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Salad days for recyclables

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The items on display at the "Mixed Greens" arts and crafts show April 20 and 21 vary greatly, but they all have one thing in common: They're all made from recycled, repurposed or reused materials.

In celebration of Earth Day, which happens to be Habitat for Humanity ReStore's 12th anniversary, artists and craftsmen offer their creations at the Habitat ReStore at 301 Piedmont Road. Proceeds from the booth fees benefit Habitat for Humanity.

The idea for "Mixed Greens" came from Lesa Smith. She and her husband, Chuck, refinish furniture and create decorative pieces from recycled materials. They sell the items at their booth at the Somewhere in Time antiques mall in Nitro.

During their travels to antiques shows, the Smiths noticed some displays showcased creations made from recycled and repurposed items.

"I had an idea that we should do that here as well. I sent off the idea to [ReStore director] Amy [McLaughlin]. We brainstormed about it, and here it is," Smith said.

Smith will display chalkboards and message boards she makes from salvaged doors.

"I find a lot of my treasures at ReStore," said Smith, whose favorite salvaged items are chairs and chandeliers. "I've been turning trash into treasure for years."

The nearly 20 vendors who will participate in "Mixed Greens" were charged simply to bring items they made that contained an element of recycled and repurposed things.

"This is a great way for us to celebrate all that ReStore does, by showcasing how people use the items we have here. It's not just for contractors. People can see creative uses for items from ReStore," McLaughlin said.

Like Smith, Anna Copenhaver has long created new items from recycled materials. Copenhaver, an operating-room nurse at Saint Francis Hospital, said she's been crafting and sewing all her life. She honed her skills during her years as a Girl Scout leader for her three daughters. She still makes the birdhouses her Scouts built as a fundraiser.

She makes sturdy rag rugs from discarded, durable polyester clothing. She sews potholders and eyeglass and silverware holders from colorful scraps of fabric and makes aprons and reusable shopping bags from clothing she saved from her mother's home when she settled her estate.

"I have lots of ideas. Some are in my head and I see others in magazines," Copenhaver said. "I just hate to throw things away."

She separates salvaged dishes of differing sizes with a clear glass to make tiered dessert trays.

"I find lots of stuff at ReStore. These tiles are from here," she said about some tiles with ribbons attached as hangers. "My daughter will paint little sayings on them."

Her daughter, Caroline Copenhaver, will display the earrings she makes from beer bottle caps and buttons.

Other vendors such as Beth Carenbauer just recently began to give their creative sides free rein. Carenbauer creates wearable art from vintage jewelry and hardware.

She files the backs off vintage brooches and pairs them with bold, chunky chains into necklaces or into bracelets made with salvaged men's watchbands. One necklace features a belt buckle that frames three rows of repurposed beads. In another necklace, a vintage gold belt buckle frames a deconstructed brooch.

"I try to bring something modern to contrast with the vintage," said Carenbauer, who is the director of business services for a state government agency. "The vintage pieces have a new life and are reinvented with artistic appeal."

Carenbauer finds materials at flea markets and antiques malls. She talked excitedly about the possible uses for a jar of cut glass beads, most likely from an old chandelier that she recently picked up.

The elaborate pattern of a black necklace was fashioned from rings of inner tubes, held together with washers. She's used dominoes and checkers in other designs.

A pair of cufflinks becomes a set of earrings when Carenbauer files the posts off the back of them.

"You've heard of boyfriend shirts, but how cool is it to have earrings made from your father's cufflinks?" she said.

Instead of flea markets, Jennifer Workman scours riverbanks and beaches for materials, such as driftwood, to use in her primitive-inspired woodcrafts. She also uses pallets, wooden boxes and scraps of wood that a contractor friend provides her.

From the large, more gnarled pieces of driftwood, she makes votive candleholders. Spindly sticks and rough wooden strips form a sunburst pattern around circular mirrors, her best-selling item.

Her daughters, one who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and another in North Carolina's Outer Banks, comb the nearby beaches to supply her. The rough wooden strips that break off from slat and wire beach fencing serve Workman's purpose, as does driftwood.

"About half of what I make is beach-inspired. I love the beach," she said. Workman plans to bring a large mirror, which she's rimmed with a large collection of seashells to "Mixed Greens."

Workman's been making wooden items since 1992 when she lived in Ohio. When she first started, she purchased the wood for her crafts.

"I noticed that there was a lot of wasted wood. What I do now is eco-friendly. I'm not hurting the environment with anything I create," said Workman, who works at Heritage Trucks in Cross Lanes.

"Mixed Greens" is the first show featuring recycled goods in which Workman has participated; she has signed up for others that were canceled due to lack of participation.

Part of the challenge of using recycled materials is the time required for gathering. A trip to the hardware store requires much less effort than walking a beach or picking up cast-off materials.

"Dealing with recycled material is very time-consuming. Our society wants everything to be easy. They don't want to do anything that takes time," Workman said.

Despite the demands of their day jobs, these women make time for their creations. "When you really enjoy something, you just get lost in it," Carenbauer said.

Their commitment to giving new purpose to items that might have been discarded shows in their creations as well as their words.

"Mixed Greens" will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 20 and from noon to 5 p.m. April 21 at the ReStore. The ReStore will remain open during show hours.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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