Rubbish rescued at the Recycled Arts Festival

Beauty is revealed when artists get their hands on discards

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter


Photo Gallery

The inspiration for Susan Casebeer’s jewelry came from two places: frustration at how much she was spending on art supplies, and a mounting pile of junk mail.

“You just get so much junk mail,” she said.

So last year, she started making stud earrings out of the advertisements and solicitations, and sold the creations — calling them Dumpster Dots — out of a suitcase at the Recycled Arts Festival.

Casebeer returned to this year’s festival with an entire booth full of products made of recycled materials, including necklaces made of an old sari and earrings made of ironed bubble wrap and old silver trays.

A sign at the front of her booth reads: “While buying these earrings will not save the environment, wearing them can remind us that we should think green and reuse items whenever possible.”

Sally Fisher, a sustainability specialist with Clark County Environmental Services, said that sentiment is what the event is all about.

“We want to let people know that the little choices they make do make a big difference,” Fisher said. “Wearing those earrings

is a good first step.”

The eighth annual weekend festival brought more than 120 vendors to Esther Short Park, where artists sold creations that are mostly made from discarded “stuff.” Shoppers also enjoyed live music, world-class jugglers and a stilt walker wearing an outfit made from a disposable party tablecloth.

“It’s celebrating art and the environment,” said Sarah Liane Foster, a performer with Nomadic Theatre Company, based in Portland. Foster stood about 5 feet taller than usual as she paced the walkways on wooden stilts.

Carrying an umbrella that appears more like a jelly fish, Foster said she enjoyed dancing with the kids and blowing bubbles at the swarms of people.

“It’s all about entertaining people today,” she said.

The most common question heard while browsing the tables that displayed fishing lures made from bottle caps and milk jugs turned into bracelets was: “What did this used to be?”

“You get to tell the story of what it is,” Casebeer said.

Turning trash into art is something Marta Farris has done for 20 years. She said her husband is a “collector” and she enjoys making the discarded “stuff” he comes home with into colorful lawn decorations.

“It’s like cooking in season — I cook with what I’ve got,” she said, glancing at a three-foot tall pear made of the metal straps that hold together stacks of plywood.

Fisher expected record attendance numbers at this year’s festival because of the numbers on the thermometer: Temperatures on Saturday reached into the high 80s and the forecast for today looks even hotter. The festival’s hours for today are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and entry is free.

Sixty volunteers are helping make this year’s event run more smoothly, Fisher said, being sure visitors behave safely and allowing vendors who run their booths alone breaks to eat and escape the sun.

“Last year, we had 25 volunteers, and before that we had zero,” Fisher said.

Fisher said she’s excited about the growth of the event.

“Not only does it bring the community together, but it helps people think about keeping the environment clean without feeling like we’re lecturing to them,” she said.

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522;;