ReMakers - recycle bin

ReMakers: Call to Action for Upcyclers!

Update: This blog post was the first idea stage message that I got out there.  We are now officially called Artizan ReMade and my long term vision is now laid out here:

Our Facebook Group has been growing rapidly and it’s been really fun to see what people are making and what groups they support.  Join us if you are interested in studying how we can create more efficient upcycling systems!


I live in Paducah, Kentucky, USA, a small city on the Ohio River that has an artsy community and international connections as it is a Unesco Creative City. Our wonderful Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau does a great job of lifting up what is going on through their website. We also have a lovely Farmer’s Market, a City run effort during the summer that also allows crafters to set up their booths. They had a Christmas Bazaar this past December that wowed me!  There must have been over 200 vendors in the indoor sports area of a local school.  Normally, there are around twenty or thirty craft booths at the Market, so I was expecting something much smaller. My brain started turning its wheels. I have been trying to think about how I can do something local that plugs into Artizan Made and creates one more opportunity for us to network with other handmade communities around the world.  I came up with an idea and hope you will join me in making it grow!

We will tackle our waste and create products that are sellable online.  We will do it here in Paducah and connect with others who are doing it elsewhere, supporting each other with ideas and feedback.

The Problem Of Waste

Stories and videos of how waste is destroying our planet haunt me. We are killing our oceans, our air, and our filth even reaches out to space. I read somewhere that we are now eating one credit card’s worth of plastic in our food as microplastics are everywhere.  Even organic food is tainted as everything is connected.  Here is a video on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:



This problem has only become critical in the last 30 years.  We have the technology to create biodegradable products to replace this waste, but the corporate will is not there. There are similar garbage patches of clothing, tires, appliances, even airplanes. Junk, junk, junk….  Stuff that will never decompose.  The fast fashion industry is especially culpable and countries like Chile and Ghana have huge clothing dumps that can be seen from space!



Yes, we have even made a mess of Space!  The first time I saw this, my jaw dropped and I almost started crying….  Is there no end to our filth?  This BBC article talks about how one company has been fined for one of their old satellites.  Half of what is out there is obsolete….


Space Debris
Space Debris

What Can We Do?

We need to be good stewards and careful consumers.  I was raised to buy clothes that would last and we wore them until they were truly worn. A few years ago I had a metal bin of clothes that I stored in a garage. Somehow moisture got in there and everything got moldy and gross. So, I tossed it into my compost pile and after a year, all of the clothes that were made of natural materials had become soil. The ones that had polyester or other materials that were not biodegradable became a wad of disgusting fibers.  Since then, I have only bought clothes that will rot, unless they are thrifted.

Recycle and Upcycle.  What is the difference?  Recycling entails using a product as material that has been completely changed. Breaking down paper products to make new paper is an example.  Upcycling involves changing a product enough that it becomes more valuable in its new form.  Changing a garment that is outdated and making it interesting enough to sell it for way more than it cost is an example of upcycling.  Recycling systems in the US are terrible and a lot of what we send out ends up in landfills anyhow. Still, I recycle and part of me weeps as I pull the bin out to the curb because I know that everything in there is a material, something that can be used to make something new. But, I just don’t have time, so off it goes…

I made this purse several years ago from wallpaper samples.  Would you consider it upcycled or recycled?

Upcycled wallpaper purse by Rachel Biel
Upcycled wallpaper purse by Rachel Biel


Nothing will change significantly unless leadership comes from the big corporations that are generating all of this waste. And, consumers need to stop buying into the throwaway culture. Companies like Amazon and Temu generate tons of waste, overstress our postal systems and feed these cycles of insanity.  We can at least clean up our own acts…  Carry your own shopping bags and refuse the plastic ones at the super market. There are so many things we can do, but most people don’t care, so it won’t make a big difference. I could go on and on about this, but if you are reading this, I am probably preaching to the choir.


Hopeful Examples of Waste Re-use

There are so many wonderful stories of what people are doing to attack this problem, all over the world.  My hero is Michael Reynolds, a rebel architect, who started the Earthship Biotecture sustainable homes. They are vessels made out of garbage: tires, cans, bottles, appliance metals, etc.



These are completely sustainable homes, generating their own electricity, recycling water, providing space to grow food and they are absolutely gorgeous!  The problem is that most states in the US don’t allow them to be built as they violate building codes.  Those codes need to be adapted to our times!

Building one of these does cost about the same as building a traditional house and most of us cannot afford them. But, we can be inspired by elements of their designs and perhaps implement some of those ideas in our yards and in our homes. For example, Paducah does not recycle glass, which I find shocking. It’s cheaper to throw bottles away than to re-use them. Did you notice those beautiful glass elements in the walls of the earthships?  We could do something similar for garden structures, walls and interior designs.

Smaller scale efforts can also make a huge difference and offer great inspiration.  One of my favorite stories is of a community in Paraguay that lives off of a landfill and has effected change by making instruments from garbage and teaching the young people classical music.  They have traveled around the world with their orchestra, opening up new opportunities for them that they would not have had otherwise.



My local hero is Ewin Ledbetter of Rusty Renaissance, an artist who welds junk metals, creating wonderful sculptures and small works.  He sells at the Farmer’s Market.  His wife, Ginny, is also an avid maker, crocheting rugs out of torn sheets, sewing, making earrings and covering thrifted shapes with baubles. We will have their work here on Artizan Made soon.


Ewin Ledbetter of Rusty Renaissance at the Farmer's Market in Paducah, Kentucky
Ewin Ledbetter of Rusty Renaissance at the Farmer’s Market in Paducah, Kentucky


Rusty Renaissance booth at Paducah's Farmer Market
Rusty Renaissance booth at Paducah’s Farmer Market


Ewin and Gini at the Farmer's Market Christmas Bazaar, 2023
Ewin and Ginny at the Farmer’s Market Christmas Bazaar, 2023


Ewin and Ginny are examples of ReMakers, people who are compelled to create and fill every minute of their time with productivity. They are entrepreneurs and renaissance people, in the full meaning of the word, someone who is skilled in many areas and interested in knowledge. They have done everything!  Construction, baking, canning, and on and on….



Most of us have people in our family histories who were makers. They used wood, grew fibers, dyed with plants, forged metals, dug up clay and made everything they needed to live. Many of those traditions are still alive and thriving, but we now have our waste as a great source for “free” materials. The photo at the top is of my recycle bin and I wince every time I toss it into the City’s recycle container. I know that I can make great products out of the cereal boxes, tin cans, plastic milk containers, toilet paper rolls and all of the other things I recycle.  But, I don’t have time to work on them.

What I do have is experience and ideas.  I have worked in the handmade community for over 30 years and know a great deal about what people are making around the world and the potential for what we can create locally that can translate into income generation.  My interests intersect where all of the arts can make an impact in promoting economic development. We have these materials we are throwing away and we also have access to industrial waste that we can use to create products for individuals and for construction.  What can we make with glass, tires, paper, appliances, electronic waste, garments and anything else that is getting discarded?

The big challenge is to come up with fresh ideas that are not already mass produced in China or India. The second challenge lies in value, creating products that have meaning, that leave the “junk cycle”.  One of my mottos is “Not everything that is handmade should be made.”  How long will a $10 item last before it gets discarded?  Instead, let’s focus on making quality work that becomes treasured family heirlooms.  Think about how many friendship bracelets have to be made to pay the bills when the same skills could be used to create larger wall hangings.

Paducah ReMakers and ReMakers International

Let’s make an impact! Let’s organize ourselves and support each other, both with what is already happening and with new efforts!  Here is what I am proposing:

  • I will spearhead a local effort called Paducah ReMakers.  We will meet once a month where I live, the Green Roof International House located in downtown Paducah.
  • Each month we will focus on a different material. I will research what other people are making with it and create a post here with ideas. Our meeting will include a pot luck meal and then a show and tell. People can show what they are currently working on, whether it is about that material or something else, and we can give feedback on it. If that material catches someone’s interest and they create an interesting product, we’ll test it here on Artizan Made and see if it generates interest.
  • ReMakers who live elsewhere can share their ideas in our blog comment areas or contribute with blog posts about what they are doing.  If they already have an online business, they might want to join Artizan Made as a member.  I will feature members and products that make sense within the larger context.
  • Long term goals: My hope is that these meetings will generate interest in creating new cottage industries here in Paducah. Maybe they will also start selling at the Farmer’s Market and get involved with some of our galleries and art opportunities.  Maybe we will find the right people to start larger projects that can create jobs.  Green Roof has a large part of the property that is currently just grass.  We could test growing materials here (dye plants, interesting seed pods, fibers) and we can install large sculptural works for sale.

How this evolves will depend on who gets involved. I cannot do this alone and am looking for my tribe.


Creative Placemaking


I have been following the Creative Placemaking movement in the US for many years.  What I do fits into just one part of the whole picture. Creative Placemaking involves bringing the arts and investors together, shaping a common vision that makes a place more equitable, fun, affordable, and beautiful.  Creative Placemaking is founded on the principles of Asset Based Community Development, an approach that was started by DePaul University in Chicago.  This approach looks at all of the assets a community already has and works at building on that base and strengthening it.  Creative Placemaking adds the arts into that formula, not just the Making that I’m interested in, but also dance, music, theater, public art, food, gardening and anything that taps into a community’s creative juices.

Paducah has a great base to work on!  We have lots of talent here, artists, galleries, an art school, live music, two theaters, an indie cinema, yummy food, the Farmer’s Market and so much more! This video shows some of what we have to offer:



But, we also have many challenges. There is a lot of poverty here, houses that are crumbling, low paying jobs, drug abuse, crime and weariness.  I feel that many in our population are excluded from the wonderful programming that we do have here.  African American artists have told me that they don’t feel welcome to join the art groups that are downtown.  There are not enough healthy activities for low income teenagers or retired people.  Apathy would rear its ugly head if it had the energy. I believe that part of the problem is that there hasn’t been a good way to make opportunities known to the non-techy crowd even if they are on social media or watch local TV.  How do we do better?

I hope that ReMake Paducah can address some of these issues through networking and getting involved wherever possible. I tend to be a hermit so am looking for some social types who can shake things up.  Introverts like me need the extroverts who can get people moving…

How does all of this resonate with you and where you live?  Do you have a creative community that is shaping your neck of the woods?  How can we work together and support each other?  There is a comment box all the way down where you can leave your ideas and feedback or you can email me at rayela @ (remove spaces).

Sign up to get our blog posts by email as I will be reporting here.  The sign up is on the sidebar.  I can also add you to the ReMakers email list if you would like to receive those.


Break the Fences!

Our society has devolved into bytes of information, quick judgements, hostility, a distaste for science, religious acrimony and war. The garbage we see around us is a reflection of this larger sense of disconnection.  This is not just in the US, but it is worldwide. I believe that art is one of those places that can bring us together in a safe way, where we can grow, contribute and see some reward.  Nick Shoulders has become another hero to me.  He was a cartoon artist, drawing dinosaurs and funny characters until Covid hit and he started singing. He yodels. He’s wonderful. And, he has this amazing community of young people who hang out together, make music, and create change. He is a rebel. But, one who longs for equity, ownership of history, and a love of nature. He gives me hope for the next generation.



Update:  Join Us!

We now have a Facebook Group, where we will do most of our brainstorming:

We have a Pinterest Board where we can save ideas:


Much of what I do is an unpaid labor of love.  If you would like to support me in that, here are some ways:

Or, donate any amount:

Zelle: 270-994-7606

CashApp: $RayelaArt

Venmo: @Rachel-Biel-32


Upcycled on Artizan Made

Many of our members already upcycle as a part of their practice.  Here are a few examples from our Upcycled Collection:

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