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One Person's Trash is Another Woman's Treasure

By: Elizabeth Garrett

Date Posted: 2000-11-17

If I told you that I know someone who transforms junk to beautiful crafts would you believe me? Or would you think I’m talking about a modern artist with a warped sense of beauty who creates hideous forms of trash? Fortunately, the photographs in this article will reveal the veracity of my claim.

Connie Sealey is the artist in question and you will be amazed when I mention what she uses for raw materials. Because she has always enjoyed recycling discarded items into useful products, she suddenly got the idea to use junk for raw materials. This resourceful woman uses wood from cast off furniture, old sweaters from yard sales and thrift shops, discarded glass jars, driftwood from the ocean, and even old buoys found along the seashore. By the way, Connie actually picks up discarded items along the roadside if she thinks she can use them. Once this crafty magician transforms her “finds” into crafts, it is hard to even imagine the origin of these works of art. In order to have the other materials needed for crafting, Connie also searches for items in 100 Yen Shops throughout Okinawa City. The Makeman Store in Chatan town is her favorite stop for craft supplies.

Called the “Recycle Woman” by her Japanese students, Connie started making crafts only four years ago. Though she is mostly self-taught, her neighbor, Peggy, who made crafts for craft fairs, inspired her. Since Peggy was getting ready to move, she willingly taught Connie many crafting trade secrets. Eager and industrious, Connie was able to learn a great deal from her mentor. The first time Connie made a craft, it was “love at first sight”. Like any true artist, Connie and her artwork are one. I see bits and pieces of this artisan reflected in her crafts. The simplicity, beauty, and practicality evident in her handiwork reveals the character of Connie herself. It’s definitely a real joy to see Connie creating crafts from her assortment of junk.

Being the stay-at-home mother of four children, Connie is always working whether it’s taking care of her home or making crafts. Her home is delightful and looks just like the inside of a craft store. The first time I walked into her home, I was amazed at the innovative crafts that covered every nook and cranny in the house. (Personally, I think that she should charge admission to tour her home). Her children are very proud of her and they often tell their friends, “My mom made this or that…”. Connie’s husband, Bob, is also very supportive of Connie’s crafting. In fact, I once saw Bob with the expression of a proud father holding a newborn baby in his arms while holding one of Connie’s crafts. At the same time, it can be quite stressful in her home before craft fairs. The limited amount of time available to produce an assortment of crafts requires patience and help from the entire family. Nevertheless, life always goes back to normal afterwards.

In preparation for craft fairs, Connie enlists the help of friends. She invites people to come over and “work for crafts”. I can hardly consider this to be work as I found being a worker bee was really an enjoyable, learning experience. Also, by getting others to perform the more mundane tasks of crafting, Connie has more time to do the artistic parts on the finished products. Personable and warm, Connie enjoys talking to people and will befriend anyone she meets. She often uses crafting as an icebreaker for forging new friendships. When asked what she enjoyed most about making crafts, Connie replied, “ I like making people happy, whether they are buyers or friends coming over to do crafting”. She gladly makes crafts for people and even customizes them at below craft fair prices. For those of you who are interested in purchasing a piece of Americana, Connie lives on Kadena Airforce Base and her phone number is 633-3303. Give this remarkable woman a call and you will be greeted by an artist who loves people and crafts.

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