30 Mar 2008

Artisan of the Week, M.J. of Koolbagsplus

So this week has been a bit slow at Autonomous Artisans, but I couldn't forget to post this weeks featured artisan as M.J. makes such gorgeous, bright and useful recycled goods it would be terrible for me to forget to feature her. I'll let her explain all about her passion for her craft.

1. Could you please introduce us to who you are and what you do?
Please allow me to introduce myself....I’m M.J. at koolbagsplus, and I sew up all sorts of creative things one-at-a-time using recycled drink pouches. Currently, I have constructed totes of all sizes, belts, pencil pouches, billfolds, coin pouches, and anything else I feel can be a useful item. Having viewed a landfill from my daily commute, I am hoping that this effort in addition to my dedication to weekly recycling items in my home, can help make the planet a little greener one step at a time. I truly enjoy putting all of my ideas together, and watching it transform into something worthwhile.

2. What led you to take up your craft?
As I have been sewing many things for quite a few years, it has become a passion of mine. You either love it or hate it, and I find it to be very relaxing, and a great stress reliever. I think of it as some sort or therapy, however many who wouldn't go near a sewing machine may disagree with me. I started making these items and had so much success locally, that I decided to branch out and allow shoppers to see all of my products so they can take the time to view all of it. This gives
an opportunity for someone to request a specific color in a particular item I have, or a larger tote, etc. Its great to have choices, with a large scope of possibilities. Its a nice feeling to know that my items are being sent to a variety of areas for others to enjoy.

3. Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
Making things that serve a purpose out of something that was headed to the trash. Being appreciated for my talent, and positive comments from satisfied buyers. I remember delivering an fairly large order of purses to a Mom who happened to have her two small daughters with her, and to see the look on their faces when I arrived was absolutely priceless. This kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

4. Which part do you find hardest?
The task of preparing, hand washing, and drying all of those pouches before the process begins. It does take quite some time. Not always knowing what color or size or a particular item to have put together at any given time if someone needs it right away. I make multi, they choose red, or blue, etc. I’m quite a perfectionist, so if something doesn’t look right or sew up like it should, I start that particular section over with new pouches.

5. Where do you hope to be in 1 year’s time?
Able to expand my creative side into more variety-hence the name “plus” added to end of my shop. I had some other ideas in the works when I named my shop. It’s a goal for the future, but for now I’m content with what I’m doing.

6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Never forget where you came from, and those who helped you get where you are today. That one has pretty much been with me since I was a teenager.

7. Name other artisans sites/shops would you recommend are worth a visit?
I’ve only been with Etsy a short time, and haven’t had much opportunity to view all of those great items out there, but these two sites really caught my attention:
Smashgirl a mosaics artist who recycles broken pots, plates, tiles and magazines into beautiful items.
ndeurshoes an artist that hand paints shoes with stunning results.

8. What is your favourite sandwich filling?
Cajun roast beef, horseradish, alfalfa sprouts, and provolone cheese. I find it to be very yummy.

Thank you M.J. for taking part in our blog. I'm looking forward to seeing your new projects. I'm sure your shop at etsy will do well. How could it not when it is full to the brim with such fabulous recycled goods. Go take a look for yourself readers. You are sure to find something that catches your eye.

25 Mar 2008


Due to ill health I have decided to take a break from working and blog writing until Monday 31st March. Sorry for the lack of posting, but I will be back. Have a fabulous week!

23 Mar 2008

Artisan of the Week, Charmaine of High Desert Diva

Today we have one of my favourite bloggers as our featured artisan. This lady has much talent and a very kind heart. I know this from reading her blog, browsing her shop and from seeing her encouraging heart warming comments on my and other peoples blogs. Charmaine has a the great ability and style that enables her to see how colour, form and texture work together. Her love affair with the past seem to have lead her to sell vintage, but her great eye is what's lead her to be selling the highest quality vintage I've seen in ages.

1.Could you please introduce us to who you are and what you do?

My name is Charmaine Manley. I’m an interior decorator as well as a seller of antiques/ vintage/ found objects.

2. What led you to take up your craft?
I’ve always loved old items, their history, the workmanship involved in creating each piece, the elegance of patina, the look of a well-loved piece. I started selling antiques in 1994, mainly due to my love of flea marketing and the abundance of merchandise I was finding. I wanted to share my treasures, so I produced a show and have been selling ever since. The interior decorating came about as a result of these sales. One of my customers admired my sales display so much she asked if I would help her decorate her home. The design work quickly became a favorite, and is now the largest part of my business.

3. Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
Spending someone else’s money. Having said that, I actually specialize in bargain hunting. I love finding a good deal, or making something new out of something old to save some pennies. We’re calling it up-cycling or re-purposing now, but it’s something I’ve always done, and encourage others to do so.

4. Which part do you find hardest?
Definitely marketing myself. I’m a bit of an introvert and find it very difficult to say, “Look at me!”

5. Where do you hope to be in 1 year’s time?
Comfortably ensconced in my design niche in my new home town. Name recognition is high on my list.

6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Less is More. My graphic design teacher, Mike Jones, drilled this into my head 20+ years ago. I still follow this advice…

7. Name other artisans sites/shops would you recommend are worth a visit?
On Etsy:
Star of the East: specifically their brilliant use of found sea urchins in jewelry design.
Ice Kubi: the surreal mixed media images are so amazing.
Crank Bunny: unbelievable pop-up cards.
Cicada Studio: she’s designed her own line of fabric….
Truly, the Etsy list is incredibly long.

A couple extremely talented artists who aren’t Etsians:
Datamancer: makes Steampunk computer keyboards that I covet.
Su Blackwell’s paper cut art is absolutely astonishing.

8. What is your favourite sandwich filling?
Currently I’m obsessed with herbed goat cheese, usually I’ll add sliced turkey and

So as you can see from the photos Charmaine's work is of such a high quality that she gets full double page spread articles about her featured in magazines! Someone with such passion about her craft deserves to succeed. Go and have a look around her shop and see for yourself the fabulous items she has found for you.

21 Mar 2008

Tim Minchin says it so perfectly...

Can you recommend any solar powered lights?

I've been searching the net for some lighting for our market stall. We will be travelling around most of the summer festivals selling Hoops and Hats. and I want to try and light the stall at night with solar powered lights. Now the problem I'm having is finding a lighting system that will work even on dull overcast days. I've found countless people selling the little garden lanterns, but I don't think they throw out much light and most of the reviews I've found of them say they do not work at all on over cast days.

Hopefully the summer will be bright and sunny, but in the UK you can't guarantee that it will. I don't really need these lights to be like flood lights as we hope to have a more soft ambient glow in the night than look like a night match on a football field, but I do need them to work all the time, whether the day has been 12 hours of bright sunshine or dull and over cast all day.

I saw these LED solar lights and though they would look great along the front edge of the stall, but again the reviews were nothing less than bad, saying they were not very bright and that they only lit up after a very sunny days worth of charging.

I really don't want to have to get a generator to run lights, as they are noisy, polluting and costly to run... any ideas all you lovely Blog readers? Have you go a set of solar powered lights you can recommend? If we can't find anything we will have to resort to tea light candles in jars, where the festival organisers will allow us, although that can be a fire hazard when slightly drunk festival goers try to hoop for the first time, late at night next to a candle lit stall.

20 Mar 2008

Ecofriendly baby bums

All of today's chosen products can be used to keep babies' bums clean, and non-poopey! What with the frankly horrific amount of non-biodegradable plastic disposable nappies (diapers) that get thrown out every day, switching to cotton re-usable cotton ones could cut down all that waste. By switching not only will you be helping to save the environment from poo filled plastic, but you will also save a sh*t-load of money in the long run!

We will start off with these sexy pants from elvenhands. What I really like about them is the shade of the purple that is being used with the yellow/orange on the suns.

Next off, we have these cute baby elephant pants made by EarthJewelsCreations. For some reason, the elephant reminds me of Babaar. With a trunk like that, lets hope he doesn't faint from the smell and fall out of the pattern and run away!

These nappies/ diapers are made by Greenbabybunz. Ahhhhhhh...cute teddy bears on these ones. Bound to be softer on little bots than those plastic disposable nappies. All Children love teddy bears so these will be a hit!

These ones are made by TeaCupCountry and look like they were design for St Patricks day. I love the smiley little faces on the shamrocks. Wearing these your baby will have the luck of the Irish.

Booty Juice from happyday is perfect for using to clean your babies bottom when changing their nappy. It will save you from using disposable wet wipes and because of the Aloe, vitamin e and tea tree oil it will kill bacteria, sooth sore bots and keep skin soft.

Botty wipes from abunchakidsinc can be used with Happydays Booty Juice. They are re-usable, washable and soft. Perfect for those delicate areas. The fun turtle and fish pattern just adds to their appeal.

Seeing all these lovely baby goods has made me all broody. Even the thought of yucky poop filled nappies hasn't put me off with all these lovely re-usable goods out there. I'm even more convinced now that the plastic disposable nappies are not needed.

19 Mar 2008

Do you buy recycled goods?

All there items I found on the first few pages of Etsy when I did the searched "Recycle". There were so many great items I just had to close my eyes and point to get this group of very different but very wonderful items.

This drums body from SlapHappyDrums was created from recycled salvaged hardwood oak flooring. What a great way to use up off cuts! I just wonder what kind of sound this drum has. I'm a big fan of the West African Djembe sound.

I don't think I really need to say any more than is on this fabric patch. AndyEastonlyCandy has pretty much said it all! So get recycling because I really don't want to have to eat your pants!

We won't have to eat Lespetitechoses's pants because this little bag is made from recycled cord fabric. It has such a cute little bird on the front that matches the bright beautiful fabric liner.

These Fat Ninja made me smile for more than just the reason that the pictures are fabulous, they come with recycled brown envelopes. Great Job Interrupt! Don't you just want to tickle them and make them giggle?

This cute little elephant family from MaidenLove are made from re-purposed vintage fabric. Perfect little cuddly toys for those eco-friendly babies out there. Those trunks look just the right size for little hands to hang on to.

Recycling glass couldn't be more direct than this. BottleBottoms is aptly named, because she takes glass bottles and cuts them down to make tumblers/drinking glasses. These were made from Perrier bottles and look great!

So if I could find all these amazing goods just by typing one word into a search engine and they are all recycled goods, why aren't we all buying more recycled goods?

18 Mar 2008

Greener Buildings

For those of you that found my Blog about Tyre houses interesting, but decided they weren't the house for you, I've found a great site called Green Home Building that can give you other ideas on ways to build a more eco-friendly home. Check it out! Even if you don't plan on building your own home any time soon it can give you ideas on how to make the home you live in now more green.

Another site you can visit is Dream Green Homes and take a look at their greener home plans. You'd be amazed what you can build out of straw bails. Maybe the first little piggy of the 3 wasn't so silly to build a house from straw.

I have admired Rachel Whitehead straw bail 2 story house for a very long time on line and hope one day to be able to visit it. This lady built the first two story straw bail house in the UK. To look at it now, you wouldn't have guessed it was made from normal straw bails. It's stunning!

Not convinced yet that having a greener home is the way to go? Then take a surf over to Low Impact Living's site and try out their Environmental Impact Calculator. Even if you don't do it because you want to save the environment, do it to save some money. Living a more sustainable life style usually ends up costing you less money... in the long run.

17 Mar 2008

Building in a more eco friendly way.

For a very long time I have had the desire to build myself a house. I don't just want to build your average brick or wooden frame house. I want to build a rammed earth, tyre house. I was first wowed by the Earthship houses about 8-9 years ago and have a mental image of exactly what I want to build all drawn up in my head since then. Not only are the tyres great insulation and strong, but in a lot of cases you can get them for free. It costs garages/mechanics money to dispose of the things and are usually only to happy to let you take them away. There are millions if not billions of tyres thrown away every year, all over the world. Why not take them and use them again to build gorgeous houses like these?

And this is what they start out as...

... tyres rammed tightly with earth and stacked on top of each other like bricks. Then they get rendered and hey presto you have a tyre wall.

The Earthship buildings have been designed to be as self sufficient as possible. You can read all about them on the Earthship website.

If you are a builder or a keen DIY person I have found this great site that is trying to help reduce building waste. It's called Trade Leftovers and it does exactly what the name suggests. It gives you a place to advertise any left over building materials, so you can either sell or trade them instead of throwing them in the skip.

16 Mar 2008

Artisan of the week, Monica of Mojo Trashion

I hope you are all having a great Sunday! Today I'd like to introduce you to Monica of Mojo Trashion. I found Monica's shop on Etsy and loved all the goodies I saw there. They are all so bright and cheerful, you can't fail to raise a smile when looking through the shop. Add to that the fact that most of her materials used to make each item are recycled and you have the perfect environmentally friendly goods. So I'll let her tell you a little bit about herself and her work.

1. Could you please introduce us to who you are and what you do?
My name is Monica Brooks and I'm from a tiny town called Warrenville in South Carolina. I make accessories and other funky things from recycled packaging, clothing, and other fun found objects.

2. What led you to take up your craft?

I got a sewing machine for Christmas a few years ago and taught myself to sew. I was hooked in no time!

3. Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
The reaction I get from people who haven't seen my work before. I like to make people see their "trash" in a whole new way.

4. Which part do you find hardest?

Finding time to make all the ideas floating around inside my head!

5. Where do you hope to be in 1 year’s time?
I hope to be where I am right now! I love having a shop on Etsy and spending my day making things to put in it.

6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Don't burn your bridges on the way up because you may have to cross them on your way back down.

7. Name other artisans sites/shops would you recommend are worth a visit?
I'm always looking for other up-cycled creations on Etsy. Here are a few really cool shops I've come across recently:

Feltupcycle Who as the name suggests makes felted items from upcycled woollen clothing.
Ivylanedesigns who recycles a variety of items and makes beautiful goods from them.
Retiredrecords This lady recycles old vinyl records into usable products and funky fun new items.
LostAndFoundObjects2 Jewellery and monsters all made from recycled materials.

8. What is your favourite sandwich filling?

Apple sauce!

So thats a little about MojoTrashion. You might have noticed that the shop is looking a little empty at the moment, thats because Monica is away having a baby! I'm sure we would all love to wish you and the baby well Monica. If you have liked Monica's creations in her Trashion shop you can also see more of her beautiful work in her other etsy shop MoJo.

15 Mar 2008

NO more Plastic bags!

I have a shocking statistic to share with you all. In the UK, each year, your average adult receives 300 disposable plastic bags. Yes, 300! And that is just in the UK. Now we have about 50 million adults in the UK, so that makes about 15 billion carrier bags in one year... Just in the UK.

Did that make you gasp in shock? I did.

It's time to change our ways. We need to stop using so much plastic, so I'm going to offer you alternatives to take with you to the shops.

This cheerful pink smiling worms bag from Dudua is perfect for taking to the grocery store. Stylish funky and fun and best of all it will cut down on the plastic bags used!

Get your kids into the habit early of taking their tote bag to the shops with them. This pretty little bag is from Stine and is just the right size for your little one to help carry a bit of shopping home or books from the library. She has others that would appeal more to boys, so get those children all trained up not to use plastic bags.

Here is the perfect bag for all the Pirate Pixies to take shopping when they pull into dock. Made by Psychopatti, it has all the proper pirate credentials, so you won't get poked fun at by the other Pirate pixies for carrying it.

These are brilliant! No more of those thin plastic bags when you buy fruit and veg, with these net bags from Remarket. They are completely reusable, come in 3 sizes and are very strong. Another way to stop you using so many plastic bags

Are you needing sewing supplies? This tote from Delavalle has been printed with a scissors motif, and is the perfect companion for you on your trip to the haberdashery.

These manly man's shopping bags from Grubs is perfect for the man in your life. No more can he slack off and not go to the shop saying that "I don't have anything to carry it all in". Now he can have a set of 4 matching bags to show off his manly muscles as he carries home all the shopping.

We in the West seem to be drowning in plastic bags and we really need to stop, so why not become part of the solution by buying reusable shopping bags from independent artisans like these.

14 Mar 2008

Positivity V Negativity

Ask yourself this question, does your attitude to day to day happenings impact on your business?

Now I'm not asking if things out of your control, such as the economy, or tax increases etc impact on your business, because of course they do, what I'm asking you is, does the way you chose to react to those kind of factors have any effect on your business?

I'd like to suggest that yes it does. People that only see negativity in everything and are quick to blame anything and everything for bad things that happen in their business don't usually flourish as business people. The people that accept that the changes have happened, but try to see ways around the obstacles and find ways to improve on what they do, or change direction to meet a new markets need when the old goes sour are the people that prosper and grow strong businesses.

Equally people that are always looking for excuses for their own failings really aren't going to get very far. It is far better in business to admit mistakes, be honest and try to put the mistake right. Turning a negative into a positive is all about attitude and drive. Wallowing in negativity never gets you anywhere.

You will find too that the way people view your business is swayed by how they perceive you. If you are heard to always be complaining about how slow business is or moaning about your customers, you could well be putting off future customers from coming to you. If on the other hand all they hear is you being excited about your new products and the great supplies you have found, your enthusiasm will rub off on them and you may very well excite them enough to come and check out what you sell.

So on days things are all going wrong and sales are down, please don't go shouting it from the roof tops, don't sit and complain that it's all (insert your favourite whipping boy here) fault. Put a smile on your face, do some research on something new, take a walk in the park, do anything but loudly blame the world and it's wife for your problems.

Now you might all be sitting here reading this thinking you self righteous cow! I bet you have days you sit and whine and moan. Well you'd be right I do. We all do. I'm writing this as much to myself as to anyone else to remind me on those bad days to not immerse myself in the negative and to try to turn the bad day around.

Positivity is most definitely the winner!

13 Mar 2008

In need of directions?

Do you sometimes feel lost, not knowing the right way to go? Are you in a rush, but unsure of whether you need to turn left or right? Maybe these recycled maps can help you.

Maybe this little bird knows the way. He was made by CottonBirdDesigns from a recycled map of the Isle of Man, which is just off the coast of Great Britain. He looks so alert and cheerful. Even if he doesn't know the way he would at least raise your spirits.

Urbanstax has made these envelops that could help the postman to find his way. If you pick carefully which envelop you use you could mark the house it's to be delivered to on the map. Genius! No more lost mail!

These antique map earrings from picapicadesigns aren't really going to be all that much help in locating your position but you can at least look stylish whilst you are lost. The maps are of 1950's New York, so I'm guessing a lot has changed since they were printed.

These pretty little butterflies are the ones to follow when they flutter by. Their wings were made by dogsrule from maps from the Boston MA area. They are so beautifully folded and are so eye catching.

Are you in need of a rest after all your travelling? Well why not take a little sit down on this amazing map covered chair made by Bombus. I has the river Thames flowing across the seat and chair back. Due to the chair being coated and sealed it is perfectly usable and also a great talking piece.

Now don't forget, next time, before you go out, pin a badge to you with your home location on it so you can find your way back. If you ask dustDesignCo I'm sure they can make you one!

You never need to get lost again. Take a trip to etsy and get looking for all the recycled map goodies, to help you find your way.

12 Mar 2008

Where do you get all this stuff? Part 2

So, we have already looked at recycling goods from your own home, now lets take a look a little bit further than outside your own front door. What about the items your neighbours throw away? I'm not suggesting that you go and rummage through their household waste bins, but more to do with the bigger items that they leave out; pieces of wood that used to be a cupboard or set of shelves, the electrical copper wire from a house that is being renovated or anything that you could turn into something else with a little imagination!

Now, I know what you are thinking. It will be along the lines of "but isn't going through a bin and taking things out something that only the homeless do?" - the answer is NO! At the end of the day, not only are you getting something for free (better than a "bargain" as that implies it cost you money!) but you are also helping to recycle and are thus helping the environment. That, added to helping out the skip "owner" by freeing up extra space in the skip. Your recycled item will help to put a smile on someone's face when they receive your refurbished goods, makes it all a very worthwhile and profitable activity.
The most important thing to remember when "bin raiding" or "skip diving" is to make sure you ask the owners permission. While skips are indeed anonymous, it is quite a safe assumption to say that they belong to the nearest front door! Asking the owner's permission before removing any goods is not only just out of courtesy, but it is also what will stop you being in trouble with the police for theft. In the UK at least, although the police really do not have time to investigate a complaint of "Hello? Is that the police? Good. I wish to report a theft...... from the skip outside my house which is full of rubbish we don't want and were getting rid of anyway", it is better to be safe than sorry. Most people are more than happy for you to take their rubbish away - this means that they can just put more in the skip - thus saving money on not needing to hire a second one!

Another way of getting free items is by using a service called "Freecycle" - this is a world wide idea, whereby people can advertise the things that they don't want any more, and other people can see what is on offer and if they like the look of something, they can contact the owner and arrange colletion. Most of the time, the old owner wants the new owner to pick the item up, but as you are getting the item for free anyway, it really is only the price of your time and petrol money that costs you anything. My sister's house has been pretty much furnished entirely for free using Freecycle - she has had 2 sofas, an oven, a grill, gas hob, microwave, toaster, pots and pans, a bed, a dining room table and chairs as well as a nifty wooden computer desk (full size thing, not one just for monitor and keyboard!).

I, myself, once found 100m of network cabling next to bin, at a time when I *really* needed it! It was a very lucky find, and I still have about half of it left!

So swallow your pride, forget that people might be watching you and jump in the bin, be it a virtual one or the one at the end of the road!

11 Mar 2008

New Etsy sellers with the recycling passion

Getting started in any business is hard work. Getting started in sales on a site like Etsy can seem like a very big hill to climb. There are so many other people all vying for customers attention that sometimes you can feel a little behind and lost in the race to get a sale. Well today we are going to be seeing some of the people just starting out. They have all been at etsy less than 3 months and the other thing they have in common is a desire to recycle.

As the Captain of the Pirate Pixie Crew, Kirby caught my attention straight away with this cushion that's made from recycled cotton twill. I could see me having a relaxing day in a hammock with my head resting on this pillow whilst the sun shone down on the deck of the Galleon. I have a feeling some of the naughty little pixies might run off with it though.

Zoe of Redkindled really does seem to have a great passion for recycling and I really loved this statement from the description of this necklace "Using reclaimed materials is not only eco-friendly but also ensures that this necklace is totally unique and one of a kind." Never a truer word has been said. So if you want to stand out from the crowd by being stylish and environmentally friendly, go along and give her shop some love.

Do you have a baby? Do you want to do your bit for recycling and give your baby stylish shoes? Well Connie of Scandeez has the perfect goods for you. All her baby leather moks are made from reclaimed soft leather and they all have pretty surprise shapes on the bottoms to make them fun and stylish. I think she should start making them in adult sizes too!

Well Shiver me timbers if I haven't found another item that the Pirate Pixie Crew might need for the cold nights out at sea. CussinCrafter makes fabulous "fluff-a-rump" diaper covers from recycled lambswool sweaters. They have many styles and lengths on sale. Fun and Funky, they really are a perfect bit of recycling. I, of course, had to pick the pirate pair to share with you.

This item made me bounce in my chair with delight. My friend and I used to run a fancy dress hire shop and in that shop we used to have lots of gorgeous 1950's original dresses. We had one that looked just like the one on the front of this vintage pattern that's for sale in SmartiPants shop. If I thought I had the skill and time to make this I would be buying the pattern and making it. I think it would be great if you could find some original 50's material to make it in.

Last, but definitely not least for today we have this sumptuously small bag from SalvagedExpression. This lady collects up items other people no longer want and she turns them into gorgeous creations that people are clamouring to own. Dressing up as David Bowie got her the Boa for this creation... there seems to be a great story behind all of her goods. I think that makes them even more fun to own. Go take a look at the other goodies she has made and see if you can't find a story that you want to own.

I had great fun looking through all today's selection. I recommend taking a trip around their shops. You're sure to find something that makes you stop and look.

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