NoVA Maker Faire was AWESOME – My first Trashmagination Event

When I woke up this morning, I kept hearing the song Brave by Sara Bareilles in my head:

I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I knew it was going to be a great day.

Today was a great day for Trashmagination. Today we hosted hundreds of people at the first Maker Faire in northern Virginia and we made two activities – milk jug butterfly suncatchers (invented by Filth Wizardry) and caterpillars made from plastic caps, or “cap-erpillars.” I have been gathering milk jugs from my neighbor’s recycling bins and drilling plastic caps for three months now, so it was the culmination of many hours of work.

There were so many amazing moments in this day!

The Amazing Louisa Tran

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about how I was going to do this, and Louisa commented on the blog and said she would be happy to help. Louisa and I are not even sure how we met, we think at a Mommy-and-Me event 10 years ago? But our life circles have criss-crossed here and there. She brought such a spirit of joy to this day. Even though we were non-stop tying strings for those cap-erpillars, there would be little moments where she would say things like, “You really are doing something extraordinary here, you know?” and I would think for a moment that maybe we were.

Luisa and Coco learn about 3-D printers

Luisa and Coco learn about 3-D printers

It was crazy for me to think I could manage this station by myself for five hours, and I’m so glad that I was crazy enough to not worry about it, and just know that Louisa would come. There are so many things I want to do, and I worry whether they are not smart, and so I don’t do them. But Louisa made me believe that sometimes you gotta just do them, and people will think you are doing something worth supporting.

And for all she did, I do not have a single photo of her volunteering at the Trashmagination area with her amazing blue hair and beautiful daughters. Louisa – that is my only regret from this day, but we will make up for this. We will take a photo when I’m teaching your Girl Scouts to hook rugs or some other wonderful thing that I hope I can do for you soon.

The Calm Before the Storm

This is what the Trashmagination area looked like before all the people came:

Trashmagination booth at NoVA Maker Faire - Before the doors opened

Trashmagination booth at NoVA Maker Faire – Before the doors opened

Cap-erpillar area waiting for people

Cap-erpillar area waiting for people

Milk jug butterfly suncatcher area before the people came

Milk jug butterfly suncatcher area before the people came


A Few Inspired Makers

Since I was so busy at the Trashmagination booth, I did not get to meet many other Makers, but I did make a special effort to visit two who focus on creative recycling. First, meet Madi from MadiMonsters who makes stuffed toys with a lot of character.

Madi and friend from MadiMonsters

Madi and friend from MadiMonsters


Also, I was delighted to meet Asma Chaudhary who makes artistic items out of recycled things. She wraps them in colorful yarns. Her work is so beautiful and she was so friendly!

Asma Chaudhary and her amazing bicycle trailer art

Asma Chaudhary and her amazing bicycle trailer art


Meeting my State Delegate Kenneth Plum

So the morning swirled by as hundreds of people made things at our tables. Then around lunch time, Louisa very subtly whispers in my ear, “Carla – Ken Plum is looking at your display.” So I turn around and there is my state delegate. And he does far more than shake my hand and say thank you for coming. He proceeds to ask me about just about every project featured! And then he asks to take my photo, which turns out to be the best photo of me during the whole event (it’s the one featured at the top of this blog). And Louisa amazingly has the brain power to take a photo of him talking with me:

State delegate Kenneth Plum asks about Trashmagination

State delegate Kenneth Plum asks about Trashmagination

I was so impressed by his level of interest. He told me that he grew up in a rural area where people always were creative with recycling, and he is thrilled to see me inspiring folks today to do this. He asked if I would be on his television show. And then he put a photo of me up on his Facebook page. So that was a very nice and unexpected moment in the day!

I was so moved by the number of strangers who said they read my blog and were inspired to do something. One woman read my blog about taking classes with your kids, and she decided to take rock climbing lessons with her kids as a result. I had so many people ask me where they could take classes from me, or could I lead birthday parties, or can they buy a Capri Sun vest like the one I was wearing (!)

The Most Popular Projects

  • Juice Pouch Vests – You can see in the photos that I was wearing one of my trash fashion creations. People loved it – and I often took it off so they could try it on. A lot of people took my photo. I was also wearing a flower corsage made from a plastic bottle – I’ll have to write a blog about it because people loved how it screwed on to my shirt rather than attaching with a pin.
  • Wine cork mat – At first I had it hanging up but so many people asked, “What is that?” so I finally took it down and put it on the floor. Then they asked, “why did you cut the corks in half?” and “how did I do that without cutting my fingers?”
  • Octopus made from plastic caps – I made this for my nephew Owen, and everyone wanted to learn how to make that. Perhaps I need to prepare octopus kits for sale in an Etsy store!

A few people asked me to design some activities for metal caps as well – especially bottle caps on furniture.

Plastic cap octopus or squid


All the Shining Faces

Now let me show you some of the adorable people who made cap-erpillars and butterflies – look at their shining faces! (And usually their parents are behind them, looking just as happy.)

I love her sparkling eyes - she LOVED this activity

I love her sparkling eyes – she LOVED this activity

Proud cap-erpillar maker

Proud cap-erpillar maker

He gave his cap-erpillar two big eyes - very creative!

He gave his cap-erpillar two big eyes – very creative!

Butterfly as hair decoration

Butterfly as hair decoration

People of every age liked making milk-jug butterfly suncatchers

People of every age liked making milk-jug butterfly suncatchers

Another happy cap-erpillar customer

Another happy cap-erpillar customer – oh! you can just barely see Louisa in this photo – she is in the back wearing a gray shirt helping people!

Happy cap-erpillar maker

Happy cap-erpillar maker


 A Good Day

Any rational person would say that drilling hundreds of caps and cleaning your neighbor’s milk jugs is an odd choice in a busy life. But that’s just tough poo poo. Magic is not rational.

We're almost out of caps! Cap-erpillar activity 3pm

We’re almost out of caps! Cap-erpillar activity 3pm


At supper, Bob said, “You nailed it today.” Thanks buddy – for tying strings on 200 butterflies and making sure the kids were safe in that busy place. And for bringing me my favorite food (mango and sticky rice) in the middle of it.

As Sara Bareilles sings, “SHOW ME — HOW BIG YOUR BRAVE IS!!!!”

12 thoughts on “NoVA Maker Faire was AWESOME – My first Trashmagination Event

  1. Carla – sounds like a fantastic day. All your hard work paid off. Good job. Love reading your blog!

  2. Marilyn on

    Carla: Congratulations. What a day! Your dream of your own company is well on its way to coming true. And Russell a media star. Wow. I am so proud of you.

    • Carla Brown on

      Thanks Marilyn! I don’t know if having my own company has become any more real, but it was a lot of fun, and people certainly like making things from trash when the activities are free! 🙂

  3. Jeff Hanlon on

    1st – I’m putting Blue Jean Pocket Organizer on my list of “projects to try.”
    2nd – Please, please tell me me you finally obtained a drill press to drill all those caperpillar holes!

    • Carla Brown on

      I am sorry Jeff but I seem to have a mental block against getting a drill press. I keep saying that a) I will never do this activity again and b) I will go to my local maker space Nova Labs and use their drill press. But then time passes and boom, I’m doing that activity again and I can only work on it late at night when the kids are in bed. But I’ll get one soon – yes – I had too many people asking me for plastic cap kits to hold back any longer!

  4. Louisa on

    I really do think that what you are doing is fantastic! Quite a few members of our GS troop attended the event and made butterflies and cap-erpillars. I think you gave them some food for thought, and maybe some inspiration. I am looking forward to what you do over the next year.

    • Carla Brown on

      You are a wonder Louisa.

      Would you like to make recycled t-shirt rugs with your GS troop? Or are you tackling any badges that I can help with? I really would like to return the favor somehow!

  5. Tracy on

    I love that song too! And brave you were 🙂 Looks like a really excellent day.

    • Carla Brown on

      Aww – thanks Tracy. Owen’s octopus was such a popular project! I’m so glad my nephew inspired me to make something that obviously appeals to many others! Some day soon, he might not have the only one. 🙂

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