ESCANABA - Jill Harris wants to help residents create and give gifts that keep on giving. The Escanaba native is a big proponent of upcycling, the art of repurposing items that are no longer needed and turning them into things of beauty and utility.
"I had a sewing class in Junior High where we made a duffel bag and satin boxer shorts," she says. "I remember using my mom's sewing machine often and I loved looking through her sewing box."
From those beginnings, Harris has gone on to create a variety of textile materials she sells online at etsy, through her business Pogo & Patch, at craft shows, and at The Beaten Path, the sporting goods store she and her husband own on Ludington Street.
She's also become a teacher of FUNdamental classes for kids and Upcycling classes for adults at the Bonifas Arts Center. The first in the series takes place Tuesday and features a purse made of felted wool - or in this case, old woolen sweaters. Other upcycling classes will transform an old dress shirt into a half-apron and retro clothing into a mid-1950s throw pillow.
Her FUNdamental students will create a stuffed bunny, a kite, and a terrarium, while learning about design and hand-sewing, working with the wind, and mini-ecosystems.
Harris' 9-year-old daughter is an upcycler already, and a stuffed animal she created served as the inspiration for the Bunny Stuffy class.
"My favorite upcycling project was a dress for her," Harris said.
Harris loves the creative process, and delights in both making her own patterns and adapting clever ideas from everywhere. Her family and friends are on board, too, and donate clothing for her to repurpose, some of which she gives back in a new guise.
"Upcycling has changed my perspective on all of the 'things' we have and how much we consume," Harris said. "Unique and special new things can come of upcycling when we allow ourselves to think creatively."
Join Harris at the Upcycling classes on the last Wednesdays through April, and become inspired to up your own creative potential. Classes are $20, or $16 for Arts Center members, including materials.
For more information call (906) 786-3833 or visit www.bonifasarts.org.