Treasure-from-trash movement combines artistry and business

Treasure-from-trash movement combines artistry and business

April 20th, 2012 by Holly Leber in Life Entertainment

A pillow and two tea towels are designed by Patch Design based in Chattanooga, TN. Patch will be one of many vendors that will be present for this years' Chatty Crafty craft fair.

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga has always been a town with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, said Paul Smith, manager of Chattanooga Market.

"In 2008 when the economy went down," he said, "the Chattanooga Market really thrived, because you had all these talented people who really needed a way to make extra income."

The entrepreneurial spirit is epitomized by people who make treasure from trash: crafters.

"Honestly, I think Chattanooga is a year or so behind [the trend]," said Lynda Buckels, the organizer of Chatty Crafty, an annual vintage and crafts show scheduled for this weekend at Ross's Landing.

In addition to local vendors, Buckels has helped to bring in craft artists from Atlanta, Chicago, Asheville, N.C., and Washington, D.C., among other places.

Buckels gives credit to CreateHere, a nonprofit art-advocacy group, for helping artists with efforts such as the Make Work grants, designed to encourage people who have a vision.

"I think Chattanooga really supports its artists," said Ayesha Reynolds, co-owner of Homespun Parties and Events. "That's given artists who do crafty things a big push. It's not just fine artists but people who do things with their hands, that make all sorts of things. I think Chattanooga has helped foster that in people."

Reynolds said websites such as Pinterest also have helped "take down the veil" on crafting, exposing more people to the possibility of resourceful artistry that does not necessarily involve a paintbrush or canvases.

"A lot of artists are resourceful, and they get creative with their materials because sometimes things are expensive," Reynolds said. "They really will use interesting and creative things to make things with."

At Chatty Crafty, for example, there will be an artist who has made steampunk-style jewelry using her father-in-law's discarded vintage watches, another who creates clothing using scraps of discarded clothes and another who creates bracelets from old Scrabble tiles.

Every week, Smith sees similar resourcefulness at Chattanooga Market, which opens for the 2012 season this Sunday at the First Tennessee Pavilion.

"The talent and ingenuity amazes me," he said, "from taking old books and turning them into journals, to melting down old Coke and Sprite plastic and sculpting it into jewelry."

He said he views the market as a "business incubator," but while it, as well as Chatty Crafty and other such events celebrate the local entrepreneurial spirit, they also celebrate the growing green spirit of the city.

"It's all about thinking differently," said Buckels. "We were such a society of waste for so long, and most of these artists are recycling somehow."