When Jessica Garmon sees a burned-out light bulb or a wine bottle, a tin can or old fabrics - or virtually anything someone is considering throwing out or recycling - her mind fills up with ideas on how to repurpose them.
The 33-year-old Concord native earned a bachelor's in interior architecture from UNC-Greensboro and designed commercial interior spaces for a Charlotte firm before opening her Concord art studio this month. She and her husband, James, have been married eight years and have two kids.
Trashed, on the second floor of 38 Union St. S., offers classes and themed events where people of all ages can learn to create functional art, candles, pillows or handbags. People also can learn to re-upholster furniture using recycled materials. Its grand opening will be on Earth Day, April 22.
During the Cabarrus Arts Council's Art Walk Friday, people can visit to make lanterns from recycled paper, soup cans or milk jugs. Those lanterns will line the street for an Earth Day vigil next week.
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Possible projects could range from making a handbag or a cell phone case to creating a three-dimensional wall hanging from pages of old books or magazines. People can learn to wire jewelry using broken vintage jewelry pieces, or they can cut up portions of used gift cards to make trinkets for bracelets.
Or, "These light bulbs can be turned into candles," said Garmon. "You kind of gut them, put a magnet in the bottom, line them up on a strip of metal so they sit, and fill them with oil and a wick to make floating candles. These old seatbelts, you can weave them and make a rug or a mat or a bag.
"I want people to come here and make things they're going to use or hang and look at. Function is my thing. I don't like things to just look pretty. They have to look really cool but be meaningful as well. They have to function and have a purpose."
Garmon's desire to rummage and repurpose cool finds has been a lifelong interest. While visiting an elementary school friend as a child, she recalled wanting to rummage through an old, nearby abandoned house while the other kids wanted to play kickball.
"I remember thinking, 'Why on Earth would you want to play kickball when we can go rummage through this old house and find cool stuff and do something with it,'" she said. "I always look at things and see them differently, or use them for something they're not intended."
Garmon's hope is to get people to think about what they throw out or recycle.
"The whole point of (Trashed) is to repurpose things, because there's so much going into landfills, and people throw away stuff that's perfectly usable," said Garmon.
Shannon Rienbeck, 31, has lived in Concord 17 years and met Garmon at her church.
"It's not just recycling where you put something in a bin," she said about Garmon's studio. "You actually physically do something creative with it. She has a different way of looking at things. She's putting a fun spin on it. I would have never thought to keep a light bulb for any reason."
Marsha Coan, 35, a 13-year Cabarrus resident, said the studio uses everyday items that might have been headed to the trash had Garmon not intervened.
"There's not junk in here," she said. "I look around and see possibilities. A person who is not naturally creative can come in here, and it's going to spark something. I don't sit at home and create stuff all the time, but I get in here and ideas start rushing into my head. You don't have to be a creative, artsy-type person, you can come in here and not have a clue and you're going to leave with something really cool, and you're going to be able to use your brain in a different way."
Garmon, who is not afraid to dive in a dumpster to salvage something, said there's a broader goal behind her new venture.
"Hopefully, over time, we'll truly raise awareness and people will look at things and think, 'I don't need to throw this in the landfill. I can give it to somebody who will turn it into something and reuse it.' Because our kids are going to have too much trash to deal with."