Micah Runion said she can be just a little, well, trashy.
"Sometimes I'm not known as the classiest person," she said. "I tend to speak my mind."
She found a way to speak her mind through craft, creating bags, wallets, iPad cases and jewelry from recycled magazines, newspapers, record album covers, you name it.
Her husband, Joshua, came up with the name for her line of products: Oh Sew Trashy.
"We were looking for something that said 'recycled,'" Micah Runion said, and 'trashy' went more with 'recycled' ..."
Runion said her first love was painting, though she got away from art for a while. Then, soon after the birth of daughter Jude Evelyn Mae, now 2, the creative streak came roaring back.
"[With a toddler] you don't have a lot of time to just sit down and paint, but I can make something and have her make something with me," she said. "It all just comes together. It's crazy."
She began with baby items, working under the name Jude's Tutu Cute, making bibs out of potato-chip bags, for example. But she soon decided to try something else.
"I wanted to change it up, change the name and go toward making all recycled stuff," she said.
Upcycling is the word Runion uses.
"Upcycling is taking something that's recyclable and instead of throwing it in the recycling bin, you make it into something you can use again, over and over," she said. "[We thought] save our planet, something better for my daughter in the future."
And when she found a purse she'd made, back in high school, from some of her mother's record covers, the muse struck.
"I really love working with paper," she said. "I've always had a knack for piecing things together."
The process began, as so many do, with trial and error. The first bags were flat and could barely contain anything. Then she got the idea to put a bottom on the bag, to make it more accommodating.
A sewing machine is used to create her pieces, and Runion said it took a lot of practice.
"There was a lot of ripped paper at one point."
The bags are water-resistant, covered with an adhesive vinyl, though not waterproof. Her wallets, however, are waterproof, created from comic-book pages and covered in clear vinyl. There are several styles, including trifold, bifold and origami folded wallets.
"They're very durable," she said. "I made my husband a wallet two years ago, and he's still carrying it."
Most of her materials are hoarded from friends. "We'll come home, and there will be things dangling off the doorknob that most people would think is trash, but I'm like 'oh, yeah, this is amazing, tons of milk cartons."
Each bag typically has a theme. One messenger bag, for example, has a Lady Gaga design.
"It is more risqué, but I think it's really cool," Runion said.
She'll also create commissioned pieces, from photographs, or with a theme by request. Recently, she was commissioned to make a Green Lantern laptop case.
Runion sells her pieces at Chattanooga Market and at some shops in Dalton, Ga. Prices range from $2 for earrings to $55 for a messenger bag. She said she tries to not price bags for more than she would want to spend but also wishes to be compensated for her time and effort.
Runion credits her husband with teaching her to be more frugal.
"He's cheap," she said. "He's very cheap. Bless his heart, he's got me more price-conscious, so I do try to price things based on how much I would pay for them or really how much he would pay for them for me."