Contest encourages trashy creations (1/21/10)

Students vie for best use of discarded items

Jan. 21, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Champlain Valley Union High School student Kyala Schenck realized during her photography class that discarded negatives could make a stylish dress.


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Kyala Schenck, a senior at CVU, used discarded film strips and negatives from her photography class to create a dress that she said could actually be worn, albeit probably only by a petite woman. For more pictures click on the link at the top of the page for Web Exclusive Photos.

Schenck, a 17-year-old senior, asked her teacher if she could have the leftover negatives and test strips that gauge the exposure of photographic prints. Using glue and a sewing machine, she assembled the materials, producing a silver- and smoke-colored garment she named “Stripped Elegance.”

“I thought it was really cool that I could take paper that can’t be recycled because of the chemicals you use and actually make something nice out of it,” she said. “I took something used in one art form and made it into a different art form.”

Her piece is among 75 entries by area high school students in the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s 14th annual Creative ReUse Showcase. The contest prompts students to consider what their families discard and then dream up ways to convert refuse into useful or artful creations.

Entries were divided into categories that included “Awesome Art,” “Perfectly Practical,” “Techno Totems,” “True Trash,” “Fabulous Fashion” and “Jammin’ Junk.” Winners in each receive prizes valued at $100. Prizes will also be awarded for most original entry and for the best in show.

“It’s really all about looking at how much waste we generate and teaching people to think, ‘Do I really need all this stuff?’” said Michele Morris, one of CSWD’s waste reduction coordinators.

Morris and fellow employee Jessica Sankey were busy on Friday arranging each entry at Adams Farm Market in Williston. The items made for a crazy-quilt exhibit: an electric guitar molded from household trash; a cardboard tower with geometric shapes decorating the exterior; a faceless sculpture comprised of plastic bags, soda bottles and rags.

Students get extra points for using materials that can’t be recycled, Morris said. But she noted that finding non-recyclable items is tougher these days.

“In its purest form, entries would use materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill,” Morris said. “And it’s a good thing that is getting harder and harder to do.”

Aside from its educational purpose, Morris said, the contest allows students to have fun and show off their creative side. Inventiveness was evident in the entries.

CVU sophomore Quinn Kropf, for example, used cardboard boxes, a yogurt carton, pie plates and a hot chocolate mix container to form a drum set. Metal skewers were used for drum sticks and the entire project was spray-painted a metallic color.

Kropf said he assembled the project during an art class. Like others students, he found that injecting junk with imagination can give it a second life.

“I guess I learned how creative I was and what I could do with what I had around the house,” he said.

Maya Grevatt, a CVU junior, fashioned a trivet out of beer bottle caps and wire. It took her a few hours to string the caps together with the wire, which formed an intricate design.

Grevatt settled on her creation using trial and error. She started by trying to form a bag out of the bottle caps. But when that didn’t work, she noticed in her kitchen a trivet, which is used to protect surfaces from hot pots and pans, and decided to try to make that instead.

Schenck said she had a similar learn-as-you-go experience. As she worked on her dress, she found that piecing the photographic test strips together into squares, then sewing the squares together, worked best. Discovering the skirt was too short, she added negatives to the bottom.

“When I started my project, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said. “So it was kind of improvisation.”

Contest entries will be on display during an open house on Saturday, Jan. 23 from noon to 3 p.m. at Adams Farm Market, located at the intersection of Old Stage and Mountain View roads.

The winner and other selected entries then will be exhibited at Frog Hollow Vermont State Craft Center on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington from Jan. 29 to Feb. 17.

By boosting students’ environmental awareness, the contest could help CSWD in its ongoing effort to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in a landfill. But Morris said it could even encourage a mindset that produces the next great green product.

“These students are going to be the entrepreneurial thinkers of the future,” Morris said.