Trash to Treasure & Making Amends

Artwork by (Abby Raffle + Claren Moyers)
Written by T2T Team (Diego Allison, Abbey Lehr, Mika Kochheiser)

Trash to Treasure was one of the first Campus Environmental Center projects. Since 2006, the project has worked to divert reusable goods throughout campus instead of ending up in the landfill. By hosting donation drives at the end of every school year and sorting goods collected over the summer, we can then organize and give back to the UT community via an equitable sale, where everything is $1. 

As we sorted through the 2019 donation drive, we came to realize the absurd amount of fast fashion and organization t-shirts we had collected. These garments often do not sell and end up being discarded further downstream. We identified this as an opportunity to pivot the project and focus on creative reuse and upcycling. In the Fall 2019 semester, we asked Abby Raffle, a UT student and Austin based artist working in photography, film, textile, and painting, to create a mural reflecting Trash to Treasure and the issues that emerged. 

Trash to Treasure Mural by Abby Raffle

Abby’s practice is centered around using big color and accessing deep honesty. She considers her work to be extensions of who she is and expressions of where she is at. In addition to what she embodies, we partnered with Abby because her practice highlights creative reuse. 

“Repurposed materials are a large part of my process, such as reusing fabrics, working with older used equipment, and scavenging for supplies. I believe sustainability is becoming the new normal of our society as we recognize the damages that our industries have done and the serious growing threat of climate change.” – Abby Raffel

Luckily, our realization of creative reuse opportunities helped us transition to working within the circumstances of COVID-19.  Despite not being able to host our pop-up thrift events on campus, we have created a new collaborative, yet socially distant experience, for UT students to explore sustainable fashion practices and engage in creative reuse, or upcycling. While we still believe thrifting has the power to shift our generation’s perspective on fashion, the techniques employed in this initiative intend to empower students to look at their wardrobe differently. Making Amends is our solution to using Trash to Treasure as a materials and sustainable fashion resource. 

Generative by Claren Moyers

The Making Amends initiative is inspired by Generated, a project by Claren Moyer’s, a UT Design student who focuses on creative coding. Below, Moyer’s shares further about her original inspiration, intention and process.

“The scope of my original clothing generator project was to play with the ideas of over-consumption and fast production cycles in the fast fashion industry by collaging data taken directly from their sites. I chose to manipulate Zara’s clothes specifically as Zara was one of the  companies that pioneered the fast fashion business model and move so quickly that clothes can go from a sketch to being sold in stores in as little as six weeks. I wanted to see what was possible to create by taking forms that already exist and were directly “in fashion” at the time and manipulating them through code into something new.” 

“My process involved scraping images from the Zara online store and then batch processing them to edit the photos to be ready for the collaging process. My program randomly selected rectangles from a database of images and layered them on top of each other to make new silhouettes. The generated items were interpreted into living garments using all second-hand materials trying to match material, color, and style. The process of sewing the generated garments was freeing as the patchwork style of the code meant that I felt more open to cutting and resewing without attempting to be neat or professional with my techniques.” 

Making Amends builds on Moyer’s existing creative code to create an alternative experience of creation. Moyer believes this experience can allow for more experimentation, which she hopes other creative minds can benefit from as well. To facilitate this collaboration, we have partnered with Mark Yoder, another UT Design student, to build upon this existing code and create an online generator specific to the garments previously donated. You can find our version of the generator here

Making Amends utilizes this online generator to dissect fashion expectations and inspire students to create innovative combinations and silhouettes. The initiative provides students with the digital and physical tools to participate in the collaborative upcycling process. Garment donations from our dorm donation drives and sewing tools from Austin Creative Reuse are packed into upcycling kits for participants to check out. Once the kit is received, students will be able to complete a step in giving these old garments a new life and contribute to our library of creations.

Interested in participating? Check out our blog post Making Amends Generator How To, which includes our Commitment Form, for information on how to get involved.  Stay connected with us by following our instagram @makingamends_t2t_cec and checking out our website. We hope you will join us in this creative adventure! 

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