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Bellingham
Monday, August 10, 2020

Reduce, Reuse and ReMade

Forming beads and weaving them together with twine, junior Calyn McLeod’s hands create vibrant sapphire geometric patterns. Following hours of labor and achy fingers, her creation — crafted entirely out of recycled rubbish — was complete.

McLeod, an industrial design major, is a member of the entrepreneurial project, ReMade, which takes recycled materials and turns them into ready-to-sell products. The major’s entire junior class includes 12 people, all of whom are participating in the project.

The trash is not always easy to come by, McLeod said. Her “beads” are previously used yard hoses, hand-cut into small sections to form a doormat. The binder is baling twine, which came from a friend who works with hay.

Junior Matthew Olson stands in the design lab, on Thursday, Oct. 22, around his house numbers, which he intends to sell. // Photo by Christina Becker
Junior Matthew Olson stands in the design lab, on Thursday, Oct. 22, around his house numbers, which he intends to sell. // Photo by Christina Becker

The project has been part of the class since 2008, and each year the assosiate professor, Arunas Oslapas, selects a different theme for the goods. In previous years, subjects have included pets and children’s toys. This time around, students will make wares related to yard and garden, participant Matthew Olson said.

Super Glue and masking tape secure the knots in McLeod’s doormat and are the only new materials she’s used in the process, she said.

Her doormat is one of the many products being made as students take upcycled materials and craft their project for the ReMade exhibit on Friday, Nov. 6. Once final ideas are secured, each person needs 20 creations to be sold at Ideal, a design shop on Cornwall Avenue

Ideal is allowing the students to get their first look into being their own business and to sell their homemade projects, junior Emily Bartlett said.

“We get to see customers’ reactions to actual things that we’ve made,” she said. “It’s not just a hypothetical thing, so I think it’ll be really rewarding in that way.”

ReMade helps students discover recycled materials without purchasing them from stores, Bartlett said. 

“Finding ways to take things that are otherwise just going to be in a landfill, and turn them into something that’s beautiful and can be sold for money, I think it’s huge,” Bartlett said.

Junior Matthew Olson prepares to buff the house numbers for his ready-to-sell project in the design lab. // Photo by Christina Becker
Junior Matthew Olson prepares to buff the house numbers for his ready-to-sell project in the design lab. // Photo by Christina Becker

The project is introduced at the beginning of the quarter, forcing the juniors to start working together right away, Bartlett said. Each of the students work in similar ways but have their own crazy ideas on what they want to create, Bartlett said.

Bartlett thought of her project last week. Equipped with drop clothes and paint for splattering, Bartlett plans to create gardening aprons and gloves.

Since the clothing will be used in the garden, she wanted a material that was already dirty, Bartlett said.

Olson has decided to do some research while exploring his own concepts for ReMade.

Students began with about five ideas each, and narrowed down the ideas each week until there was only one, Olson said.

Beginning his brainstorming, Olson visited Ideal to ask what sort of products customers request.

“I came back with so many boxes of trash,” Olson said. “It just felt so broad that I wanted to narrow it down by doing some market research.”

He decided to make house numbers out of black rusted steel from various recycling stations. Olson’s research includes heading to the post office so he can find out what the most common house numbers are in Bellingham.

Junior Matthew Olson removes finish from his house numbers in the design lab. // Photo by Christina Becker
Junior Matthew Olson removes finish from his house numbers in the design lab. // Photo by Christina Becker

Ideal has worked with ReMade since it first opened in 2008, co-owner Kathleen Iwersen said. Iwersen and her business partner, Lisa Van Doren, sell merchandise related to industrial design. ReMade products have sold pretty quickly in the past, Iwersen said.

Along the way, the Ideal owners work with the student-entrepreneurs, giving input on prototypes and helping determine prices, Iwersen said.

After sales, Ideal receives 30 percent of the income while the students keep 70 percent, she said.

With the project in its eighth year, customers now know what to expect and know that the exhibit is the chance to get products they will love, Iwersen said.

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