God and Art Series: Recycling promotes spiritual disciplines

For this week's installment of the God and Art Series, I want to concentrate on a practice that promotes a spiritual discipline. As part of this post, I want to feature the work of some artists who are part of the Era of Recycling Team on Etsy.*

Recycling - upcycling, restoring, reconditioning, reusing, repurposing - whatever you want to call it, is once again in vogue in the world of arts and crafts. It's not a new art form, it's simply being, well, recycled, from an old way of doing things,  and with some great results, I might add. Here is a tray made from old barnwood:


Back during the Great Depression, our grandmothers, grandfathers (and some people's great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers now) learned to keep everything. Economically, things were really tight and one never knew when an item might serve some other purpose and save a little money. For example, from an article "Money Saving Tips from Grandma," in the Great Depression, people saved margarine wrappers to grease pans, reused tea bags several times, hung clothes on the line, made blankets from old upholstery fabric and clothing, learned how to garden and can, and reused aluminum foil.

When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother and my great-aunt saving margarine containers (remember the small ones with the brightly colored flowers?) and old clothing. They even asked my mom and aunts to help them in this endeavor. So, when we received a quilt, it was no surprise to me when I recognized patches of my old clothing. The margarine containers were used for many things. The one item I remember the most was a crocheted purse. My grandmother and aunt had punched multiple holes along the rim of the margarine container and had crocheted a reticule-type purse with worsted weight yarn. I carried this purse to church and other places where I wanted to feel a little more grown up.

I'm not sure what happened in the 80s and 90s but it seemed like everyone was tired of reusing stuff and began buying everything new. This was probably because families could afford to do it in a better economy. Now, with unemployment above 8 percent and regular paychecks not covering all expenses, and raised awareness over the environment, people are going back to a recycling mindset.

It's different now than it was for our elders, however. We're coming off of years of plenty so we can recycle different items to make new. Back in our grandparents and great-grandparents time, the Great Depression followed several bank crashes in previous decades, drought and genuine poverty. Today, federal programs make it possible for the poor to purchase items that our grandparents never dreamed of buying. I'm not saying that I agree with the system as a whole, it's just the way it is.

The resurgence of recycling is good, even for people who have money. With our busy lifestyles and general abundance we need the balance of recycling to learn simplicity - a spiritual discipline from long past that staves off materialism and greed. In recent years, I have been disturbed by the talk that Americans need to get out and buy things and eat out in order to revive the economy. Why do I need to constantly buy things I don't need and eat food that isn't good for me? Maybe, instead, we need to use our creativity and reshift our focus. Perhaps we should go back to a craftspeople type mindset and buy creatively made quality goods rather than stockpiling junk in our houses or on our bodies.

So now, here are some items created by folks on the Era of Recycling Team and others that revive that spirit of using an item over and over again in creative ways to save money and the environment.




Yes, the above earrings are old bicycle tires. Neat, huh?

*I've run out of people to interview for the God and Art Series, so if you can think of anyone who would like to be interviewed or if you would like to be interviewed yourself, contact me at