Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mesh bag recycling project

My new virtual friend "Girl on the Rocks" is at it again with another great recycling-slash-crochet idea. I recently used her crochet daisy pin project to make my grandma (who's middle name is "Daisy") two pins for her birthday out of a couple of my junk mail buttons that didn't work out.

Check out her latest idea to re-use plastic mesh bags and turn them into a pot scrubber! I have officially added yet another project to my huge, fun to-do list!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cool Reclaimed Fabric Pillows

My only regret about being a vendor at the Craftstravaganza this year is that I didn't get around to shop as much as I wanted to! If I had made more of a profit, I would have spent it all at "Natalie + Friends" ... She had the coolest pillows and framed art made from reclaimed & vintage fabrics. I love the pillows with designer chairs stitched on them. As an industrial designer, I have an appreciation for these classic chairs, not to mention my living room is decorated with a collection of miniature chairs. So, I will definitely be making a future purchase at her shop to add to my living room decor!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Junk Mail Gems' first show: Craftstravaganza 2008!

So this morning, April 26, I woke up bright & early to head out to the Craftstravaganza, and THIS is what I see out my window:

Wow. We just hit almost 80 degrees less than a week ago, and now snow! I guess I shouldn't be surprised...this IS Minnesota after all. You can see the sprinkler is still out from when we were watering the fresh grass seed we laid down one sunny day not long ago.. But, we don't let a little April (snow) showers keep us from having fun!

The slick roads, coupled with a detour on our route made us cut it a little closer than I wanted to, but we still made with just enough time to get all my product set up 15 minutes before the show opened! Here's me at my booth (below). I was located directly in line with the doors of the un-heated building, and can't tell you how many shoppers commented on ours being the coldest spot in the place. But, I am still smiling....luckily my wonderful husband drove back home about half way through the day to get our space heater and more layers, which was wonderful!

Being that I am a display designer as well, the whole time I sat there I thought about how I wanted to improve my booth for next year and/or future shows. But, being my 1st year at any show, I tried to keep it low-budget to see how it would go first. Yeah, that's the excuse I'm going with...

Here are some of my necklaces:

Since I've so far only sold my stuff via the web and through other retailers, I really enjoyed meeting real live customers, and seeing people's reactions to my products! The magnets and jewelry were the biggest hit at my booth this year.

Here's that wonderful and supportive husband I was telling you about (below), who not only went home for a heater and more layers for us, drove us there, and un-loaded everything, but also tag team'ed with me to watch the booth when I had to go feed our munchkin in the car, and watch the munchkin when I had to tend to the booth. Did I mention how wonderful he is yet? Luckily we were able to keep our little guy toasty warm and happy all day too! He's such a cutie. And the baby is pretty darn adorable too.

Some shots of the aisles...

These guys are so cute!

Well, while I ended up coming out spending more money to do the show than I made at it, I know from attending last year that the weather was fully to blame for the lesser turnout, and still would like to return again next year and give it another try. The wonderful selection of hand made treasures are second only to the unique blend of creative people who make them and shoppers who appreciate hand made goods enough to brave the cold!

I must also send out kudos to Andy & Jenna, the planners of the event, for the wonderfully organized job they did! You guys rock!!! Hope to see you next year, and be there early enough to actually meet you! ;-) Oh, and many thanks to the anonymous angel disguised as a show volunteer who brought me hot chocolate. mmm...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Craftstravaganza This Weekend!

My fellow Minnesotans can come visit me this Saturday at the 3rd annual Craftstravaganza at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul! The event is an "A-List event" in City Pages this weekend. I'm super excited to be a part of it this year! The only downside to being a vendor is I can't attend all the cool workshops going on! You can even learn to knit at 9:00. And, there will be tons of cool live music going on throughout the day. Check it out! Today I've been busy getting ready, doing a dry run set-up of my table, making some more signage, etc... now if the rain would just hold off for us that would be sweet! Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!!

So today I was thinking about how outrageous the cost of greeting cards are. It's not uncommon to pay $5-$6 for one card. I figured out I send out about 30 greeting cards every year, between birthdays, anniversaries, get well's, etc...and that isn't counting thank-you cards which can number high when you've just had a baby or wedding. At $5 per card, that's over $150! Good thing I usually make my own cards.

If you're not particularly artistic, here is a fun way to recycle your old greeting cards into new ones. When you get a card, before tossing it out in the recycle bin, cut out any imagery or text on the front of the card that could be used again.

After a year of receiving cards yourself, you'll get quite a collection for various occasions. Here are some I collected from my birthday cards that I received last month:

Now, fold a piece of paper in half, whatever size you want for a card. Glue the salvaged card images on the front. I used some scrap cardboard as spacers to give this one more dimension. Use some scrap colored paper as well. Here's another place where you can use the patterns inside security envelopes, or recycled gift wrap even!

Voila! A card that cost nothing and is even more special because you made it! Now you just need a cool recycled green gift to go with it, like something from Junk Mail Gems! :-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bottle Cap Mania!

Okay, I told you I'd give you something more fun with visuals after that boring wordy, picture-less posting I just did. I have a huge pile of bottle caps that I've been collecting from my relatives. I have one idea for something I want to make and add to my "Junk Drawer Gems" section of my site but I'll let you know when I've tried it... For now check out this cool bag made out of bottle caps!

While we're on the subject of bottle caps, here are some cool bottle cap magnets.
Here are some fishing lures made out of bottle caps,
bottle cap earrings on etsy,
some amazing artwork made out of recycled bottle caps,
even more cool artwork out of bottle caps,
some super awesome bottle cap beads,

Now this is interesting...this bowl is made out of the clear plastic piece inside of plastic bottle caps! Very creative to think of pulling this little piece of a little piece out and making it the focus of this cool bowl!!

Okay, I could go on and on with all the cool stuff you can make out of bottle caps, but my adorable little munchkin is waking up from his nap so gotta go! Hope you all have a great weekend!

Soliciting a little feedback!

Hey everyone! Ever since I was a kid, I loved to make newsletters. I "published" a monthly family newsletter called the BK News (Brandt Kids' News) for years as a kid, and even expanded my readership outside of my house to my grandparents and uncle. I had articles about family vacations, interviewed and wrote about stuff my siblings were up to, and had regular sections including a Garfield cartoon (re-printed without permission--sorry Jim Davis!), and advertisements for little plays my little brother and I would put on.

It didn't end there...several years ago when I joined IDSA (Industrial Designers' Society of America) as an industrial designer and later became the Minnesota chapter chair for 2 years, I did a chapter newsletter and e-newsletter for them too. I've always enjoyed doing that kind of thing so I started one for Junk Mail Gems a while back.

I am pretty stoked that now over 110 people from all over the world have signed up for my free Junk Mail Gems e-newsletters! I started them as a way to let people know about new products I was adding, so my subscribers could get the news even before I put it up on my blog. I also put coupons in there...hopefully some day soon Paypal will get coupon codes in their system which will make that easier! But, now that I have subscribers from France, England, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and all over the US, it makes me want to step it up even better! If any of you have ideas as far as what else you'd like to see in my e-newsletters, I'd love to hear your feedback to make them more interesting for you! Just post a comment to this posting. If you want to sign up, or just check out some of my past issues, you can view them or sign up here. Thanks for helping me make the e-newsletters better!

I hate posting without any pictures as I'm a visual person...I'll find something cool to show you next! Have a great weekend!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stop Motion Junk Mail Gems Movie!

I decided to try my hand at a little stop motion...check out the first ever Junk Mail Gems commercial!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Re-Use Your Chocolate Box Tray

I got a box of Godiva chocolates from my hubby for my birthday...Here's a yummy way to re-use the trays from the box...organize your junk drawer with the compartments!

New DIY Addition - Recycle your Business Reply Envelopes

Inspired by my last post about my Great Grandma Brandt, I just added instructions to the Junk Mail Gems DIY page for turning your junk mail business reply envelopes into custom made stickers, seals, labels or name plates! Check it out!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Generations of Junk Mail Recyclers!

This is my Great Grandma "Jo" Brandt, who passed away 3 years before I was born at the age of 89. She was a very cool and resourceful lady. Having no running water, in the 70's she would collect and boil snow in the winter to use for water. She also saved aluminum gum wrappers to help with the war efforts.

My mom reminded me today that she too, like me, used to recycle her mail. She would take the flaps on envelopes, cut them off, write on them, lick them, and use them to label the food she canned. I can't imagine they would have stuck very well to jars, but I thought that was a great idea whether you label canned food, or anything else. You could use them to label your books with your name, make address labels, etc!

Here's another idea that just popped into my head...give them to your kids and let them decorate them with their own artwork to create their own "stamps." Use them as seals or stickers to decorate your mail, or their school notebooks & folders, etc!

New!! Junk Mail Pendant Necklaces

Check it out! I'm really excited about this latest Junk Mail Gems product, just added to the site this morning. It's a necklace with a pendant made out of junk mail. The pendant is about 7/8" in diameter, sealed with a protective clear coating, and strung on a hemp cord with a lobster clasp. Just $20 on JunkMailGems.com!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

USPS Offers Free Small Electronics Recycling

The US Post Office is offering free recycling of used cell phones, pda's, mp3 players, digital cameras, and more through the mail. Just stop by one of 1,500 participating post offices to pick up as many free, postage-paid envelopes as you need!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Funky iPod speakers

This isn't really a "green" posting, but being both a Mac-lover and a product designer I had to share these cool gigantic earbud speakers available at one of my new favorite shopping sites, Fredflare!

While we're checkin' out cool speakers, here are some speakers that look like lego bricks too.

Here's something a bit more green....using gourds as speakers:


Rock on!

27 Designers 27 Objects

Here's another great find from SuperUse...The Deptford Design Market Challenge in September last year challenged 27 designers to make something new out of something old. Check out the before and after shots here for some great inspiration!

Chiquita Chandelier

Check out this "sweet" Chiquita chandelier made from banana boxes, by Anneke Jakobs, recently posted on SuperUse!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

First crochet project done!

I just finished my first crochet project! It looks intimidating for a first project, but doing it in small blocks made it very manageable. I used this great book of block designs to make it and it was a great way to learn.

Every block is labeled by difficulty so I started with easier ones, and there were instructions on all the stitches in the back. I also recently bought this book of trims which has tons of great ideas for edges and other embellishments and is also full of great color photos!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Right Tool for the Job!

As the daughter of a carpenter, I am a huge advocate of using the right tool for the job, and getting GOOD ones that will last rather than junk that you'll have to replace in a year. So, even though I'm not getting paid for this endorsement, I just wanted to take a moment to rave about this cool tool I recently purchased for putting the rivets/eyelets in my junk mail wallets and coin purses:

Before I got this I used a hole punch, and one of those little eyelet setting tools you have to hammer. I never liked how they turned out and how often my eyelets would get smashed. This Crop-a-dile tool is awesome! Not only does it punch through thick materials like nothing, it sets the eyelets perfectly every time without smooshing them. Rock on! I love efficiency!
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What's going on in the world of Junk Mail Gems, along with other cool, hand-made "green" products, DIY projects, and more!