mother-of-all-upcyced-tire-art stores.

We were driving on Highway 702 from the La Fortuna area towards the airport. About an hour in, we started seeing big signs along the side of the road promising “Recicled Art” in big letters. My heart rate went up.

As you might know if you’ve been following my blog, I am deeply passionate about local arts as well as about upcycling. The promise of both combined got me pretty excited… And so, once we reached the little store, I made my family stop. 

It proved to be a heaven for upcycled-art/reduce-waste-obsessed enthusiasts like myself. I felt like a kid in a candy store!

The store’s owner, artist Erian Herrera, uses his vivid imagination to create colorful animals out of used tires. He had several colorful birds, of the kind you find in that part of the tropics. Clock-wise are a quetzal, toucan, hen and parrot:

There was even a peacock!

Herrera makes local frogs, some of which we’ve seen in real life in the forest:

He creates reptiles such as turtles, crocodiles and iguanas:

And also water creatures, like crabs and fish:

He even makes some local mammals, such as this monkey:

Or this mammal, which I couldn’t quit identify (but which was quite cute!):

Some of his tire animals aren’t exactly local, but they are fun nonetheless:

Herrera doesn’t only upcycle tires, however. He also has a magic touch when it comes to reusing plastic bottles and many other discarded plastic items. In fact, he told us his neighbors bring many of their discarded single-use plastics for him to give a new life to:

See if you can recognize what these fun animals use to be!

Finally, Herrera also upcycles coconuts and wood, making art of the kind you can find in other souvenir stores in Costa Rica:

I was impressed by all these amazing creations, and, as a recycling artist myself, also identified with this sign:

And so, we happily adopted some of Herrera’s animals, and helped him with his dream.

If you plan to visit Costa Rica and would like to visit this artist and see some of his upcycled tire art in person, you can find him on Facebook.

Kyoto Textile-Lover’s Tour

During our family trip to Japan I managed to carve out one day for a solo Kyoto Textile-Lover’s Tour. I combed through our guidebooks and the internet, and came up with an itinerary that seemed promising. Then I ditched my family and went exploring. As it turned out, some of my destinations ended up being great fun, while others … less so.

The Kyoto Shibori Museum

My first stop was the Shibori Museum, which happened to be within walking distance from my hotel. This small but pleasant museum has two floors. The bottom floor has a small shop selling books about shibori as well as hand-dyed fabrics and finished artwork. It also has space dedicated to classes.

The second floor features a detailed exhibition explaining different dyeing techniques, mostly from Japan but also from other countries. There is an English brochure, and the display has English signs making the dyeing process clear.

When I visited the museum, I was the only guest there. The staff was very helpful, and I got to have a private, English-speaking tour guide who took me through the exhibition and answered all my questions. Then I had my own, private shibori lesson, resulting in a beautiful silk scarf (that the director of the museum himself helped me unravel!):

Needless to say, I greatly enjoyed my visit and highly recommend this museum! To learn more check the museum’s website.

The Nishijin Textile Center

After I finished my scarf, I headed over to the Nishijin Textile Center. Nishijin was Kyoto’s traditional weaving district. When I learned it had a Textile Center, I couldn’t be more excited! My excitement died down when I got there, however. Although informative, the Center felt like a big tourist trap. Tourists arrived by the bus-loads, and were swarming throughout the displays and shop. Coming from the amazing-yet-deserted Shibori Museum, I was very surprised to see so many people at a textile center…

The ground floor of the Center had an old-fashioned display, with fading posters explaining the Nishijin weaving process. 

The second floor was mostly a huge shop. It had beautiful fabrics for sale, as well as traditional Japanese clothes.

There was a weaving demonstration:

A wall display explaining the different kinds of fabrics:

And some other small displays:

The Center also offered an array of classes in different textile arts (such as weaving, or making your own hat or purse). Had I not just taken a class at the shibori museum, I would have surly done so here. 

The Center also featured a fashion show, showcasing different styles of kimonos:

To plan your trip to the Center (and maybe take a class there), check out their website.

Aizenkobo Workshop

From the Textile Center I walked a few blocks to the Aizenkobo workshop.This family workshop (or atelier), is located in a traditional wooden house on a small alley. It specializes in indigo dyeing, and the making of Japanese and Western-style clothing. The front room of the house is a shop selling functional (but rather old fashioned) pieces. 

When I got there, the place was very quiet and I was the only visitor. Eventually an elderly man came out to greet me. He showed me to the work area at the back of the house. In very broken English he explained that his son, the artist, wasn’t there. I understood that the family wasn’t making the indigo dye themselves, but rather bought it from other parts of Japan. Their expertise was the dyeing itself. The language barrier made it difficult for me to understand much, and my host didn’t want me to take any pictures. Sadly, the visit ended up feeling rather awkward. 

If you wish to visit the workshop but can’t speak Japanese, I suggest coming with an interpreter (or possibly the artist himself speaks some English?). You can also check their website for more information.

Orinasu-kan

A rather long walk in scorching heat then lead me to Orinasu-kan. Established in 1989, this small museum is dedicated to preserving Kyoto’s traditional dyeing and weaving culture. It is housed in a beautiful (but dark) old building that was once an obi (kimono belt) shop.

When I entered the museum, I realized that, once again, I was the only patron. A grumpy receptionist who spoke no English reluctantly greeted me. He then got really upset with me when I didn’t understand where he wanted me to put my shoe-less feet…

The ground-floor display was interesting, but with sparse English explanations. It had some beautiful Noh costumes, as well as fabric-pattern books.

The small upstairs gallery had some coarser woven fabrics:

The receptionist asked me something about a tour, and I said yes. He then showed me into a darkish side room, gave me some tea, and left me there alone for half an hour. I must admit that I was a bit nervous at that point, not sure what was going on. I regretted not bringing my family along (though I knew my kids would not have enjoyed any of it).

Eventually, the receptionist told me to go back up to the second-floor gallery. Once there, a door I haven’t even noticed opened in the far wall. A man came out and motioned for me to follow. I did, although I wasn’t at all sure if that was the right (or safe) thing to do. The man told me not to take any pictures. Then he showed me into a room-full of weaving looms. The room was very hot, humid and crowded with looms. There were only two weavers present, however, each working on a different type of fabric. Seeing how they wove the intricate designs was interesting.

If you want to visit this museum, I suggest to take someone along, to make it less awkward. I couldn’t find a website for the museum, but you can read more about it here. And do expect to be yelled at as you attempt to take your shoes off…

Nomura Tailor House

By the time I was done with the Orinasu-kan Museum I was rather exhausted, but there was still one destination on my list: the Nomura Tailor House, a large fabric store. I took a bus and then walked some more. When I got there, melting and thirsty, I found this:

I almost burst into tears. Luckily, the second branch in this chain was only a couple of blocks away, and I made it there safely.

My family joined me as I was shopping, and we all went to a cafe. There, I cooled down with a well-earned iced matcha latte.

 

Doll-maker Aya Furuta and a Missed Craft Show in Matsumoto, Japan

On the second day of our family trip to Japan, we toured Matsumoto. We spent a fun day exploring the famous castle and the nearby Matsumoto City Museum

In the afternoon we strolled down the alleys of the old part of town, looking for a restaurant. We passed by a big building with open doors.

I kept walking, but my husband, to my great horror, went in to explore. Soon, he chased me down the road and told me I must go in. It felt a bit awkward, but I did. Inside I found people packing what turned out to be the exact kind of textile craft show I was hoping to see in Japan.

It turned out that the show was a once-a-year event showcasing local textile artists. It was open for two days, and just closed shortly before we arrived. The artists were in the midst of packing the artwork, but they were kind enough to let me walk around and drool over everything that remained visible.

I saw gorgeous dyed and printed fabrics for doors, windows or for the wall, as well as some interesting woven art involving twigs:

 There were beautiful room dividers and impressive textile fish:

I caught a glimpse of some table cloths and cushions:

And possibly some scarves, that the artists were putting away…

And then I saw some of the most beautiful dolls I’ve ever seen:

The artist who made them was there, too. 

In the 1970’s, Aya Furuta traveled extensively in South East Asia. At that time, Japan experienced an economic boom that quickened the pace of life. The life in the countries Aya visited, on the other hand, remained slower and more sane. Aya felt drawn to to that slower pace. During her travels, she collected a vast assortment of antique, traditional handmade textiles. She appreciated the great care that went into weaving and embroidering them. Later, she started making dolls using these textiles. She has been a doll maker for over thirty years.

Dressing her dolls with her collected South-Asian textiles fills Aya Furuta with pleasure. She feels that the textiles connect her to the prayers and joys of the people who created them. The dolls are her way to preserve the spirit of a different kind of life, to point to a slower way of living that modern people have forgotten.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to purchase one of Aya Furuta’s dolls, but I gladly bought her inspiring doll catalog.

I was hoping (expecting?) to find other, similar textile craft shows in other places in Japan, but to my great disappointment this never happened. Despite my lingering sense of missed opportunity, I feel very fortunate to have meet Aya Futura and her dolls!

 

Matsumoto City Museum and Traditional Japanese Crafts

Many tourists visit Matsumoto for its beautifully-preserved sixteenth-century castle. Only a few stop by the small Matsumoto City Museum right across the courtyard. Although somewhat old fashioned, this museum bears a nostalgic charm. It displays a handmade model of the castle from 1911:

And also offers a peek into the rich world of traditional Japanese crafts from the Matsumoto region.

Traditional Matsumoto Crafts

Beautifying Everyday Life

In pre-industrial societies, people made everyday objects by hand. In Matsumoto, peasants crafted various kinds of baskets out of a specific type of bamboo called Suzutake. They worked on these baskets in winter, the agricultural off season. Matsumoto baskets became famous in Japan from the Edo period onward, and in the beginning of the twentieth century were even exported to Europe and the United States.

As in many parts of the world, however, the most beautiful manifestations of Japan’s traditional arts and crafts evolved around the lives of the elites.

Samurai armor and swards were an important part of the warrior culture of ancient Japan, and many artisans therefore put a lot of effort into making them beautiful. The museum offers a few examples of such artifacts preserved from local samurai families.

Matsumoto Thread Balls appeared in the late 17th century, after cotton threads became widespread. Originally, they were the toys of girls from elite samurai families of the Matsumoto clan. Later they became a popular kind of regional folk art, with many different patterns.

In the Tenpo era (1830-1843), as part of his efforts to promote the town’s industry, the Matsumoto feudal lord encouraged samurai families to produce Oshiebina dolls. People made these dolls to represent kabuki actors and historical figures. They created them by wrapping cotton over cardboard and putting a bamboo skewer at the back for better display.

 

Ritual-related Arts

Many of the traditional crafts in the museum revolve around rituals. These Omiki-no-kuchi, for example, are bamboo sake-bottle charms: 

People placed them in Shinto alters on New year’s Eve. The art of making them is dying out, however. Only a few families in Matsumoto are still skilled in the craft. 

Another example of a ritual-related craft is straw figures such as this, which were meant to represent the Poverty God. Peasants placed them on the boundaries of villages to prevent the invasion of the Plague God. It was their way to try to ensure good harvest and peace.

Tanabata Dolls in various forms are related to the Star Festival. In most places in Japan, people celebrate this festival on the seventh day of the seventh month. In Matsumoto, however, people celebrate it on August 7th. This festival, by the way, is based on a Chinese folktale about a love story between a Weaver and an Alter. The Matsumoto City Museum has some dolls dating from the 18th century. 

People still use Tanabata dolls today, giving them as gifts on important life-cycle-related events.

Various deity figurines and dolls made for festivals, shrines and alters were also widespread. Aren’t they spectacular?

 

Interested to read more about arts in Japan? Try these posts.

Khmer Ikat and the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles

Last December, my family stopped over in Cambodia to see Angknor Wat. Discovering Artisans Angkor and learning about traditional Khmer crafts was an unexpected bonus. But my luck didn’t end with that. The hotel we stayed at was on the outskirts of Siem Reap, and every time we rode a tuk tuk back we passed by this sign:

As you can imagine, the words “Traditional Textiles” ignited my curiosity. I just couldn’t bare the thought of leaving Siem Reap without checking this place out! And so, after a full day of touring the temples followed by a visit to Artisans Angkor, I dragged my exhausted family to one more place before ending the day with a well-deserved dinner. 

We walked into the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) to find an unremarkable yard surrounding a traditional house on stilts. In the large area under the stilts, straw mats covered the concrete floor. Rows of looms and other devices filled the space. A few women worked sitting on the floor:

I felt a bit like an intruder, not sure whether we were allowed to be there or not. But then someone pointed to the “store” sign. We climbed up to the second floor to check it out. There, we met a very friendly Japanese woman speaking fluent English, who was generous enough to tell us more about the Institute and take us around. 

History

IKTT was established in 1996 by Kikuo Morimoto. Morimoto was a master kimono painter from Kyoto, specializing in natural dyes. He fell in love with Khmer silk while visiting Cambodia in the early 1990’s. With help from UNESCO, in 1995 he was able to tour remote villages in the still-war-revenged country, searching for weavers who were skilled in traditional weaving. He soon realized that war and modernity threatened the continuation of the art. Young people were no longer interested in learning weaving skills that would not allow them to support their families. Once the old generation died off, Morimoto realized, the art of traditional Khmer weaving will die with them.

And so, he established IKTT, and gathered the few old women who still knew the traditional craft into one village. He brought silk worms, set workshops, attracted young weavers and even bought land on which to revive the natural forest (the source for traditional dyes). It took many years, but now the Institute owns 23 hectares of revived forest; supports a self-sustaining textile village that is the home of 160 people; and runs the main office and shop in Siem Reap, which I visited. IKTT currently employs around 250 people.

Khmer Silk

Khmer silk is made out of yellow cocoons created by the silk worms native to Cambodia. These cocoons are smaller than the white cocoons used for Chinese and Japanese silk, and they produce much shorter threads: about 300 meters (984 feet) per cocoon vs. 1,400 meters (4593 feet) per white cocoon. However, the silk they produce is of higher quality.

Artisans cook the cocoons in banana ash. This removes the proteins and allows extraction of thread. They spin the thread by hand, creating an unevenly-thick thread that later creates a textured cloth:

After they spin it, they prepare it for dyeing.

Natural Dyes

Traditional Khmer dyes, like traditional Peruvian dyes, are extracted from the natural world: plants and insects collected from the forests. There are five main colors: yellow, red, green, blue and black.

Of course, despite the similar look of the Peruvian and Khmer natural dyes, each culture relies on the plants and insects that are available to it. Whereas Peruvian purple, for example, is extracted from purple corn, Khmer purple comes for the Lac insect. Sadly, this insect became extinct in Cambodia, and is now imported:

Artisans wrap the dyed thread on a wheel to dry, and then roll it into bobbins:

Weaving

Plain or Plated Cloth

The simplest Khmer silk cloth is plain, with the warp and weft threads being the same color:

Shot silk has two different colors: one for the warp and one for the weft. While visiting IKTT I saw two such examples, one with black warp and yellow weft threads resulting in darkish-yellow color:

And the other with red warp and yellow weft, creating an almost golden color:

IKTT artisans create plaid by using different colors in the warp, mimicked by a similar pattern of different colors of the weft:

Khmer Ikat

The most amazing Khmer silks, however, are those with Ikat patterns. These are the most complex and time-consuming to make. Khmer Ikat is a weft Ikat woven on a multi-shaft loom. This means that artisans have to weave each weft thread exactly in its right place to create the design. This type of weaving creates an uneven twill weave, meaning that the weft threads are more visible on the front of the fabric. 

Ikat silk is born when weavers divide threads into small bundles. They stretch these bundles on a frame that is the width of the final textile:

They then tie banana fibers on each bundle, at the place where they DON’T want the dye to take hold. That means that they need to know the final pattern BEFORE they even begin dyeing:

Now the threads are ready for the first dye. Artisans dip the tied thread bundles into dye pots. Once dyed, they stretch them again, remove the original ties, and put more ties to cover the parts which they don’t want the second dye to cover. This is painstaking work that takes many, many hours:

Artisans repeat the process for the third and any subsequent dye, until the threads reach their final color.

Amazingly, the patterns are not written anywhere. The motifs and designs are passed down through the generations, with each artist re-creating them from memory. Thus, every complete textile is unique to the person who created it.

Weavers weave the dyed threads into a fabric. The threads you see in the pictures above, for example, look like this on the final textile:

The traditional Khmer textiles were skirt wraps: Sampot Hol for women, and Sampot Hol Kaban for men. The most complex Khmer Ikat was the Pidan, a traditional wall hanging for religious ceremonies. In the latter, the pattern has no repetition at all!

Many of the textiles created by IKTT artisans take over three months to create!

The Shop

The second-floor shop offers the finished silks for sale. Don’t expect to find bargains here. IKTT silks are of the highest-quality. Their prices rightfully reflect that. Keep in mind that for your money, you will get a unique piece of art, support an entire community, and help preserve a traditional Khmer art.

Many tourists visit Artisans Angkor, but IKTT is a hidden gem. It truly is a must stop for any textile lover.

For more information on the Institute visit its website.

 

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My Spring Mini Quilts

I love sewing bags and other functional items because seeing people use my work makes me happy. At the same time, however, I’m just as passionate about creating fine art. In the first couple of years after starting ANY Texture, I made quite a lot of the first. Sadly, I hardly got to work on the latter. My sewing time is usually quite limited. Making an art quilt requires many days or even weeks. Between trying to prepare for fairs and maintaining my Etsy store, I simply didn’t have enough time for both. I ended up completing only three art quilts in two or three years (“Give a Hand,” “Falling Leaves,” and “Dare!“). I desperately wanted to make more.

Last fall I resolved to creating one small quilt a month. I decided to make one 12″ x 12″ art quilt for each month of the year. I hoped that this would get me into a routine of creating fine textile art, and would get my creative juices flowing.

I’m several months into this self-imposed challenge, and so far I’ve been enjoying it tremendously. Working on these quilts forces me to think of what each month means to me. It allows me to play with colors, textures and shapes. It also turned out to be a great source of comfort at a personally difficult time: since my father’s unexpected passing in March, I haven’t been able to return to my sewing room on a regular basis. I did, however, force myself to work on the monthly quilts, and found much solace in that slow, meditative work.

Recently I completed the third and last of my spring mini quilts. I thought this would be a good time to tell you more about them.

My Spring Mini Quilts: Influenced by Nature

“Rebirth,” My March Quilt

I live in California. The state suffered from an eight-year-long drought that officially ended on March 5th of this year. After many years of hardly any rain and strict water restrictions, we finally had a really wet winter. I will never complain about rain again, but this last winter did feel long and dreary at times…

We don’t get snow where I live, but it does get cold and dark and–this year, finally!–wet. Many trees lose their leaves, and there are no flowers to be seen. Its nice to stay indoors and hibernate, but as the weeks stretch on one begins to wonder whether the winter will ever end.

I have a garden where I spend many hours when possible. When I look at my deciduous trees over winter, bare for months on end, a little part at the back of my mind wonders whether they will all wake up come spring. I worry that some might not. Over the years, two of our trees actually didn’t. One died a couple of years ago, and the other this very year. And so, for me, March is a time when I hold my breath, so to speak. I always experience a sense of great relief when I see the first buds forming on trees, and when the first flowers erupt. There is a kind of reassurance in the awakening of trees, in the end of a long dormancy. For me, therefore, March is all about the gradual awakening of nature, and the the sigh of relief that accompanies it. 

This is what my March quilt is all about. It is dominated by the various browns of still mostly-bare trees, punctured by the bright pinks of freshly-blooming flowers, and the gold of newly-emerging young leaves. I call this quilt “Rebirth.” 

“Lush,” My April Quilt

By April, shrubs and perennials start to stir, too. Plants grow fresh leaves, often in light greens and lime greens. The first flowers add pops of color to the world, attempting to erase the browns and grays of winter. Weeds, too are happiest that month.

After I returned home from mourning my father, I spent several days in the garden pulling out waist-high weeds. My father was an amazing gardener, who taught me everything I know about plants. Working outside, surrounded by fresh greenery, some of which he planted for me, was a kind of catharsis, a medicine for my aching heart. 

My April quilt is dominated by the fresh greens of early spring, sparkled with pops of new blooms. It also has some of the curves of fragrant peas, which dominated my garden this year. I call it “Lush.”

“Bloom,” My May Quilt

May is my favorite month of the year. It is the peak of spring, full of colors and smells. This is the month in which my garden puts on its best show; when all my flowers are at their best. This is when I see results for all the work I put into the garden in the fall, when my efforts to paint the world with flowers bear fruit. Everything in my garden feels vibrant and alive, humming with buzzing insects. In May I gladly trade my sewing machine for hoes and pruners, and spend as much time in the garden as I possibly can.

Oh, did you know that my favorite color is purple, and that so very many flowers just happen to be exactly that?? Essentially, May provided the best possible excuse to make a quilt in the colors I like most! I call this one “Bloom,” and I’m sure you see why.

So, what do you think? Did my spring mini quilts succeed in capturing the essence of the months they represent?

 

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DIY Easy Peasy Reusable Produce Bag Tutorial

I’m sure you’ve seen the horrifying pictures of plastic waste accumulating in rivers and oceans, suffocating wildlife and damaging the environment. I’ve been haunted by these images for a long time. Over the last several years I’ve been gradually changing my family’s habits to reduce waste. One of the first things I sewed when I started upcycling fabrics was reusable shopping totes for myself. I later made one for my husband as well. We’re still using them, more than three years later, multiple times a week. I’m estimating that so far we saved at least 462 plastic/paper bags, probably closer to twice that or more.

We’re still far from perfect, though. About 90% of our weekly trash comes from plastic food wrappings of all sorts. A portion of that is plastic produce bags. Many companies now strive to develop plastic-like materials that bio-degrade, compost or feed the fish. I love reading about such efforts, and hope that bags such as these will become widely available soon. As long as they are not, however, reusable cloth produce bags are a great solution to the plastic-bag problem. This week I finally found the time to sew some for my family!

The good news is that cloth bags are really easy to make! You don’t even have to have any sewing skills 🙂 Here’s an easy reusable produce bag tutorial you can try.

A Super-easy Reusable Produce Bag Tutorial

Materials

It doesn’t take much to make reusable produce bags. Fabric, cord and thread is all you need.

Note on fabric: since produce is usually weighed to determine cost, you want to use the lightest fabric you can find. To make it easy for the cashier to see what’s inside, you should look for sheer/transparent fabric. Don’t run to JoAnn’s yet, however! Remember that many resources go into producing new fabric, and therefore it’s a million times more eco-friendly to use pre-loved textiles. Look around your house to see if you already have something suitable. An old curtain, a table cloth, or even a worn shirt can be just right. If you don’t have anything suitable at hand, the closest thrift store will surely have something. 

As for cord, use something sturdy yet lightweight. Even an old shoe lace would suffice!

How to Make Your Reusable Produce Bag

You can make the bag any size you want. You might even want different-sized bags for different kinds of produce!

Begin by cutting a rectangle that is twice as wide as you want your final bag to be. If you prefer, you can cut two rectangles, each about half an inch bigger in each direction than the final size you strive for.

If you have two rectangles, start by connecting them. Put them right sides together (facing in), and sew a straight line length-wise on the wrong side. 

It’s easier (and a lot faster!) if you have a sewing machine, but if you don’t, hand-sewing works, too.

Note: since lightweight, sheer fabric can be delicate, I like to use a zigzag stitch.

Fold the cord in two, so that it’s a bit longer than the width of your bag, and cut:

Place the cord about an inch below the top-most part of your fabric, width-wise, and fold the top over the cord. Since your bag has to be functional rather than pretty, feel free to eyeball this rather than measuring exactly.

Tip: use a clip or a pin to hold the edge of the cord peeking outside the fold, as it will be harder to get it through after you sew!

Now zigzag along the bottom part of the edge you just folded, leaving plenty of room for the cord to move inside. Make sure not to sew the cord itself 🙂

When done, catch the other end of the cord with a clip or pin, so that it doesn’t slip through:

Fold your cloth right sides together. Make sure the top edges meet:

Now you can start sewing the open side and bottom. Begin stitching where the folded part ends–as marked in yellow in the below picture (make sure to leave the “tunnel” you just made for the cord open, so that you can easily pull it out later):

Zigzag along the side and bottom:

Note: Go back and forth with the stitch at the beginning and end of each line, and around the corners. This will reinforce these high-stress areas and ensure that your bag lasts longer.

Tie the two sides of the cord in a knot.

Pull the cord so that it’s evenly distributed:

Now turn your bag inside out. CONGRATULATIONS! It’s all done!

Take your new produce bags whenever you go to the supermarket or farmer’s market. You can wash them as often as you want. They should help shrink the volume of your garbage.

Oh, and if you’d like to put your produce bags inside a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted market tote that is also entirely sustainable, I have some available in my Etsy shop 😉

 

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Farewell to My Dad, The Ultimate Upcycler

My father passed away in mid March, ripping a huge tear in the fabric of my life.

My dad was a true Renaissance man, a walking encyclopedia, utterly brilliant. He was also humble and modest to a fault, the most honest person I’ve ever met.

Most people knew him for his brain: his academic achievements and intellectual pursuits. His articles, publications, students and volunteer work could attest to that. We, who knew him up-close, were also awed by his hands. My father was extremely dexterous: he fixed, built, hammered, screwed, kneaded, cooked, sewed, planted, pruned, hugged. His capable hands could create wonders and fix anything, including broken hearts. 

My dad was an upcycler before upcycling was fashionable. He noticed the potential in everything around him, from a newborn baby to a tiny screw lying on the pavement. My father always picked up things that other people discarded, building himself a workshop stacked floor to ceiling with various kinds of treasures: nails, screws, cords, bulbs and what not. He had vast collections of scrap wood and other materials. When asked what for, he always said he might use them some day, and he often did. Whenever one of us needed anything, we would go to him first. He often had what we were looking for.

A master of improvisation, my dad thought outside the box and gave old objects a new life. On a desert trip when I was little, he dug into clay soil to create a makeshift oven in which we baked Chalas for Shabbat. Another year we were travelling during Hannukah and didn’t have a Menora. He built one out of snail shells. When the elastic on a fitted sheet tore, he used a hair pin to replace it. He cut tattered pants to give worn books new covers:

When my kids were little, they collected their broken toys in a special box. Whenever grandpa came to visit, he would fix them all. Better yet, he built them beautiful wooden toys from the wood he rescued:

In Hebrew, when a person is talented with their hands, we say he has “golden hands.” My dad had golden hands with a green thumb. He had a magic touch when it came to plants as well. He coerced them to grow from seed, could grow an entire tree from a tiny piece of plant cutting, and could graft. I learned to love nature and all of my gardening skills from him.

My dad is no longer here to fix the huge hole created by his passing, but in the few weeks since his death I became acutely aware of the permanent imprint he left. My father is gone, but his spirit lives on, in me, in my siblings, in our children. His guiding principles, taught by example, will keep showing us the way as we walk the path of life.

 

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