FUN FACT: This is Jody’s SECOND time winning Goodwill's Ultimate Upcycling Contest! Jody also won in 2017 with this portable pet feeder, which was inspired by the difficulty her family experienced traveling with dogs. How awesome is that?!
1.) How did you become interested in upcycling?
My parents taught me as I was growing up to be frugal. From hand-me-down clothes to thrift store shopping, they instilled in me the value of finding the most cost-effective ways to stay under budget. As an adult, I began upcycling as a way to use my creativity to save money and bring new life to discarded items. When I began teaching, I needed stools for my classroom reading nook. I turned old dresser drawers into stools that not only stored books but were also the perfect height for my elementary students to sit on to enjoy a good book. Now I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband and I have fun looking for ways to upcycle items that are not only functional in our home but fun and creative as well. For example, our coffee table is an old suitcase and bottling crate that adds character to our family room but also provides function as storage for Wii games and our TV remotes. Our bathroom needed more storage so we took an old wooden military ammunition crate and added shelves inside. We hung it on our bathroom wall and it adds the perfect vintage charm to our décor. With every new project that we complete, my interest in upcycling only grows as I enjoy the satisfaction of affordably decorating my house with beautiful, one-of-a-kind, creative décor.
2.) What was your motivation behind your winning project?
My motivation behind my project was curiosity. I love upcycling, so I’m always looking for a new use for something old and discarded. My kids play tennis, so I know that the old wooden rackets are obsolete. One day, I was sitting at the tennis club watching my kids play tennis. I noticed that the lobby had several old wooden rackets that they hung on the wall as decoration. As I looked at them closer, I noticed that they appeared to have different types of wood glued together instead of being made of one solid piece of wood. This interested me and got my creative ideas rolling. I wondered what it would look like to cut the handle in half and reveal the different woods inside. The next time I was at Goodwill, I picked up the cheapest wooden tennis racket I could find. The tag was the right color, so it was 50% off! I bought the cheapest one because I knew that if this idea was a bust, the racket would be ruined. Cutting it open revealed a beautiful striped pattern of various colors of wood! I was shocked at how pretty it was. The beauty of the wood gave me the idea of cutting it into slices and making a necklace pendant. The size of the pendent was too large for matching earrings, so cutting the slice in half created two matching pieces that were the perfect size for earrings. I love wearing them because they are lightweight and unique. I love seeing the reaction on someone’s face when I tell them they are made from a tennis racket. Who would have thought that such beauty lies just under the surface of a tennis racket handle!
3.) What other types of projects have you created, and what has been your inspiration for creating these projects?
I love upcycling! My inspiration is a desire to use my creativity to make a discarded item useful and fun. Here is a list of some things I have upcycled:
- Reader’s Digest Condensed books into journals and book safes
- Globes into lamps and bowls
- Picture frames into dry erase boards
- Cigar boxes into lamps, clocks, guitars, drums, or storage
- Sweaters into pillows
- Wool from sweaters or suits into felted projects
- Dishes into a jewelry catch-all
- Kitchen pots into container gardens
- Glassware into garden art
- Hymnal holder from an old church pew into a book holder
- Church pew shortened into a bench
- Wooden crates into bookshelves/storage
- T-shirts into bags
- Book pages into origami cranes and garland
- Suitcases into coffee tables
- Suitcase and wooden crutches into a desk
- Steamer trunks into tables and padded benches
- Candlesticks and plates into a raised serving pedestal
- Mason jars into light fixtures
- Leather scraps into jewelry and bookmarks
- Scrabble letters into word art
- Chest of drawers in library card catalog type storage container
4.) Do you tend to find most of your upcycling supplies at Goodwill?
I do find much of my upcycling inspiration at Goodwill. Just walking the aisles, I find unique items that get my creative ideas flowing. I also get upcycling supplies from my own home. Before throwing something away that is broken beyond repair, I try to evaluate whether it can be repurposed into something else. We had an old player piano that was not able to be repaired. We painstakingly disassembled it and used the beautiful wood to create new items. My favorite is a chalkboard and towel rack made using the piano’s upper front board.
I am so glad that people have donated their items to Goodwill because they no longer need them and this is the perfect opportunity for me to upcycle affordably.
5.) If you’re an avid Goodwill shopper, what do you enjoy most about shopping at our stores?
If I need to buy something I always check at Goodwill first before heading to a retail store. I might not always find what I’m looking for but if I’m willing to be patient, I generally will. The thing that I enjoy most about shopping at Goodwill is the fact that you never know what you’ll find. It’s like a treasure hunt. I have found some fantastic treasures! It’s always fun to receive a compliment about something I’ve bought at Goodwill. I love the expression of shock on the person’s face when I tell them where I bought it!
6.) Of all the upcycling projects you’ve done, what was your favorite?
My favorite upcycling project that I have ever done, is a desk that my husband and I made out of a suitcase. We found the perfect vintage suitcase at Goodwill and knew that it would make a great desk. It happened to have a metal-framed cloth divider in the middle of it. We attached a piece of wood to it to make a solid surface for writing. The really cool part is that this writing surface lifts up like an old school desktop so you can store your laptop, books, or writing utensils below. To hold the desk open, we used a belt found at Goodwill. The holes for the buckle make it perfect for latching and unlatching to open and close the suitcase. The legs were made from an old set of wooden crutches that were also found at Goodwill. The desk sits securely on top of the base and can be lifted off and taken anywhere. It is truly a portable desk!