Use it Up

I really like to use things up. I was working away the other day trying to get ahead of the holiday rush and this piece of tin made me stop for a moment. I took a pic so I could use it to talk a little about my process. It should give you a some insight into the adaptive reuse crazy.

tin jewelryIt’s a bit hard to see, but this junky looking scrap is actually going to yield yet another pair of earrings. I really liked this Chinese tea tin and have used all sorts of it for a wide variety of pieces. I’m sad to see it go, but happy that I was able to literally use almost every last tin-tastic bit of it.

tin earringsI like to think of this as a virtue, but honestly it has some serious downsides. Because I see every scrap of material as filled with potential, I hold on to them. Which means I have a bin that looks like this:

tin scrapsAnd a bin that looks like this:

tin scrapsAnd even this:

tiny tin scrapsI’m sure you’re noticing a pattern. I have gotten better and do throw more stuff into the recycle bin earlier in the process, but I won’t deny that I’ve even sifted back through that to make sure I wasn’t overlooking any opportunities.

Recently it occurred to me that I actually have an ongoing conversation with my materials. It’s a strange dialog that consists of me asking “What do you have for me today?” and the tin answering back with either “a whole lotta nothin'” or, more happily, a little “Pssst. Over here. You missed this cool orange patterned area along the bottom.”

Because I’m always experimenting and actively looking for new designs, all this gets a little tricky. The same piece of tin can give different answers from day to day. That can make it hard for me to release any of it back into the stream. Tins that have been sitting untouched in my stash for years can suddenly have colors or patterns that work perfectly for some new style. This made the couple rounds of de-stashing during our recent moves an exercise in painful guesswork. Fortunately, I got rid of so much tin I can’t remember any one particular piece. Maybe that’s the key to all downsizing—do it all at once.

So, yeah. That all kinda negates my opening line. I had a bunch of tins that sat mostly unused and then I threw them in the recycle bin. How does that square? Well, it doesn’t really. It’s the nature of being human, I guess. We like to think of ourselves in a certain light, yet there’s all that evidence to the contrary. My fallback position is that my material of choice is steel, which is supremely recyclable, so though I’m not personally using it up, it will eventually be remade into something else.