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Sticks and Stones: Making Something Out of Nothing

Jun 26, 2014

by Karen Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Etsy sellers use everything — and sometimes practically nothing — to create items with wit, imagination, and real style. Talent shines through when found objects, scraps, and the ephemera of everyday life are transformed into useful and beautiful objects that far exceed the value of their materials. Here are a few Etsy artists who do just that, making the most from the humblest of beginnings.

Seeking a way to reinterpret lacemaking, Monica Johnson discovered that a rock, a piece of thread, and an inner vision can transform the most ordinary materials into something unique and luxurious. Each of her lace stones is a custom project with its own look, personality, and story. “Each pattern is created for a specific stone,” she says. “I usually have a picture in my mind as to what I want the lace stone to look like and then work on the piece until it matches the picture in my mind.”

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Linda Miller Designs

“My artwork is in response to the beauty I find around me,” says fiber artist Linda Miller. And Linda can find beauty in something as commonplace as lint — yes, lint from the dryer — that she combines with thread and other fibers to push it to its fullest sculptural potential. Her fiber bowls combine lint with threads, yarn, and fabric to make one-of-a-kind objects that are colorful and surprisingly practical.

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Wirelings

Invented in the late 19th century, the paperclip has been used for everything from a lock pick to an emergency splint for a broken finger. But for Michelle Zarate at Wirelings, the paperclip is the twist that helps hold her business together. “I have an illness that makes it next to impossible to work a normal job,” she says. With help from her husband, Chris, her Etsy shop offers bookmarks, earrings, and brooches, all made from basic steel paperclips twisted and turned into dozens of different shapes.

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Bungle Bands

Like the paperclip, the rubber band is so familiar we hardly think of it as having any value at all. But for Vito Selvaggio of Bungle Bands, it’s a craft, an art, and the means for some serious fundraising. A college student, Vito started selling rubber band bracelets and accessories at flea markets, and set up shop on Etsy as he saw the potential for his work to be used to raise money for organizations. Rubber bands come in every color of the rainbow and Vito can custom make items in quantity to match the colors of sports teams, charities, and a variety of different causes.

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David Turns Bowls

David Earle’s colorful tops start with wood that nobody wanted, harvested from trees that are sickly, dead, or causing sewer problems near his home on Vashon Island, a 15-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Using scraps from bigger projects like bowls, David slowly air-dries and turns these tiny bits of unwanted wood to make tops that are so pretty and well balanced, they spin perfectly even when turned upside down.

What is the most ingenious use you’ve seen for simple or unconventional materials?

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