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Upcycling with Leisa Farris

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

Vases made from wine bottlenecks

Thrifting is a main staple of what we love to do here at the Henington House. Going to any antique, consignment, or second-hand store can feel like going to an amusement park. Some of the finds come home perfect for displaying in their meant-to-be spot, and others need a little work. And other times, you have quite a bit of mismatched pieces that would either clutter up your home or belong in the trash.

But what if I told you that it’s possible for those mismatched pieces to be neither? You can upcycle them into a new piece that can be functional, or just for looks! (I’m sure you’re already doing it, even in a small way).

Upcycling, in a nutshell, is to create or recycle an object to where it holds a higher value when the project is completed. When I first started looking into upcycling for this project, I was trying to think if I did anything that would be considered upcycling, and couldn’t come up with anything. Usually, you see fancy Pinterest projects that could sell for tons on Etsy and think, “Why couldn’t I think of that?” and “I don’t have time for that”. But I took a closer look around and found one thing I love that I routinely upcycle. When I finish a tin of tea, I poke holes in the bottom of the metal tin and plant a houseplant in it. This is upcycling!

Recently, I spoke with a wonderfully kind woman named Leisa Farris. Leisa is a master “upcycler” who used to own a business in Madison dedicated to her work in recycling old materials. The first time she saw the word “upcycle” was in 2007, and by 2009, her business and passion were up and running! The shop closed in 2012 when demand for the craft was low in the area at the time.

Leisa conjured her inspiration from many areas, but it was predominantly from her past as someone who loves to tinker and having thrifters and fixers in the family.

“That’s where I got the inclination,” Leisa said.

Leisa has made some beautiful pieces that she was kind enough to share with me. She has made bowls out of vinyl records and Christmas ornaments out of Coke cans and sheet music. When she came over to the Henington House to show us some of these pieces, she brought over some of her favorite upcycling projects done by other artists. One talented artist turns wine bottlenecks into hanging vases!

It was such a joy to meet with Leisa and hear her story and love for crafting and tinkering; thank you, Leisa!

Upcycling is such a fun past-time and a great way to keep things out of landfills. Even by starting small, it can make a huge impact. So let’s all get upcycling!

These are Bagala Beads made out of rolled paper!

Leisa with her vinyl record bowl

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Shelli Goodrich
Shelli Goodrich
Mar 02, 2023

During the fires in California I started up cycling bicycles for children who lost their bikes to the wildfires. Folks cleaning their garages would gift them to me and I would clean them up, and pass on with a helmet. I had the help of a firefighter from Mill Valley Fire Department. Often I just needed to make them shine again and add air. As a side note bicycles shine with a good wash and Pledge furniture polish! It is fun and a great way to give back and free up the landfill. My neighbors still bring me bikes to pass on.

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