Olathe & Southwest Joco

Olathe Public Library’s upcycle event turned trash into treasures

Robben Levine shows her 17-month-old niece, Dillan Harris how to paint an old prescription bottle at the Olathe Public Library’s upcycle program.
Robben Levine shows her 17-month-old niece, Dillan Harris how to paint an old prescription bottle at the Olathe Public Library’s upcycle program. Special to The Olathe News

Reduce, reuse, recycle is essentially the Earth Day motto, and a program Tuesday afternoon at the Olathe Public Library embraced that this week with a newer term — upcycling.

The idea of upcycling is that you create something that’s more valuable than the materials you initially had. Staff members donated odds and ends like old clothes, a stuffed animal, a picture frame — even a case that once housed large floppy disks.

Combined with the Indian Creek Library’s collection of tools that included acrylic paints, a sewing machine and a hot glue gun, the thought behind the program was to make a work of art out the things that might have ended up in the trash.

Amy Eiben, adult programming librarian, said she wanted people to “come in and take a look at what we have there and see what inspires them and make something new with something old.”

Robben Levine, who was visiting from New Jersey, came in with her 17-month-old niece, Olathe resident Dillan Harris, and they embraced the concept. The toddler decorated an old picture frame with a rainbow of paint.

Levine took the opportunity to cut up an old sweater and use a sewing machine to transform it into a grocery bag. She said she’d never used a sewing machine before, but with Eiben’s help, it went smoothly.

Children’s librarian Allison Antrim stopped by to try it out after her shift at the library’s reference desk.

“There’s something about suspending your inner critic and thinking how you did when you were a kid and making a piece of art,” Antrim said.

She was inspired by a pair of wooden flags in the materials pile that happened to have her and her husband’s initials printed on them.

The library hasn’t done an upcycle program like this before, and attendance was sparse, but Eiben was excited to try it.

“You really have to get creative when you’re working with stuff that’s familiar but in a different way,” she said.

It’s a sentiment the library is embracing as its Indian Creek branch prepares to move into its new location this summer.

“When the new building opens, we’re going to have a really high-tech space,” Eiben said. “Right now, our downtown makerspace is mostly used for hands-on craft-type making. People come in to use the sewing machines pretty regularly. This is kind of a way to move our making toward that more self-directed DIY model.”

The new building will focus more on technology, while craft-making will have a home at the downtown branch.

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