Living in a material world

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Fiber students in the University of North Texas College of Visual Arts & Design found countless ways to “re-purpose” UNT T-Shirts in a sustainable-design project. A number of the products the students designed will be on exhibit starting Friday in “Shred to Sell,” one of two exhibits in the newly-expanded ReVision Gallery. The gallery is inside SCRAP Denton, a downtown store and nonprofit that inspires creative re-use.
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Local gallery makes being green essential to exhibiting

One person’s trash could very well be another’s muse. It can also be another person’s art medium.

That’s the simple idea behind the two exhibits that officially open the expanded ReVision Gallery at SCRAP Denton, a local nonproft that wants to inspire “creative re-use,” said the group’s community engagement coordinator Heather Gregory.

“We do that by providing affordable materials, and we also inspire creative re-use by showing people examples of what that means,” Gregory said.

One exhibit, “Shred to Sell,” took a heap of University of North Texas T-Shirts and turned them into an inventory of new products. The other, “3ARTHWURX,” features artists who find media in unlikely places — like your company break room, just by the coffee pot. One artist takes styrofoam cups and fashions them into objets d’art.

The ReVision Gallery will only show art that is created mostly with recycled, found or surplus materials. In fact, the gallery’s policy is that 75 percent of any exhibited artwork must be made of re-used or reclaimed material.

“It can be hard to figure out exactly what 75 percent means when you’re talking about a piece of art, so the way we explain it to the artists is that the majority of any piece of art has to be made with material they didn’t go out and purchase,” Gregory said. “And you can use that broadly. If you’re using paint that you already had, or any other material that you found, already had or got without buying it.”

Chesley Williams is a fiber arts student at the University of North Texas and an accessories designer. She helped lead other fiber students in making sustainable designs for “Shred to Sell.”

“I got T-shirts from the Environmental Science Department and the Office of Sustainability,” Williams said. “Basically, the idea was to be using an existing product, making it into another product. We pretty much just put the T-shirts into a big pile and started talking about what we could do with them. And students brought in images of things they thought they’d like to make. Some pretty interesting ideas came up.”

Lesli U. Robertson, a lecturer in the UNT fibers and weaving program, said it wasn’t as simple as chatting around a pile of UNT shirts — which were dark green and a shade of light saber-like yellow-green.

“The students knew they needed to make something that someone else could buy,” she said. “The whole idea was to model a closed system. People make a mess, you clean it up and sell it back to them.”

Williams said the students didn’t design products just for the sake of reshaping the shirts. The artists and designers wanted to create something of value and meaning for potential shoppers.

“They came up with a lot of things,” Williams said. “Scarves, bandos [strapless tops for women] and festival fanny packs.”

Robertson said one designer took a shirt, cut out a portion that had text on it, and made it into a hair bow.

“These are fiber students, so a lot of these are surface designs,” she said, point out a scarf with an abstract, watercolor-like pattern. The class also hit on a useful design: a triangular pouch (which were likely made out of cut-off sleeved) with a zipper for coin purses and cosmetic bags or purses. Totes were woven using strips of shredded shirts. Williams used some of that light-saber yellow-green shirt material to craft business card holders. The result? A host of durable and touchable items that kept unused shirts from a date with a landfill. They made jewelry, too. Williams has a signature line of fiber earrings. They look structured and substantial, but are feather light.

Robertson said the class and the students evolved into quality control.

“If we came upon an idea and most people said ‘You know? That’s not going to work,’ it stopped there,” she said. “I think all of the pieces are well done. I think the designs are good and I think they’re well-made. They really put time and attention into this.”

In the end, the students decided the prices of the goods in “Shred to Sell.”

“They tracked their labor and materials at [critique] because they needed to ask the question ‘What do I need to ask?’ so that they could pay themselves,” she said.

The project eventually created a brand — Shred. The class created a simple label. A graphic of a T-shirt, the top half whole and the bottom half shredded in long strips. The tag will be attached to all the goods sold in the show.

Gregory said the show is part of Scrap’s mission and vision to educate people about what they discard and what they assume has no value.

“I would love to see the idea of re-use elevated,” she said. “The ReBoutique is about sewing everyday, useful objects. The ReVision Gallery elevates the whole space. I don’t want to say that I want to bring down fine art. I’d really love to see people really want to inspire others. And artists can do that the way other people can’t.”



Who: UNT fiber arts & weaving program, UNT Office of Sustainability

What: joint exhibitions at the ReVision Gallery

Where: SCRAP Denton, 215 W. Oak St.

When: Friday through April 27. Gallery hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

How much: Admission is free. Art is for sale. For more information, visit


SCRAP Denton

215 W. Oak St.

The nonprofit’s mission is to inspire creative re-use and environmentally sustainable behavior through educational programs and affordable materials. It opened it’s doors in January 2012.

SCRAP accepts donations of clean reusable art, craft and office supplies and makes them available to the community at low prices. It also offer workshops and other inspiration for creative reuse. The agency is part of the larger SCRAP family whose original location is in Portland, Oregon.

Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.



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