My Top 10 Trashmagination Happy Moments in 2013

1) Writing this Trashmagination Blog

It’s been a year since I started blogging as Trashmagination. The web address was my birthday gift from Bob.

The main benefit of this blog is to capture something that is percolating in my mind. That swirl of ideas can take up so much energy otherwise.

Another benefit has been that when I meet people on my Trashmagination journey, I can say, “I am going to write about our discussion on my blog” and then it seems less weird that I’m asking so many questions.


2) Listening to Zeke Leonard’s webinar

My friend Jess recommended a webinar by her friend Zeke Leonard. Zeke makes ukuleles and guitars from recycled materials such as cigar boxes or old pianos. His webinar was hosted by Make magazine as part of their virtual Make Summer Camp.

His webinar was wonderful. Just knowing he exists brings me joy. On Facebook he is constantly posting images of the incredible things he is making and music he is playing.

Zeke Leonard's canjo - Maker Camp

Zeke Leonard’s canjo – Maker Camp


3) Taking Taiko drumming classes

Watching Zeke’s webinar lead to the next decision. The next webinar in the Make series was about making a Taiko drum.

Instantly, I wanted to learn how to play a Taiko drum. I searched for Taiko classes and found Mark H. Rooney. I love his teaching style, which is a combination of mastery and humor. Driving an hour each way every Sunday to do something just for myself has been such a source of energy. His energy and kindness is just exactly what I need. The booming music we make as a group in that Taiko class– it is so satisfying from every part of my body. I even made my own practice Taiko drum from a garbage can!

My first Taiko drumming class

My first Taiko drumming class


4) Signing up to take classes with my kids

Learning Taiko reminded me that I get the most joy when I am learning something that uses my brain, heart and body in completely new ways. I need a combination of fear and flow in my daily life.

And ever since my kids became somewhat functional, I have looked for activities where we can both get energy. That’s when I came up with the idea of taking classes with each child where we are both starting from the same point. It took some digging, calling teachers to see if they would take us both. Then I gave the kids choices. Nora chose guitar lessons and making mosaics. Russell chose tae kwon do.

We have had three guitar lessons so far, and like Taiko, I enjoy how it uses my brain and body in new ways. I feel so proud to be sitting there beside Nora. Bob says we look cute.


5) Creative Thought Partnership with Becky

A few years ago, I worked on a storytelling initiative at work (still the best thing I ever did there). Through that work, I got to work with a colleague named Becky who shared my passion for storytelling. We have continued to meet most Fridays for lunch – on the phone because she is in Michigan. We call it our Creative Thought Partnership. Some Fridays, I wonder if I should even get on the phone because I’m worried I’ll bring her down. But I never regret our calls – she always brings perspective while keeping it real.

I think everyone needs someone like Becky in their life. We are friends, yes, but also we are trying to help each other move things along. Becky was the first person to tell me about creative re-use centers. She was familiar with The Scrap Box in Ann Arbor, and that concept has become central to my vision for Trashmagination.


6) Visiting creative re-use centers and artists

After Becky told me about The Scrap Box, I started a list of creative re-use centers and artists. It is my hope to visit as many of them as I can.

To that goal, our family went to Earth Day at the Workhouse Arts Center where I met recycled textile artist Jen Athanas. She told me about what it takes to make a living while making things from recycled materials. I told her about how I wish I could start a creative re-use center and she mentioned Scrap DC. I was so excited to visit a real creative re-use center! Then they told me about a new center in Alexandria named Upcycle Creative Reuse Center. Meeting these courageous women who are running these centers is such an inspiration!

I also learned about Maker Spaces, or membership-driven places where people make things. There is one only a few miles from my house. Its membership is growing quickly. And that brings me to the next decision…

Mom & Nora love the jewelry section at Upcycle

Mom & Nora love the jewelry section at Upcycle


7) Attending three Maker Faires

A few years ago at work, I proposed the idea of a “Learn-a-palooza” or a community event where people teach and learn whatever skills they have. I imagined this to be a multi-generational, multi-cultural event, focused on teaching skills of DIY or craftsmanship. I believed in this idea very strongly, and hosted one for my 10 years anniversary at work. I was told by more than one person that this idea was not good and impractical.

Well now there is a global movement called Maker Faires where people do just that, and it is just as joyful and awesome as I had imagined. This just goes to show – I really do know what I’m talking about.

Our family drove to New York City for the World Maker Faire in September. In October, I attended the first Washington DC-area Maker Faire in Silver Spring and we drove to Columbus, Ohio, to attend a third Maker Faire.

Happy family at World Maker Faire in New York City, September 21, 2013

Happy family at World Maker Faire in New York City, September 21, 2013

Each one had its own personality and was just exactly where I want to be 24/7. Now in 2014, we are having a Maker Faire right here in Reston – can you believe it? And I keep changing my mind on what I want to do there. But I need to get my butt in gear and make a Trashmagination table – that’s top of the list for 2014, you know?


8) Attending the Family Nature Summit in Maine

This year’s event had many high points, but the top were:

1)      Performing a humorous dance to the song “Walking on Sunshine” with Nora and my mom at the talent show

2)      Re-connecting with my friend Amy who attended Pearson College with me more than twenty years ago

3)      Figuring out how to do rug hooking with recycled t-shirts

4)      Meeting Susan Barrett Merrill on one of my green tours and learning about Weaving a Life

In 2014, I will be working with Susan to become a certified Weaving a Life instructor – woohoo!

For Nora, this Summit was special because she met a sweetie named Dominic and they became close friends. Through their connection, we got to know Dominic’s family. We had a wonderful camping trip with them in Pennsylvania in August, and then visited them in Ohio in October. They like to do just about all the things we like to do too – and they have all the fancy camping gear. We are looking forward to a visit from them in 2014.

Giant replica of a Brownie camera by Stephen

Giant replica of a Brownie camera by Stephen


9) Attending our first folk music house concert

Aengus Finnan is a talented folk musician who I went to school with in 1989-1990. We have listened to his CDs for years. Nora knows most of the lyrics. We found out he was coming to Maryland to perform at a house concert – a new concept for us. Folk music fans host musicians in their homes, and invite other folk music fans. We did not know the hosts, but they were super friendly and even let us bring Nora and Russell.

Seeing Aengus perform live after so many years was such a special evening! I cried, I laughed – you know how it goes. And the other band performing – the YaYas – turned out to be just as delightful. We now love their CD – in fact, the kids are listening to it as they fall asleep.

Hearing Aengus’ concert meant more to me than just listening to his music. It was about hearing his story as an artist who went out on a limb, and then got into debt, and had to find creative ways to continue. It was about the folk music community, where people use their own homes to build a community and infrastructure for performance. These non-traditional life choices capture my imagination. It’s not always safe or linear.

I’m pretty sure this was at least part of the reason Nora and I are studying guitar now…

Aengus Finnan and me

Aengus Finnan and me


1o) Visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

After visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, you might look at your walls and think everything looks empty.

In the 1960s, Isaiah Zagar went to Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer. He loved the folk art there. When he came home to Philadelphia, he opened an art gallery for folk art. He decided he needed to make an incredible gallery to house this art. So he started using mosaic techniques to decorate every surface of the gallery.

He didn’t stop there. He bought investment properties, and decorated another one. It spread outside into the empty lot next door. Many years later, the owner of that lot came to visit and got a big surprise. He wanted all that stuff out of the lot. But everyone in the community had contributed objects for Isaiah to add to his mosaic. So they came together and raised the funds to buy the lot.

Isaiah is now in his mid-70s and still making mosaics. He has purchased a warehouse in south Philly which he is slowly filling with mosaics.

I LOVED the Magic Gardens. It made me realize I could make a LOT more rugs and quilts and fill my walls, and that would be just fine.

Me & Bob in the Magic Gardens

Me & Bob in the Magic Gardens



What will 2014 bring?

I have multiple lists of Trashmagination goals for 2014, and I really need a good kick in the backside to make these real. I hope my weaving / coaching sessions with Susan Barrett Merrill will help, as well as the Reston Maker Faire. It is my dream that by next December, I have really significant Trashmagination decisions that I can celebrate. 2013 was a “building year” in my mind. I look forward to 2014!

2 thoughts on “My Top 10 Trashmagination Happy Moments in 2013

  1. What a great read to start the morning! A summary like this really puts things in perspective in terms of what a great year you have had, and that 2014 is looking pretty great too 🙂

    • Carla Brown on

      Thanks Tracy! Really, it feels like I am not moving things along fast enough most of the time. But that’s why I wrote the blog, to try and focus on the positive. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *