- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

Old-fashioned typewriter keys, casualties of the computer age, are gaining new life as watches and rings. Discontinued D.C. streetcar tokens and dice have become cuff links, discarded sea-glass pieces have been strung together as bracelets, and even vinyl records spin around wrists instead of turntables.

To turn recycled items into works of art or jewelry takes the eye of an artist. To create a Web site for artists to sell their recycled wares took the keen eye of one D.C. craftswoman and needlepointer who has made recycling her business and way of life.

Artist Reena Kazmann of Northwest created www.eco-artware.com as a place to sell so-called eco-friendly products.

In 1998, when Ms. Kazmann purchased pins made from reused Mardi Gras costumes, she had no idea how much of an impact items like them would have on her life. She says she didn’t even realize at the time that the pins, which are no longer available, were not brand-new.

“They were good designs. I didn’t even know they were made from leftover designs,” she says.

A year later, Ms. Kazmann was tiring of her job as a freelance illustrator, so she attended the New York International Gift Fair to get a taste of something new. At the fair, an event where businesses worldwide sell their goods for a few days in New York City, she discovered a world of recycled artwork.

She returned home with carryalls created from vinyl billboard material and sweaters and hats made from reused pieces of silk.

When she realized all the items were made from leftover materials, Ms. Kazmann, who already recycled regularly and sometimes wore secondhand clothes from thrift stores, started to look for similar items. In 1999, she started her Web site.

“We are interested in recycling. It’s part of a culture, part of a movement, but this happens to be a store,” Ms. Kazmann says of her site. “It’s a growing public interest.”

Some of the products on www.eco-artware.com go beyond encouraging environmental conservation. The paper-bead bracelets and necklaces, which are crafted by women with HIV and AIDS in Uganda, help support those who have been left without a home because of civil war. Seventy-eight percent of the profits from these $20 necklaces and $15 bracelets, made from recycled paper, go toward community-improvement activities, which include providing housing, food, health care and other needs for these women and their families.

Some artists simply find other uses for household objects.

One of the artists on Ms. Kazmann’s Web site got into the business of recycling by accident. Meg Musick-Makely of San Diego, who designs bracelets from vinyl records, started after her daughter accidently cracked one of her favorite 331/3 rpm records, a Fleetwood Mac album.

“In trying to save the memories associated with that album, I discovered record bracelets,” Ms. Musick-Makely says.

After several unsuccessful at tempts, she perfected her process of making bracelets out of records, which cost $20 each on www.eco-artware.com. She followed the same method her children used to make bracelets out of toothbrushes.

“The kids would make bracelets from toothbrushes by removing the bristles and boiling [the handle], so I tried it with the record, and many, many attempts later, I did it,” Ms. Musick-Makely says.

Her success eventually led to new creations, such as tote bags made from record covers and rings and necklaces crafted from vinyl records.

In addition to enjoying recycled materials, buyers are drawn to the sentiment and memories that go along with certain items, Ms. Kazmann says.

She recalls a magazine editor who bought one of Cindy Kroth’s typewriter bracelets, which cost $110 to $135, for her secretary because the woman first worked with a typewriter.

“There’s a lot of people who like this stuff. They have memories attached,” Ms. Kazmann says.

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