Dream Green – Eco Friendly Holiday Gifts – Kerry Ellen in the News

Here is the link to the story the local paper (Alton Telegraph) did on my glass art as an eco-friendly gift alternative…Kerry Ellen is the last half of the article…


Dream green: Eco-friendly gifts mean more, cost less Comments 0 | Recommend 0 November 25, 2009 2:07 PM By JILL MOON The Telegraph ALTON —

Sustainable gift-giving, especially in dim economic times, brightens up the season instead of the big box stores’ bottom lines. Eco-friendly gifts tend to be more cost-effective in that they are produced locally, often with recycled materials, and usually are inherently less expensive than store-bought items.

Making gifts for loved ones is even more special, but not everyone has an artist’s touch. Fortunately, there are those artisans who provide eco-friendly gifts at special shows and exhibits. Flea Bags creator Marie Georges, who assembles tote bags from fabric remnants, and Kerry Vincent, a glass artist who owns her own glass art business, Kerry Ellen, are both River Bend artists who took their talents to the next level.

Georges, who also owns Cheesecake Gourmet Desserts and Catering, started Flea Bags in June 2008 at her sister’s suggestion. Georges always loved sewing, cooking, gardening and working with her hands. “Basically, when I’m not cooking, I’m sewing,” Georges proclaimed. While Georges was recovering from surgery, her sister told Georges she should sew and make eco-friendly bags while she was sitting around. “Fabric is expensive, and I knew remnants existed and how to get them,” said Georges, of Alton. Georges gathers fabric samples from furniture stores, upholsterers, interior designers, and from big books that contain samples for drapes, curtains and furnishings. She disassembles the books and recycles all of the components. “It’s not only green to try to get people to ‘go green’ and use the bags for shopping, but it prevents the fabric from going into a landfill, because that’s where it goes,” Georges explained. “I hate to think of how much fabric is in a landfill.” Georges’ Flea Bags serve many more purposes than carrying groceries or retail items. She created several different sizes, including sizes that are perfect for a bottle of wine or two, a lunch from home and gift bags. She features three sizes as market bags for shopping and an even larger size for oversized items. Flea Bags gifts can be had for $20 or less, with most of the bags priced between $10 and $18. “Each bag is totally unique. Flea Bags are like snowflakes — no two are alike,” she said. Last year, Georges sold her Flea Bags at a holiday market held by the Sierra Club at Alton Square and at Edwardsville’s Land of Goshen Community Market on Saturday mornings during its season from May through October. “A friend of mine bought two bags, walked around the market and filled one up for her boss’ birthday,” Georges said. “People use them for all kinds of things. I know a lady who carries her knitting in one.” Georges will have Flea Bags available at the inaugural Edwardsville Holiday Market from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, at the Edwardsville Moose Lodge on Illinois Route 143. More than 25 local and regional artists and craftspeople will show at the market. Many of them are regular vendors of the Goshen Market. Call Georges at (618) 514-1854 for more information or to view her Flea Bags elsewhere.

Vincent, who chose her middle name of Ellen as the second moniker in her business title, began creating art from recycled glass after a neighbor invited her to an art glass class. The neighbor’s husband did not want to go, so it was Vincent’s lucky break in that she discovered her passion for glass work.

Vincent started out “flameworking,” which is creating beads from rods of glass, she explained. Then, she took a class in stained glass and liked that, too. But her sister did stained glass art, and Vincent tried to contain her desire to create the same type of glass art. “Then last year, for my birthday, I got the gift of a fused glass class,” said Vincent, of Alton. “That’s the one that really captured my attention. It’s my passion.”

She describes fusing glass by way of heat as a bit like magic. “Things turn out so beautiful — the mystery,” she said. “I can start with one color, and the heat will make it turn out to be another color.”  Vincent’s artistic interests always were in glass, because her Swedish ancestors were glassblowers, she explained. “I like to burn things — a little bit of the pyro,” joked Vincent, who works full-time as a technical writer for Scott Air Force Base. “This is as far as you can go in the other direction. This is my creative outlet.”

Vincent learned everything she knows about creating glass work from Lynne Ulett, who owns Alton Stained Glass Works at 412 E. Broadway; that’s also where Vincent buys all of her supplies. Ulett teaches through Lewis and Clark Community College.

Vincent makes jewelry and small specialty dishes such as for sushi, cheese boards or simply decoration. Vincent’s items usually sell for less than $25 with sales tax already included. One of Vincent’s friends found the perfect place for a Kerry Ellen piece on a table under recessed lighting, where the dish accents a large oil painting, illuminated by the lamplight.

Last year, Vincent reused stained glass that had blown out from the Concordia Lutheran Church in Cottage Hills during a tornado. “I used salvaged stained glass from its windows and made it into stained glass crosses for members of the church,” Vincent said. Vincent said that nothing goes to waste when working with glass. Broken pieces could make a great beak for a bird figure or texture for an abstract design. “If something turns out differently than I hoped it would, I just throw it back in the kiln and re-fire it,” she said.

Vincent also suggested that sentimental wine bottles from a trip or event can make a great gift by using the process of “slumping,” which flattens the bottle. Thus, it can be used for a cheese board or similar object. Ulett can flatten wine bottles at her store, Alton Stained Glass Works. She reattaches the label, if desired, after slumping.

Vincent will show her most recent Kerry Ellen line from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, at My Just Desserts on East Broadway in Alton, where she will sell most items for half-price, because she is creating a new line. “Get away from the box stores and the retail stress; come down, have some pie and look at stuff,” Vincent said. She also will show her glass art from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, at Webster Groves’ Hawken House, 1155 S. Rock Hill Road. Visit https://kerryellen.wordpress.com/ to see Vincent’s work. jmoon@thetelegraph.com


Green Glass

green-glass-bottleGlass is green (and makes a nice eco-friendly gift) because:

– it is easy to recycle

– it is made of organic materials (sand and soda ash)

– it can be used over & over again (glass plates vs paper plates)

– it has no expiration date

– color in glass doesn’t fade for 100s of years

– glass does not dissolve on its own (sea glass has only been etched by the salt/sand)

– big glass that is used for plate glass windows, can be re-used, cut into smaller pieces for stained glass, to very little pieces for jewelry, to bits for frit, to tiny grains for enameling – it may break but it is never wasted!

– transferable, re-usable skills in glass classes -I learned to cut glass for stained, use that skill in doing fused glass, learned stenciling/stamping in enamel class, that can be applied to fused glass…that can be used in a stained glass installation-  full circle!

–  capture a memory (slumped wine bottles from a special event)

– my beads collected on my travels – nice memories – made into remembrance jewelry (and they are small and easy souvenirs to pack in a carry-on bag on a plane)

– requires no batteries

– doesn’t take up much space (300 pieces of jewelry, and packages, fits in one small carry-on case for my jewelry shows)

– doesn’t require much maintenance, can be cleaned with vinegar & water

– can re-use glass and/or beads again & again -if I don’t like one necklace, I can take it apart & make a bracelet, or mix it with new different beads, other colors – make it new again!

– interchangeable pendants, earrings, make accessorizing fun!

– if I don’t like how something I fused turns out, I can just reheat & re-melt the glass, add something new, new layers, till I get what I like

– endless possibilities – flamework, fusing, stained glass, mosaics, enamels, functional (dishes) fun (jewelry) art for art’s sake – beautiful

– glass doesn’t wear out – a prism will shine, reflect color, as long as there’s sunlight

– it can be re-used – if a stained glass piece breaks, that glass can be used to fuse. 

– With epoxy, glass pieces can be glued to one another to make completely new pieces for indoors or outdoors

– my happy accidents – things I didn’t intend – often turn out to be my favorite pieces

– reflects light, enhances mood, adds color, brings joy