Isn't this ingenious? I was salivating over my neighbor's beautiful new planters a few months ago, thinking they'd been appropriated from Big Red Sun or something for a big pile of dough, and then my neighbor (she's an architect) came out to chat and filled me in... she made them herself from the drawers of old filing cabinets. She got the filing cabinets from Texas State Surplus, which is a great resource if you need some beat up old office furniture OR scissors, pocket knives, leathermen, or toy guns... they sell all the stuff people end up having to throw out when they're going through the metal detector at the airport. Bonanza!
Argh! You can't see this very well, but it's a collage I made of images that give me that kind of Mungo feeling. Fruity I know, but I said it before and I'll say it again, you gotta start somewhere. I'll probably be making more of these.
There's two beds at the bottom center... I just really want there to be a bed there!
I'm just as lucky as lucky can be... I emailed Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion to see if we could come for a visit, he said come on down, and everything fell in to place to jump in the car that very day and drive on down to Huntsville, TX for a tour.
We learned SO much and experienced a huge paradigm shift just laying eyes on what he has created. It seems very deeply ingrained in us that a)houses are expensive, b) only the chosen few can build houses, and he blows that all to shreds. He says that houses can be affordable and $120,000 is not affordable. $20,000 to $60,000 is. He built a house with a single mom and her monthly payment, taxes included, absolutely everything included, was $199 a month.
Not only is he hell bent on changing this problem for the shelter-poor and disenfranchised of Walker County ("the poorest county in Texas", he said) by building one house at a time, he's empowering all these people who may also be skills-poor by building the house with them. They build the house with him from the ground up. They do absolutely everything. They get their electrician's license, their plumber's license. It may take a year to build their house, but at the end of that year they'll have a house that's cheaper than paying rent on an apartment, and the skills to get a good job. That is just so brilliant.
What I loved about Dan was that he is just really a do-er. He's not really that interested in bemoaning how messed up the system is. I mean, he'll talk a little bit about that, but mainly he just wants to get to work. And he's not just doing this work because he thinks he should... building is completely his passion. He says he works 7 days a week, because it's what he wants to be doing. He loves it.
He said in the first few months of starting this business, after putting the word out that he needed cast off supplies, whatever was left over from other building sites, he was overwhelmed with donations, so much so that it took him five years to recover and get it organized. He said they could easily build a house each week with all the materials that they get, if they could move that fast. And the materials are all sorts of things.... the average sort of course and then he lucks into beautiful stained glass windows that were destined for the landfill, turn of the century wrought iron gratings, license plates (which he used to tile a roof)... and then of course there's all sorts of stuff that he gets a notion to use like the bottle caps and wine corks, and we also saw hickory nuts and egg shells (!!) (he uses them decoratively), and bones, lots of bones. We met him working on his bone house, which due to some mysterious circumstances had burned to the ground earlier that month. But he said, "If there's one thing I'm good at, it's rising from the ashes". He says the only difference between bones and ivory is that ivory is illegal. Also, he said that you go to any farm around there and ask them to point you to the boneyard and they'll show you a big pile of bones. This seemed so creepy to me to begin with but when you pick up a bone and realize how incredibly strong, hard, and versatile it is... it makes sense. It all makes sense.
So how can we cause a Phoenix Commotion sensation across the nation? This is just so fabulous. I would love for people to be doing it EVERYWHERE.
In my little corner of the universe, I had the idea of building a playhouse as a class with some kids, out of reclaimed materials, of course. And then we could donate the house to a school or low income family who would enjoy it. Don't you think that would be a cool experience for a kid in their formative years? I really want to do this, I'm a bit flummoxed as to how to start, but I just wrote Dan about the idea so hopefully he'll give me a little insight. He can do this with the big people, and I can do it with the small. Got to start somewhere.
This one really tickles the ol' heart strings. Dan Phillips and his wife have created this project that helps low income folks and in particular single mothers to build and own their own homes using cast-off materials. They have a commitment to using unskilled workers because not only are they creating something amazing, one of a kind, and majorly eco, this person is emerging from this experience with a host of new skills and the kind of pride of ownership that money can't buy. It's such a beautiful thing... I'm going to try to go visit him soon. He uses things like picture frame samples, bottlecaps, wine corks, and bones in his houses, but always uses repetition so they're beautiful rather than cacaphonous to the eye.
I'm really excited about this!! I have had this metal disk in my life for about two years now. I found it by the side of the road, and thought I would paint something cool on it for a big piece of outside art. But I didn't like my last two attempts. It finally all came together for me last week. I have long wanted an outdoor clock so I can keep track of the time during my classes. They are majorly steep, like $75 on up. I realized suddenly that I could dissect a cheap ol' thrift store clock and take out the clockworks, drill a hole in the center of this baby and voila, clock, oh I mean, wrap the clockworks securely in a plastic bag, voila, WATERPROOF outdoor clock. I can't tell you for surely certain that it is all hunky dory and will withstand a tsunami or what have you, but it is actually ticking away and telling time for the time being so I am truly psyched. Enormous outdoor clock price? Less than three dollars. PSYCHED!
This is a cork recycling box spotted in SF by Danny Seo. This collection box was placed here by Recork America, an organization that works to spread the word about the importance of using real corks in wine bottles. Corks are a natural biodegradable renewable resource (they come from the bark of cork trees, which cork oak trees naturally shed anyway) that are in danger of being totally replaced by synthetic corks. These natural corks can also be reused in flooring tiles, building insulation, craft materials and sports equipment. AWE. SOME.
If you'd like to read more about it or locate a place to recycle your corks, you can visit Recork America's website. Or you can give them to me. I decided that I am going to start collecting 6 different items. I have to start Mungo somewhere, but I want to start small and start smart. I don't want to start saving a whole bunch of stuff and end up drowning under a tower of clutter. So I'll just start collecting these six things, and if you'd like to pass along any of your bounty to me, you'd be doing me a solid. So far, I am just going to be collecting wine corks, bottle caps, and bread bag tags. I'll let you know when I decide on the next three or four things. Muchas gracias!
I made this piece of art for my living room yesterday. I guess I should have taken a before picture, though it's debatable as to whether this looks actually any better than the motel art underneath. I painted the frame black and used images from some old books I scored on the same thrift store trip. I feel kinda guilty cutting up books but they were pretty grimy and probably supremely outdated.... you didn't want to read them, did you? If you wanted to read College Botany and Treasure Under the Sea you are more than welcome to them. They are only missing a few pages, so far.
About a year ago I got fascinated by feng shui and if nothing else I think what I've divined from my reading on the subject is that the art (or other embellishments) in your own home don't have to be 'good' (whatever that means) it just has to give you good energy. That to me was a huge lesson. I thought you had to have stuff that looked good to other people to show how stylish you were and what good taste you have. But you're the one looking at your walls of course a million times more than anyone else. So that has emboldened me to make my own art. Instead of worrying that it looks dumb I can just get the little zing of , "Ooh, I made that!" and that's gotta be good for mental/emotional/spiritual well being. AND of course it's just validated to me the importance of art. If you're looking at stuff at your home that gives you good feelings and then you carry those feelings out into the world, and it affects how you relate with all those other people out there... wham bam boom, world peace. I'm just sayin'.
Yes, it may not look like much, but it's my Shangri-La, plush with possibilities. This structure here has hosted such ill-fated ventures as Papa Pancho's, Johnny Chopper's, and many more. And what I would tell those once-hopeful entrepeneurs is this: On a street stuffed with sub-par Mexican restaurants, don't open another sub-par Mexican restaurant. Sorry, but Cesar Chavez (First Street) has Las Cazuelas, Chapala Jalisco, and Juan in a Million, and the lady who sells tamales out of a cooler outside the old Mr. MC's, and I think that's enough. But does the east side have a Mungo? And do at least 150 if not more artists call the east side home, such a staggering amount of artists that we have the East Austin Studio Tour each year so that hordes of eager onlookers and art aficianados can roam the wilds (not really that wild anymore) of the east side in search of art and experiences to tickle their pleasure bone? Why yes, yes, indeed this is true. So anyway, yes. The face of the east side is changing and I think it can be either hideous condos and other invasive species or it can be cool stuff like Rio Rita, The Good Knight, Buenos Aires, Bird's Barbershop, Cafe Mundi, East Side Pedal Pushers, Domy Books, Karibu, Blue Genie, and ...Mungo. So, this might not look like much, but it's got a vast parking lot which can be torn up at least partially to make way for my pleasure garden and playground, and for building some sort of structure for the aisles and aisles of collected reclaimed treasures we'll be offering, and then dreamiest of dreamy, way back in the back , this fenced-in yard with picnic tables and a stage. SO perfect! So, in the main, very orange building which is already set up to be a restaurant, I would have my coffeeshop. I took pictures of two other buildings adjacent to Mungo that would be perfect for our classroom and workspace. Across the street is Los Inocentes, which I noticed was also for sale, which would be great for that purpose though most likely a little pricey. Then right next door to my Mungo fantasy is a little white ramshackle house which is not for sale at the moment but which would be ideal. I love the idea of having this pretty vast amount of space, our own little village with lots of different parts to it.
This may seem a little insane, me stalking these business establishments I have no way of buying, but a girl's gotta dream, don't you know. Someday I'll tell you about the other building I've been stalking for over a year now, where I want to open The Grubbery. Where all we serve is the perfect breakfast. But that is enough for now. MUNGO!!!
Ever since I saw the rope bridge at the Nature's Way preschool at the Austin Nature and Science Center, I have earnestly lusted after one for our backyard. Now I know what to do with the bag o' bags that's been in the trunk of our car for two years patiently waiting to be taken to the recycling center... I knew my procrastination would come in handy some day.
At the risk of stating the obvious, may I advise you to hang on to your old candle stubs, especially if you've sprung for some spiffy aromatherapy deal from Whole Foods. In a matter of minutes you can have yourself a whole new candle...
you know that's how Laura and Mary and Ma'd be doing it... except they'd have first milked the bees for the wax with their bare hands. Or something like that.
Anyway, I'd advise buying a cheap pot or two at a thrift store. Designate it specifically for wax related projects... I've also made lip balm in mine... maybe you could use the wax to do a batik project... world of possibilities. You need a double boiler, so fill a much bigger pot with water and set it a-boilin'. Put your wax in it and it shall melt. Find yourself a container of some sort.... this is another good reuse opportunity. I found some thick walled square glasses and a little glass vase at a thrift store.... obviously you could use any container you had laying around that you no longer had a use for... a teacup or even a paper coffee cup and tear it off after the wax has hardened.
Attach the wick to the bottom somehow. I used one of those little plastic tags that close the mouth of the bread bags. I've been looking for an idea for how to reuse those... though I suspect a dab of hot glue would have held the wick in place just as effectively. Add some essential oil if you wanna and you have saved yourself $17 dollars for a new schmancy candle! Ma would be proud.
Mungo is a magical place that exists only in my head... thus far. It was inspired by the Oakland Depot for Creative Reuse. But Mungo also has this marvelous coffee shop... with big sturdy tables and inspiring books scattered about so you can throw back a double espresso and start right in on your art, your project, your robot, whatever you want to build, go for it. Gather up the bits of miscellany we have collected and mold them into something better than anyone ever expected. There's also going to be a great space for art and tinkering classes for kids and adults.... all surrounded by a magical garden designed by Laurie with lots of little nooks and hideaways, and this amazing playground made of all reclaimed objects... and a stage back there too so we can have music and speeches and stories and dance parties, all sorts of joyous hullabaloo's.
A more wordless vision of Mungo that I have is some sort of tribe, 500 years in the future, discovers a huge pile of our refuse, a remnant of what is left of our civilization. Deeply overgrown and in the heart of what is now a jungle. The tribe uses these scraps and toss-outs in new and ingenious ways we never would've dreamed of.
I have no earthly clue how to go about making this business a reality. But this plum of an idea is in my head and seems nearly ripe for the picking, so in the hopes that I'll get a clue soon, I start this blog. To inch towards my goal in some small way. Here I'll collect ideas for reuse....... let me know if you've got any you'd like to share. Let me know if you've got a cool mil you'd like to give me... let me know if you have starting-a-business info you'd like to share... heck whatever you've got, hand it on over, I'm easy.
I think Austin would be quite keen for a place like this. And so it shall be.