They say that the best things in life are free, and that concept definitely applies to my creative endeavors. I’ve always been a scavenger (and hoarder) of craft materials too pretty or unique to pass up. I picked up the habit at summer camp, where I spent as much time as possible on arts and crafts. Half the fun of those projects was in dismantling them later for parts.
My summer-camp electives tended toward program offerings such as ceramics, wearable art, leather crafts, and jewelry making (aside from two swim periods and an hour daily of sports like kickball or Newcomb volleyball—my parents wisely mandated at least that much physical activity). As my instructors introduced each new project, I surveyed with wonder the array of raw materials spread before me on the table: bags of beads and buttons, spools of plastic lace and leather cord, piles of pliable clay. After carefully developing a design and color scheme, I engrossed myself in executing my artistic vision. I carried each treasure home with a sense of awe—had I actually made it with my own hands?
Once the initial inventive reverie wore off, each finished project acquired new meanings and uses. I discovered that the earrings I’d painted looked better mixed and matched, which inspired me to wear socks of alternating colors as well. A hand-woven dreamcatcher moonlighted as a feathery cat-taunter. My beaded jewelry experienced the most drastic effects of secondary use—I couldn’t resist pulling the beads off their strings and employing them in new ways. Seed beads and pony beads seemed replaceable enough, but polymer clay and glass beads were precious. I regularly restrung them alongside new neighbors.
I still collect craft materials for the potential stored within them. Colorful tissue paper and a jar of Mod Podge beckon me to decoupage a wooden shelf I found a few years ago. Yards of quilting squares and grosgrain ribbon with tidy contrast stitching patiently await their turn as gift-wrap. In the stash of multicolored embroidery floss I recently donated to Strong, you can see a cluster of friendship bracelets—works in progress—in one of the compartments. My recycled beads, however, are conspicuously absent from the museum’s collection—I still might use them for something.