As soon as she saw Scarlett O’Hara reach out and grab the emerald green velvet drapes from the parlor window, and have them transformed into a stunning gown with gold trim, Kerianne Christie was hooked.
“That opened up the whole world for me,” she said of the classic scene from “Gone with the Wind.” “Ever since then, if it’s fabric, it’s fair game.”
That initial spark of interest traveled a winding path that ended up on display last weekend at the Recycled Arts Festival in Vancouver. Christie, a Washougal resident, is the owner of Titania Blossoms, an online “upcycled” clothing business. She offers an array of stylish dresses, shirts, skirts and pouches — all made by hand from materials that range from second-hand pillowcases and fabric samples to old shower curtains, drapes and tablecloths. Material from several different sources is often combined to create one “new” clothing item.
“I lay it all out and see what I like,” Christie said. “Hideous drapes can become the cutest little skirt.”
Delve a little into Christie’s background, and it’s not difficult to see how she ended up here.
Raised in New York, the eighth child in a family of nine, she would often receive hand-me-downs from her older sister. In an effort to infuse her own style and taste, Christie would alter shirts, pants and skirts.
“I’ve been sewing since I was really little, and using whatever was around me,” she said. “I would just change whatever it was to fit my personality.”
Contributing to her interest in sewing and creative tailoring was her large family’s involvement in Civil War re-enactment performances. Christie’s mom, a talented seamstress, would design and sew the elaborate costumes with Kerianne watching closely along the way.
That translated into more sewing and crafting, and then to studying costume design in college. Although today her career is teaching children from birth to age 3 at the Washington State School for the Deaf, Titania Blossoms is a creative outlet. Christie sells her work online at Etsy.com, and through word-of-mouth.
“Everything I make is one-of-a-kind,” she said, looking down at her own outfit, which includes a skirt embellished with images of elephants. “No one else is going to be walking around with an elephant skirt.”
One-of-a-kind is the name of the game at the Recycled Arts Festival. The fifth-annual event attracted an estimated 15,000 people during it’s two-day run, according to organizer Sally Fisher, who works in sustainability and outreach through Clark County’s Department of Environmental Services.
“We started the Recycled Arts Festival to raise awareness about reducing, reusing and recycling,” Fisher said. “As the festival has matured, it has become very successful at getting people to really think about all the waste they create, how they can reduce the amount of waste they create and better ways to dispose of what they do have.”
More than 80 vendors packed the park to sell art made from recycled items. The reused and reclaimed materials used by some of the participants included metal, glass, vinyl records, bicycle tires, bird feeders and lanterns.
Even old magazines, spent Starbucks gift cards and second-hand Dominoes game pieces were put to good use — as demonstrated by Camas resident Geri Stuart who owns Mouse House Decor.
“It’s just bits and pieces that we all have around the house,” Stuart said of her craft. “People always wonder what to do with these leftover things.”
Strips from colorful magazine pages are rolled around toothpicks, and with the addition of some glue and paper glaze, “beads” are created and turned into bracelets. The gift cards are cut up and turned into guitar picks and lined-up one-after-another to make bracelets. Dominoes become fashionable necklaces.
“I just dress them up with beads and other things,” Stuart said. “I believe we should use more of things than we do. Our grandparents, they used everything right down to the last drop. That’s just the way they were. Now, we are too much of a throwaway society.”
Stuart doesn’t have an established business, a website or social networking page on the Internet — she strictly sells her items through word-of-mouth, and through attendance at the Vancouver festival.
“It’s a hobby, more than it is a business,” said Stuart, who also travels the area as a Scottish country dancer.
That kind of laid-back attitude is prevalent at the Recycled Arts Festival, where organizers and participants hope to both entertain and educate.
“We hope that by offering the information in a fun way, people will be more receptive to it as opposed to traditional methods that can be kind of ‘preachy,'” Fisher said. “Garbage and waste are something that everybody has to deal with, so the easier we can make it for folks, the better.”
Christie and Stuart both said they especially enjoy coming to the Vancouver festival for that very reason.
“I think people here have a real appreciation that everything comes from something else,” Christie said. “There is just so much creativity here.”