Volunteer Spotlight: Kei Y.


For this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, we are highlighting our first, ever Online Store Intern, Kei Y.! Kei is working closely with our Online Store Coordinator, Bianca, to learn valuable skills that will help her grow professionally and beyond. Kei is currently a high school student but already has experience selling secondhand clothing online. This seemed like a natural fit to grow her inventory management, back end administration, and order fulfillment knowledge and skills. We’re very excited to have Kei on board this summer and hope that she is the first of many Online Store Interns!


What motivates you to volunteer, and why ACR?

I’m looking to gain some experience in working for businesses so that I can put it on a future resume! I chose ACR because this store stands for things I am very passionate about and I love how the staff and everyone who volunteers here are very accepting, kind and share many of the same interests as I do.


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

Both! I love art and especially reusing things to create art, so this is the perfect place for me.


Where else have you/do you volunteer?

I used to volunteer at the Austin Parks Foundation with my mom, but since Covid started I haven’t been doing much of that.


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

I really like helping the people that work there, because I know it gets difficult at times. And also being able to pick out items I like before they go to the shop 🙂 



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

Not yet, but I hope to have some funny memories soon! 🥳


Kei learning how to create variations for items

Volunteer Take-Home Projects

As you may have inferred from our name, Austin Creative Reuse is a creative organization!  Not only are the people involved in with ACR creative, but we also incorporate creativity into our processes. 
When we were in a small, 1600 sq. ft. space, there was only so much room for incoming donations, let along for people to work in that area.  Not all of our volunteers were fans of such close quarters, so we gave folks the opportunity to take projects home to work on and then bring them back to the center when completed.   When the pandemic started and we made the decision to close the center to the public, we pivoted quickly to doing work from home ourselves.  As we began to accept donations again and welcome volunteers back into the center, we changed our informal take-home process to a very amped up version.
With so much time at home, people were eager to contribute and do something to keep their hands busy.  We saw an average of 30 projects going out our doors each week that resulted in over 600 volunteer hours per month. We’ve continued to offer take home projects even after we welcomed volunteers back into the center.  Most of the take-home projects are sorting and packaging all the tiny odds and ends that are donated. A perfect activity for you to do while watching your favorite streaming service! These activities are also great for families, special interest groups, church groups, scouting groups or homeschool co-ops. We provide all of the materials needed to complete the project, as well as detailed instructions on what to do.
If you’d love to turn these before photos into their after counterparts, then take-home projects are the volunteer opportunity for you!
By being creative in the ways that we offer our community opportunities to engage with us, we are able to keep our expenses low. In turn, this keeps the materials available for purchase at our center affordable and ensures that income limits are not barriers to creativity.  Processing 25,000lbs of materials; buttons, beads, fabric, paint brushes, and more each month takes many hands!  We are truly grateful for all of the contributions that volunteers choose to make to help our reuse dreams come true!
Learn more info about becoming a Core Volunteer in order to sign up for take-home projects. If you’re a group looking to inquire about a take-home project please contact
Keep on crafting, y’all! 😊

The Benefits of Volunteering

Why do you volunteer? 

When you have some free time in your schedule, there are many things that you could choose to do.  You can choose to give the gift of your time to an organization, but choosing where to donate that precious time of yours is a big decision.  Maybe their mission aligns with your values, maybe there is a skill you are looking to gain experience in, or maybe you’re looking to meet new, like-minded people.  Offering your time can help you to build self-confidence and skills, not to mention it looks great on transcripts and resumes!  Whatever your reason may be, there are so many benefits to volunteering!

First, many organizations rely on volunteer labor to fulfill their missions.  Almost all nonprofits have some mix of volunteer and paid labor.  In ACR’s case, it helps us to keep our classes affordable and ensures low prices on the materials in our creative reuse center.  In fiscal year 2020, volunteers made up nearly 50% of our labor hours. You can imagine how much more we’d have to charge for workshops and materials if all of that was paid staff time!

The personal benefits of volunteering are many as well.  Getting outside of yourself and helping someone else can  reduce stress and anxiety as well as combat depression.  Volunteering with an organization that explains the impact of your work to their mission can help to give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment.  You’re making a choice to make a difference, that’s huge! 

Volunteering is an excellent way to build a relationship with an organization.  Many nonprofits, like ACR, are hard to get a paid position with since jobs are typically few and far between. When a position does become available, you’ve got the upper-hand if you’ve already been volunteering with the organization and know all the folks involved! 

If you’re on the fence about volunteering, ACR has ways to test the waters and get your feet wet.  Every Tuesday and Thursday we have community volunteering.  These opportunities are open to folks of all ages and require no training or commitment.  You can learn a little more about our mission, see our space, meet some new friends and see if ACR is the place for you.  You are needed!  No contribution is too small, we can’t do this work without people like you.  

You can sign up for community volunteer days and learn more about our volunteer program here. Come on over, it’s going to be fun!  

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. 

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