What would you do with empty gum or candy wrappers, pull-tabs from soda cans, bits of tire tread, or used telephone wire? Your first thought would probably be to throw them away. Tossing such items into the garbage is one option. Recycling is a viable solution, though not all materials are considered worth the cost of processing. Another possibility would be to make something. I have seen things made from all the aforementioned materials. Gum wrapper cosmetic cases, soda can tab handbags, tire tread belts, bowls and bracelets woven of telephone wire. These creations might be made in order to be controversial and different, or to be green and eco-friendly.
Making objects out of unusual materials is nothing new. As a child, my mother did not have a lot of toys, so she created dolls from old wooden clothespins. She drew faces on them and used fabric remnants for their clothes. I remember crafting projects in school, such as stringing elbow macaroni necklaces and rolling beads from long strips of paper. We also fashioned little Christmas trees by gluing gumdrops onto Styrofoam cones and covering them with glitter. (Though I believed it a terrible waste of good gumdrops).
Nowadays, I feel the level of creativity and ingenuity in utilizing various materials is increasing. This can be seen in many shops on Etsy. The current Steampunk trend centered around vintage watch-parts, typewriter keys, and Victorian bric-a-brac is a good example. Even before I was aware of Steampunk, I incorporated watch-parts into some of my jewelry. Because of my love for vintage buttons, I have recently begun making jewelry from them as well.
For some societies, making saleable items from scrap is an economic necessity. Such is the case with the Zulu of South Africa. The Zulu people have long been associated with their skill and artistry in fashioning baskets from native plants and grasses. They are now applying their craftsmanship using brightly-colored recycled telephone wire to make bowls, plates, bracelets and other decorative pieces of art. Over eight hundred full time weavers and their families are supported by this endeavor.
So think twice the next time you are about to toss away a bottle cap or broken zipper. You might be holding the first component of a great work of art.