It all started with a bottle cap.
North Raleigh resident Michelle Bonds looked at that bottle cap and envisioned it as something beautiful and useful. She flattened the bottle cap and used found materials to make it a beautiful little piece of art. Then she made it useful by turning it into a key ring.
That was in 2007. Since then she has turned hundreds of bottle caps into key rings, bookmarks, bracelets, earrings and necklaces using recycled paper and other found items such as tiny beads.
And she has turned plenty of other destined-for-the-trash-heap items into art. A shoebox full of computer chips, a sample board of glass tiles, and wooden spools from an old sewing box all became part of her line of jewelry. She also transforms used dryer sheets into beautiful beverage cuffs, old CDs into mosaics, and candy and soda wrappers into hair ties.
This process of transforming something useless into something of value is called upcycling.
Bonds chose this creative outlet because she enjoys “the challenge of taking something that is trash and figuring out how to turn it into something beautiful and useful.”
Bonds doesn’t just envision an end product and go out in search of the materials, though. She enjoys the creative challenge of working with what presents itself. “I tend to work with what comes my way more so than seeking out materials,” she said.
In the case of the computer chip necklaces and earrings, Bonds was offered a box of chips a friend found when cleaning out an office. She accepted the box, then put it on a shelf until she decided what she wanted to do with them.
When she was given a bag of beautiful book end paper scraps that someone was about to throw away, she combined the two to create her computer chip jewelry items.
Her eco-friendly beverage cuffs are made from a variety of found materials, including used dryer sheets, discarded wool sweaters, vintage curtains, tie-dye scraps and quilt scraps. The wool beverage cuffs are adorned with flowers she crochets with yarn remnants supplied by a friend who knits dishcloths.
Bonds is also passionate about hand dyeing, so she complements her line of upcycled goods with brightly colored, hand-dyed scarves, hair bands, socks, fabric and shoelaces.
“Everything is made individually,” Bonds said, “so everything I do is one of a kind.”
Her business is called Art Again. Locally, she sells her pieces at When Pigz Fly in North Raleigh, at GC5 Vintage and Gifts in Wake Forest and at the Artists’ Marketplace at the Scrap Exchange in Durham.
She also has an online shop on Etsy, www.etsy.com, which bills itself as the world’s handmade marketplace. Her hand-dyed shoelaces are her biggest seller—roller derby girls are particularly fond of the 72” laces.
In the spirit of upcycling, she even creates her own shipping envelopes out of empty cereal boxes.
Bonds says she has always sought creative outlets. This current venture has allowed her to combine skills she honed quilting, painting and scrapbooking with the mental challenge of figuring out how to rework found materials into something beautiful.
Also, she said, “I support the no-kill shelter movement and donate 10 percent of my sales to local animal groups that share this passion.” Art Again “has allowed me to do that, which is really important to me.”