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Upcycled Bags from Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease Designs

Elbow Grease Designs

It all started with a  mishap.  In 2004, Jenny Hurth purchased a huge trade show banner from the East Bay Depot for Creative Resuse.  Her original plans were to repair an old patio umbrella using the recycled material, but when that idea didn’t work, she used the scraps to make a few bags with the vinyl.  Her dud idea transformed into a bomb, because after showing her bags in an open studio, her bags blew up all over the Bay Area!

I met Jenny in 2005.  We were neighbors at a holiday street fair in Berkeley, and her bright and colorful bags were the perfect compliment to my own recycled clothing designs.  I loved the fact that each bag was unique, using random pieces of old banners to make not only bags, but hampers, notebooks, and folders too!  As folks flocked to her booth, I knew I needed a bag in my life.  I ended up going home with a shoulder bag with “info” featured on the front in bold red letters, and 5 years later, the bag is still holding up.  That vinyl is truly some durable stuff!  And 5 years later, Jenny is still creatively reusing old banners and upcycling them into bags under the label Elbow Grease Designs.

Elbow Grease Designs

Elbow Grease Designs

Thankfully, major corporations have picked up on the idea of upcycling old materials into new items.  Yak Pak also upcycles vinyl into bags, but what they are doing on a large scale (literally), Jenny does in small runs.  Her bags and other products are all hand sewn and sold locally.  Her 20 year background in making slipcovers have really paid off, because she uses her own elbow grease and technical skills combined with her creative thinking and passion for reuse to make bags that make a statement.  As a designer, she enjoys the process of making a product based on the material she finds, rather than finding the right materials to make a design.  With trade shows happening all the time, using one-time-use banners to advertise who-knows-what, she’ll always have an abundant source.

Her bags can be purchased from her website and at the following stores in the Bay Area:

Entrez!  Open House, 17th & Telegraph in Oakland
Oakland Museum Shop
Pro Arts Gallery, Frank Ogawa Plaza Oakland
Museum of Craft & Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Ln, SF
Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), Mission & third, SF
Cole Hardware, all branches, SF
Farm Fresh to You, Ferry Bldg, SF
Green Arcade, 1680 Market, SF

And if you really want to see what she has in stock, you can always visit the workshop.  Call (510) 841-8548 or email to set an appointment.

Graphics by Trina.

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