Artist Spotlight: Mary Trahanovsky

Me in my studio space aka my “glass wheelhouse” with hanging fused glass pendants and mosaics in shadow box frames from ACR hanging in the back.


Each month, we feature incredible reuse artists in the Austin community! We’re happy to highlight mosaic artist and long-time ACR customer, Mary Trahanovksy. Keep your eyes on our event calendar – Mary may be teaching a workshop in the near future!


When did you start creating art?

I think we all start as toddlers, right?  I was never discouraged from making things and I remember really enjoying making art in middle school.  I had an amazing high school art teacher, Ms. Gugel, and I went on to earn an art degree in college working under another amazing teacher, Ms. Lilligren.. I later worked fixing copiers, doing construction, then studying engineering (mechanical and materials science), which I see as a very compatible group of experiences toward learning how things work and how to make stuff.


What is your preferred medium?

I love making multi media mosaics.  I’ve always been drawn to ceramics, even as an engineer, and I enjoy incorporating glass and metal pieces.  


Mosaic with bike chain, shells, and architectural tiles from ACR.  6” x 6”

Mosaic with bike gears and glass baubles from ACR


What drives your creative spirit?

I’m inspired by found materials and fascinated by how materials behave and can be manipulated through processing.  Opening a kiln to see what resulted from my crafty experiments is one of the most wondrous experiences.  


How does reuse play a part in your art?

I enjoy making art led by the serendipity of found objects, whether found in trash, from people getting rid of stuff, or from reuse stores.  Used and discarded materials often have such an aesthetic richness and material quality that can’t be found in new materials. Plus, I was raised to not waste a thing.  Art made from reused materials often makes us reconsider how we think about the original use of a material.  The preciousness of reused materials is derived more from their uniqueness rather than monetary value, which I find more interesting.  I also enjoy supporting people or organizations that aid in material reuse, making materials more accessible to all artists and helping save the world.


These three were all made with the little shadow boxes from ACR:


 How has your art adapted during the pandemic?

I built a kiln shed to organize my tesserae and glass supplies and to get them out of the house that my family is all hunkered down in.  With kids in school at home, I no longer have chunks of time to focus on larger pieces so I’m currently making more small pieces, such as pendants and garden jewelry. 


Small bowl made of fused crash glass (broken car window glass)


Where can we find out more about your art?

I have an Instagram account @mmmosaics that will be the main location of my artwork until the end of the pandemic allows more gallery and studio visits. I have four pieces in the Austin Mosaic Guild Show at the Hive Gallery in Bee Cave, open now until July 30th.


Staff Spotlight: James Talon

James Talon


Each month, we feature one of the incredible staff members who help make the magic happen at ACR. This month, it’s Reuse Specialist James Talon! James brought his abundance of energy to the ACR team a year ago, during the early months of the pandemic. During his shifts, he keeps everyone engaged with his enthusiasm and positive attitude, making the days fly by quickly!

Read more about James below and see his tutorial for a DIY Jellyfish Lampshade!


How did you find Austin Creative Reuse?

I believe I found it when I googled where to recycle stuff, and it was on one of Those Lists!


What’s your favorite part about working at ACR?

All the shiny things! 

I’m pretty much a magpie/raccoon hybrid, inhabiting a lumbering, two-legged human body; think Miko the raccoon from Pocahontas. (Secretly also a Flower Share society member.)


Are you an artist, crafter, or maker? What mediums do you work with?

I am a pet portrait commission artist, and I primarily paint with acrylic and incorporate mixed media (aka, the shiny things I find at ACR). I have so many little bits and bobs that I eventually had to add shelving units to my wall just to keep it organized!


What do you do when you’re not working at ACR?

In pre-pandemic times I hoarded savings for backpacker budget trips across any given country, using mistake-fare airline prices whenever a deal came up! I stay with locals wherever possible, because for me, they’re the piece that stays most vibrantly with me in my heart after I leave. (Well, besides the photos. But those aren’t in my heart, they’re just my desktop backgrounds.)

I do a lot of volunteering, like with Double Take, as well as for other environmental causes. Additionally I instruct art, run my pet portrait business, and end up inventing 26 hours a day in order to be able to also hang out and meet new people!

I also greatly enjoy: writing, reading, buying used books I’ll never read, donating said books, vegan cooking and baking, photography, and running tabletop games with friends! 


What’s the craziest thing you found in donation mountain?

One eccentric, mixed media artist’s donated estate. They had stashed several decades’ worth of sawed off wings (from dolls, ornaments, bird toys – you name it), gears / hour and minute hands (all dismantled from old watches and clocks), oddly shaped metal (spirals, fleurs, etc), vintage toy parts (but only arms and legs), and de-hooked tackle gear (like all the faux fish. Some of them were even cobbled onto legos to make fishhead people?)

Yeah, I guess you had to be there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



About James:

James Talon thinks it’s fun to make art by finding the most beaten up vinyls and painting on them, and that’s how he discovered the coolest non-profit ever: ACR! In the past he was Art Director / Producer for Furcadia, lived abroad in Poland, and has a Linguistics degree. He’s all about animals, meditation, puns, imaginary friends named Paul*, silly profile pictures, and not including any puns in his bio. His handle on instagram is if you want to see his work! *Note: He doesn’t actually have imaginary friends…just don’t tell Paul that.


Here is a sampling of James’ artwork! More can be found at his Instagram page or his website



Make: DIY Jellyfish Floor Lampshade

Completed jellyfish lampshade by Reuse Specialist, James Talon!


Looking for the next cool thing to add to your house or just a fun DIY project to embark on? Well, this Jellyfish Floor Lampshade might actually help with more than just being Super Cool Looking! After learning about how my sleep schedule is affected by both the level of brightness of lights at night, and if a light is above eye level, I wanted to fix that!

Turns out that overhead lighting hits the cells on the bottom retina, and (of course) those are the ones most relevant to being able to sleep at night. And despite what people say about blue light, it’s not just blue light that’s harmful at night. It’s also the brightness of light that impacts a sleep schedule. “A mere 8 lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night-light—has an effect [on circadian rhythm]” said Steven Lockley, a sleep researcher at Harvard. So yeah, making a far dimmer floor lampshade (emphasis on the shade) seemed like the proper modification to do with my existing lamp. And so far for me, I can report better energy level at work and feeling more rested just from switching to dim lamps like this at night!

So how does one make this healthful, yet IKEA-designer-worthy DIY lampshade? It’s actually a fairly simple process!


Supplies Needed:



  • Hot glue gun, and gluesticks
  • Old printer paper stack

You might be able to use other paper but it needs to be fairly sturdy to hold all the weight of its tentacles. And on the other hand, too thick of paper will prevent light from coming through by the time you get to the third layer. You can test it by holding several sheets up to your light. You want to see enough light coming through that it’d still be a functional, yet dim lampshade.

  • Mod Podge
  • 3′ Inflatable ball

It can be bigger or smaller depending on how big your existing lampshade is. You’ll be covering about half of the ball to make a “half moon” shape, so keep that in mind when measuring it.

  • Bits of string

I used a leftover grapefruit size ball of yarn. I cut them into lots of 1.5′ – 2′ strings, (varying the size intentionally).

  • Floor lamp with LED* bulb

NOTE: The bulb MUST be LED. Do NOT use other bulbs. Any other bulb that heats up can start a fire using only the following instructions (i.e. without building a lampshade harp). This tutorial does not cover how to build a lampshade harp.

I used a Ring Light that came with an extendable tripod.

  • Sheer fabric

You need enough length that it almost hits the floor when held up to your existing floor lamp. I used 8 strips that were about 12″ wide, total.

  • Other “tentacle” pieces, get creative!

I found iridescent clear mardi gras beads, and some white ex-Christmas floral to hang down.

  • Actual jellyfish reference photos – it helps to achieve the “look”! You can look around your house for pieces to add using an inspirational photo.
  • Pencil




1. Inflate your ball. Rip up several sheets of paper until you get lots of palm-sized pieces.

2. Mix together mod podge and water in a small bowl until you get about a 50/50 ratio.

3. Set the ball so the hole to inflate it is at the bottom and won’t be covered. Dip the paper into the glue mixture and lay it on the top of the ball. Continue laying down paper strips until you get about halfway down the ball, a “half moon” shape. Then start again at the top, working down and add 3-4 layers of paper total.

4. Test by holding it over your lamp light to be sure you went far enough down the ball that it will cover the lamp light.

5. Leave it to dry overnight or longer. Make sure it’s completely dry – it’ll be rock solid to the touch.



6. Deflate the ball and carefully peel it off.

7. Put the paper mache jellyfish “bell” over and on top of the lamp until it’s even and balanced. Mark where the lamp will touch the top by tracing around it with the pencil.



8. Use the hot glue gun to adhere sheer fabric strips for the “oral arms” close to the top of the “bell”, from the inside. I made four oral arms, according to the jellyfish anatomy diagram.

9. At the bottom of the bell, from the inside, I glued down the string at varying points – keeping some closer together, some farther apart, up to about 6″ inside the bell. Nature is messy, so I avoided making it all perfectly straight for a more organic and lifelike jellyfish look.

10. After that, you can glue on any extra pieces you’ve collected! Decide whether they’re tentacles or part of the oral arms. I used the mardi gras beads as tentacles, and the ex-Christmas floral as the oral arms by wrapping the sheer around each piece and glueing it down at the top. Balance the jellyfish over your LED light and boom – you have a new conversation-piece! Enjoy!


June Reuse and Rethink: Bike Inner Tubes!

We have so many black, rubber bicycle tubes in stock! Bulk items like this are great for stretching your brain and coming up with unique ideas to create something new! These materials could be used for: jewelry, upholstery, a Catwoman costume…the possibilities are endless! Instead of throwing out your inner tubes when they become flat, reimagine them!


Here are a few examples from reuse artist and former ACR team member, Madison June (@onemademenagerie).


Reuse & Rethink Contest: June 2021, Bike Inner Tubes
Guidelines for entry:
  • Materials must be reused
  • The submissions will be judged on three qualities: creativity, workmanship, & use of reused materials
  • Submissions must be made on or before the deadline

When you’ve completed your creation, please provide at least 2 photos of your art piece, your contact info and a short description of materials used. Submissions can be emailed to



One winner will be notified  and receive a $10 Gift Card to ACR. They will also be announced on our social media, along with photos of their creation!


Deadline: Wednesday, June 30th, 2021


Want to enter but need a space to work on your creation? Join us for a ReThink Tank!

Now introducing the ReThink Tank! Each month, we’ll fill our workshop with a variety of materials and tools for you to create based on the Reuse and Rethink contest. Come explore the challenge of bicycle tubes with us on Friday, June 11th and Friday, June 25th from 12pm – 4pm. No appointment or signup necessary, just drop in and stay for as long as you’d like! Participation is free but donations are much appreciated. Come ReThink with us!

Find more inspo and ideas on our Pinterest Board!


May Reuse & Rethink Winners: Isaac W & Brandy S!

This month, we challenged you to create beautiful flowers from trash and unconventional materials. We received so many incredible submissions we chose to have both a kid’s and adult winner!

The winner of our kid’s category is Isaac W! Isaac took the trash theme to heart and made a flower using common household trash like straws, pie tins, and bubble wrap. The judges appreciated Isaac’s use of materials and the creativity he showed in putting them together.



The winner of our adult category is Brandy S! Brandy’s tin can lid flowers are a great use of a material that is often discarded. The judges also appreciated the craftsmanship of the flowers – they look amazing and add a perfect pop of color to any outdoor space!



Thanks to everyone who participated,  your creativity never ceases to amaze us! Plus, your flowers helped to brighten up the rainy month!
Here are some of the other submissions:





Corporate Responsibility with Austin Creative Reuse


Does your office have a green team?  Are you committed to sustainability or want to build conservation into your employee culture?  Austin Creative Reuse is here to help!  There are many ways that ACR and local Austin businesses can work together.  

The first step is making sure your employees are aware of Austin Creative Reuse and other organizations that they can divert materials to.  Not only are we a resource for gently loved, affordable supplies but we also accept donations of most art and craft supplies to stock our Creative Reuse Center. We would love to help you facilitate a material drive at your office or facility.  The materials collected could be supplies you no longer need around the office, materials your employees bring from home, or a combination of both!  We can also assist with the diversion of materials from operations or manufacturing.  We can help to build awareness of materials available for local artists or other manufacturers and can help to facilitate connections for other resources.

Volunteering with ACR is also a great way to give back to the community and make a difference for the environment.  Diverting an average of 20K lbs of materials a month doesn’t happen easily.  We need many hands to get those materials processed, the bulk of which are volunteers.  We send out a monthly volunteer newsletter that includes information about ACR volunteer opportunities, special projects and events.  We also work with businesses to create special volunteer and team building opportunities. This could include a craft workshop or a special meet up at your location along with a service project.  These are offered on a sliding fee scale and available to any group size!

ACR is available to present at company meetings, during lunch and learns or at other corporate sustainability events.  Our info is also available to be published in company updates and internal newsletters or other employee resources. 

Sponsorships and financial support are another way to get involved with ACR.  We provide many educational opportunities for both children and adults.  Direct support for a specific program allows us to keep creativity accessible by removing financial barriers for participants!

If any of the above appeal to you, contact us to let us know how you’d like to get your business involved!


Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Stewart Miller


Each month, we feature one of the many volunteers that help to make the magic of Austin Creative Reuse possible. This month, it’s core volunteer Mary Stewart Miller!


What motivates you to volunteer, and why ACR?

I like volunteering because I like to meet people who value the same things that I do. It’s my way of helping organizations that I support.  I’m incredibly cheap and can’t bear wasting stuff, so ACR’s mission is very resonant with me.  I was in k-12 education for a long time and it would kill me all the material we’d throw away.  I’m always telling my teacher friends about ACR-both for donations and for inexpensive classroom materials.  I always tell people ACR is like a well-curated garage sale—you never know what amazing items might be there.


Are you more into the arts aspect of ACR or the conservation aspect and why?

Definitely the conservation aspect.  I am terrible at all crafts.  


Where else have you/do you volunteer?

Currently I’m a gardens volunteer at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and I was a Meals on Wheels volunteer for a long time.  I work there now.  I’ve also volunteered for Travis Audubon, TreeFolks and at my church, St. George’s Episcopal.


What do you enjoy the most out of volunteering for ACR?

As a former librarian, I am deeply satisfied by organizing and systems.  I like sorting stuff; I find it kind of meditative.  And I like talking to/meeting new people as we work together. 

Do you have any interesting or funny stories about something that happened while you were volunteering at ACR?

One of the board members was in the center one day and she remembered me from when her kids used to trade nature items with me at the Austin Nature and Science Center, which was ages ago.  Nice connection!


What’s the best thing you’ve found at ACR?

I picked up one of several small 1970s datebooks for a quarter and discovered that its previous owner had written the most scintillating info about their life in little bits and pieces in the calendar.  My sister and I got obsessed with this person’s story.  I went back the next day and bought all of the datebooks.  What we’ve figured out is David Sedaris-level fascinating.  How did those datebooks get to ACR????


What do you do when you are not volunteering at ACR?

I work for Meals on Wheels of Central Texas and Garden 17, and work in my own garden waiting for tomatoes to turn red.  I explore Austin on my bike with my husband and I read and plan trips. 

Turn Anything Into a Lamp!

In this easy tutorial, find out how ACR Board President Carole LeClair turns old household materials into unique lights for her home!



All supplies are found at ACR!
From our Container Section:
  • 1 Vintage Maxwell House tin – 25 cents 
  • From Architecture Section:
  • 1 decorative globe – $1
  • 1 switched light bulb cord – $1
  • 1 candelabra style LED bulb – 25 cents
From Craft:
  • 1 spool narrow duct tape – 25 cents
From my tool box:
  • tin snips




Use the tin snips to cut a small slot on the back side of the tin.  This will serve as the slot for the light bulb cord to go through.  Secure the light bulb socket using duct tape.  This was the fidgety part as it took a couple of tries to find a system that worked.  Add the bulb and then the globe. 

Let there be light!  I use this cutie on my back porch to add a bit of late evening mood lighting.



Here are a few more of Carole’s light creations. Thanks for always shedding light on the possibilities of reuse!


Artist Spotlight: Doran Kim

Doran Kim


Doran Kim is a junior Textiles and Apparel major at UT Austin and is going far with her out-of-the-box fashion thinking. Motivated by sustainable fashion, Kim took a trip to Austin Creative Reuse that inspired her collection for the UT Textiles and Apparel annual fashion show! Almost the entire collection is made of materials from ACR, including embellishments made from upholstery swatches and colorful plastic folders. Full of color, fringe, and sustainability, Kim’s reuse garments were the finale of the fashion show. Read more about Doran’s practice and see pictures from her fashion show below!



When did you start creating art?

I started drawing even before going to elementary school. They were mainly figures in different ball gowns I designed. I competed with my friends for who drew cartoon characters better going to elementary and middle school. Although I started studying French literature later, soon I realized my passion is in art and fashion, so I went to London to study them.


What is your preferred medium?

I love mixing media. Even when I draw the simplest things, pencils and colors are on the side. Learning about sustainability in fashion and in general, I began to enjoy converting discarded materials into something beautiful. I love hearing people saying, “you made this from what?” Working this way can remind people that the things they are about to throw away could live longer in different forms.


What drives your creative spirit?

 Literally, everything around me. It could be my cat lying on a sofa, a random trash bag, news, and of course, fine arts. Working on my collection for the major this semester, I realized that materials influence my art a lot more than I thought. That’s because this collection would not have started if I didn’t find the upholstery swatch books and plastic folders at ACR.


How has your art adapted during the pandemic?

During the pandemic, I have stepped out of my boundary and explored other ways to do art. I was not a craft person before but found joy in crafting. Working with limited materials that I could find at home made my work more challenging, and I enjoyed that. As a result, I feel like I have broadened my perspectives on how to do art and fashion.


How does reuse play a part in your art?

Since I learned about fashion sustainability at UT, I have only used recycled fabrics and materials except for team projects. It became the most important part of my fashion construction to reduce waste discarded in landfills and remind people of waste generated every day.


What compels you to shop at ACR?

The unexpected variety of materials, the hope to make something beautiful out of things that were once considered no longer needed, and the philosophy ACR conveys to the community.


Do you have a favorite ACR find? What did you do with it?

It is an easy answer. My favorite items are the plastic folders and upholstery swatch books. I made my collection with them!


You inspire us, Doran! Follow her on instagram and or view her portfolio.




Staff Spotlight: Marina C


Each month, we feature one of the incredible staff members who help make the magic happen at ACR. This month, it’s Reuse Specialist Marina C! When Marina first joined the ACR team a year ago, she spent her weekdays working full-time, and somehow managed to find the energy to work at ACR every weekend! She is a powerhouse in our donations processing area, tirelessly working to get materials sorted, priced, and into your hands. Read more about Marina below and see her tutorial for a DIY Micro-Landscape.


How did you find Austin Creative Reuse?

One of my housemates from the affordable housing cooperative I used to live in recommended I drop off my craft supplies to Austin Creative Reuse a few years ago when I moved out and the rest is history!


What’s your favorite part about working at ACR?

Cultivating relationships with my colleagues and the Austin community. Exploring donation mountain by sorting and processing items is also a highlight.


Are you an artist, crafter, or maker? What mediums do you work with?

I’m an impulsive crafter and late-night gardener. My favorite mediums are modifying found objects, sketching/doodling plants, and botany.


What do you do when you’re not working at ACR?

Rest and recharge. Propagate plants to share with friends, family, and neighbors! I also enjoy participating in local clothing + plant swaps.


What’s the craziest thing you found in donation mountain?

I wouldn’t call it crazy, but there is a surprising amount of personal items, letters, and documents that are donated. One of my favorite finds was a series of love letters between three pen pals with a great sense of humor from the 1970s.


About Marina:

Throughout her childhood growing up near citrus fields in the Rio Grande Valley, Marina learned to appreciate the transborder landscape, food, and botany of South Texas. Her Grandma taught her how to be crafty, sew, and cultivate a sustainable garden while also embarking on spontaneous cooking adventures in her kitchen – one of her favorite quotes she references states how “necessity is the mother of invention” and she still applies that sentiment to her daily life. A few years ago she uprooted from South Texas and set up camp in Austin to pursue an International Nutrition degree at UT, which led her on a journey eventually joining the ACR team!


2005 Wheless Lane, Austin, TX 78723
Tel: (512) 375-3041