Friday, March 4, 2011

Sidney woman crafts new goods out of what's old

SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) — Jennifer McGahan isn't too shy to admit that she begged her neighbor for a used cigarette butt, but it wasn't to feed any sort of habit.

She's mostly just addicted to finding a new use for items people throw out, including a handful of what's left after a smoke break. A few of them can be found on a crown belonging to the "Goddess of Urban Trash," a personified character that McGahan, 52, came up with to counter "Mother Earth."

"It's her rival," McGahan said. "Someone has to be in charge of garbage. Why not her?"

The crown sits upon a mannequin's head in her downtown Sidney apartment. Originally from Billings, McGahan moved to Sidney five years ago to be closer to her new grandson. But that still left plenty of time for a creative mind to wander.
The Goddess of Urban Trash isn't just a figment of her imagination — it's more of a mascot for her home-based business, One World, which focuses on using recycled products.

With scraps of fabric, plastic, wallpaper samples and other used items, McGahan has created purses, children's clothing, satchels, notebooks, baskets, bracelets and more.

The idea came up after she did some cleaning up of her own. After years of cross-stitching, she had grown tired of having nowhere to put her creations.

"I would do a project and throw it in a drawer and start a new one," McGahan said. "I thought to myself, why do this if I wasn't going to do something with it?"

Many of those projects that were filed away now grace the sides of bags she made from recycled materials, including scrap quilting fabric and dog food bags.

Her salvaging goes beyond the bags. She keeps old receipts and uses them as spiral notebooks for grocery lists.
She has easy access to those receipts — and those donated by others — as a full-time cashier at Reese and Ray's IGA.
"Everyone who says they don't need receipts let me keep them," McGahan said. "Do you know how many times you push a cart and find a wadded up piece of paper sitting in there? Instead, I bind them on the flip side to make the grocery lists."
McGahan said it's gotten to the point where even her boss will second guess throwing away something without wondering if it's something she would want or need.

"Everyone is willing to save things for me and have gotten pretty accustomed to my odd requests," McGahan said.
Nancy VanHook, owner of Quilts and More, said McGahan has stopped by her shop for years, but recently started coming in for scraps for One World.

"I thought it was cute and something unique to use up the stuff that she had," VanHook said when she found out about the business. "I thought it was a good idea, and she likes to do little hand projects."

McGahan, a former Montana State University Billings art student, said the new business has provided her an outlet to not only create art, but learn new skills.

She didn't learn how to sew until a year ago when she started One World. Now she can't wait to become proficient in other crafts, like learning how to use a rotary cutter to make stained glass art out of used baby food jars and other discarded glass.

"There's a parking lot where teens shoot out bottles of glass with BB guns," McGahan said. "You try to collect that stuff as much as you can without looking like a bag lady."

With a full-time job, McGahan said it's been difficult getting the home-based business off the ground. She's featured some of her products at businesses in Sidney, including the art museum gift shop and at Country Outlet over the holiday season.

A handful of bags priced between $15 and $20 were purchased, but McGahan is hoping she will have more luck at Art in the Park this July. She's already purchased a tent, and is working on stocking up her projects.

She has also enlisted one of her daughters who lives in Denver to help her create a web site.

"The things are one-of-a-kind, and when the material is done, you are done," McGahan said. "You can make anything out of anything."

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