Save the tiny toys and plastic thingies

small plastic toys ready to be reused or recycled Chances are at some time or another you’ve found yourself experiencing a bit of hesitation over what to do with a small plastic toy or a little plastic doodad that no longer has a home or serves a purpose. You stare at the thing for a while and turn it about in your hand as you try to recall how exactly it came into your life. Then perhaps you place it on the table and ponder what to do with it.

Putting it in the trash or recycling bin* doesn’t seem quite right. It’s cute, maybe it’s useful, and it simply needs a new someone to find it’s potential and inner magic. Problem is, you don’t know who that someone is…until now. I have found that someone – actually, the someones. Enter Shana Astrachan and emiko oye.

Shana and emiko are two incredibly creative San Francisco-based jewelry designers, collaborators, and friends with a commitment to repurposing objects in their art. I met them at the Environmental Action Center & reMake Lounge Launch Party in downtown San Francisco several months ago, where we had a chance to chat about their work and artistic pursuits. But what triggered my curiosity the most was the flier they handed me for their workshop called Accessorize with Toys.

The workshop, developed by emiko for the 2006 MakerFaire, teaches basic jewelry-making techniques using discarded/recycled toy and game parts as the primary medium. They have been teaching it together since 2007 to children and adults alike. I asked where the raw material, including small plastic toys and board game pieces, used in the workshop came from. The answer was mostly the Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts (a.k.a SCRAP) and local thrift stores. And then my inner professional organizer got thinking.

Among the information and pieces of wisdom that organizers like myself impart to our clients are recommendations for appropriate venues for disposing of unwanted items in environmentally responsible ways. It is often easier for an individual to let go of unwanted items when they know those things will be of invaluable use to another. There is also relief knowing that landfill is not the answer.

An untapped resource was at our  fingertips: a community of other organizers, our clients, and friends. I started spreading the word.

The artists are regularly seeking donations of the following:

– small plastic toy and game parts

– plastic “thingies” that are 4” or smaller

– board games with or without missing pieces

– computer keyboard keys

I’m thrilled to report that the first infusion of tiny pieces of plastic detritus has arrived. Before heading to the Bay Area for a visit last week, a friend in Los Angeles scooped up some of his daughter’s underused toy fragments and packed them for the journey. Upon his arrival, he handed me a paper bag that contained three Ziplock® bags filled with a colorful array of that which he called remnants of a Barbie™ Katrina.  (Hence the photo above.)

Please contact emiko directly if you wish to donate any of the items listed above. Or if you feel a spark of creativity coming on, go ahead and remake something on your own!

*In San Francisco residents can put plastic objects and toys of all sizes (no electronics, metal or batteries) in the blue recycling bin for proper disposal!

14 thoughts on “Save the tiny toys and plastic thingies

  1. What a great idea! So much of what we need is already there, it just needs to be redistributed. And what better way to do it than to get artists involved.

    Happy New Year and congratulations on launching a blog that I look forward to reading on a regular basis. :-)

  2. Nice post! There is a lot of creative potential in the aesthetics of garbage. Although I haven’t made jewelry, I do like making sculptures and photographing them in the places they were created. Have a great year!

    1. I’d love to see your work, so do let me know if you have an online presence where you post images of your sculptural creations.
      To inspire and whet your appetite for more beauty from garbage (literally), I think you’ll appreciate the creations that emerge from the Artist in Residence program at SF Recycling & Disposal (a.k.a. the local transfer station for the city’s garbage): . The onsite sculpture garden is amazing.

      1. Thanks for your link, I will check it out. Here’s where you can see my work: Since I’m still a fairly new blogger, I wonder if there is a protocal to leaving a link when commenting on other people’s replies? I don’t want to seem overly self-serving, but it would be nice to strike up some conversations with interested minds. Sometimes I’ll leave a link and other times not. Thank you for your interest… Al

  3. Hi Al, I love your art, it’s really unique and inspiring. As far as protocol with posting links, my feeling is it’s like email, you don’t want to just randomly spam people with your links, but if you check in, say hello, and there’s a mutual interest, then it’s totally appropriate to exchange links. It’s just like in real life, at least that’s my take on it. And while we’re at it, I’m wondering if you’d be interested in showing some of your art on a creative portal I run. Check out some of the other artists on the site and drop me a line if you’re interested:


  4. Thanks Sven, I appreciate your comments. I checked out “tubercreations” and loved it. I can relate to a lot I saw there! I’m definitely a lightbulb or a tuber because I sometimes wonder where in my work does the art reside? I will look at your link more closely to see how I can best contribute through my images and words. Al

    1. Al, yeah I think your work would be a great addition to the site. It’s pretty simple, just pick 4-6 images of your work that you’d like to show and email them to me. Or just let me know which ones on your blog you’d like to show and I’ll copy and paste them. Or 3rd option, I can pick them…sometimes artists like to see which of their pieces resonates with others. Totally up to you. Perhaps a short blurb about yourself…just email me at evolve at tubercreations dot com

  5. Al, your work is beautiful, though it’s shocking to see so much styrofoam washes ashore! I may need to link to your blog in a future post.

    And I think Sven covered the whole protocol link-leaving issue perfectly. Thank you, tuberman!

  6. Thanks for posting this.

    I’m forwarding on to some friends here in Ashland who will dig the opportunity to re-purpose plastic thingies and see them transformed into jewelry.

  7. Fantastic! I am a parent and know lots of other parents with plastic thingies all over the house (if my dog doesn’t get to them first). Can I include this blog in the Presidio Hill School Newsletter next week 12/17? It will reach about 200 families in SF. I write a Green Corner column, including info. about creative reuse. I am also the Outreach Coordinator for SCRAP! Love your blog!

    1. Cheryl, keep those toys away from the dog so the artists can have their way with them! I would be honored to be included in the school’s newsletter. Please drop me a line if you want/need any other information. I hope my blog continues to inspire you. Thanks for dropping by!

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