December 13, 2007

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Haute trashion
Recycling junk into gifts
By Alec O’Meara aomeara@hippopress.com

Be it a scarf with a hole or a pair of jeans that are no longer hand-me-down-worthy, Goffstown resident Tammy Gross has a gift for recycling fabrics into “trashion,” or art made from recyclables.

Gross’s latest creations are mini robots, built from some square foam and bits of a worn Pendleton scarf. The arms, she said, were made from a broken doll that had belonged to her daughter, and the feet are old washers. Gross has made a couple of the mini-’droids, which are likely to appear soon at A Break in Time on Elm Street, but a second run is unlikely because Gross rarely creates the same thing twice. As a result, many of her pieces become rarities, even if demand is high.

“I enjoy making things and coming up with stories and then I’m pretty much done with it,” she said. “I’ll make something once and that’s it. Then I’ll move on to something else.”

Gross first picked up sewing in college as a clever, inexpensive way to make Christmas gifts for family and friends. The hobby stuck, and later she took a class on how to design and make patterns for dolls and other sewing projects. It was after making a series of dragons and mermaids and visiting with Time owner and manager Donna Jackson back in 2002 that she began to seriously consider making knick-knacks for the purpose of selling them.

The practice of using recycled materials is just a side effect of her own lifestyle choices. As the head of the recycling department at Goffstown’s library, Gross is an advocate of getting the most out of everything she uses.

Gross has made dozens of different items ranging from the functioning to the fantastic. A series of wool bowls was recently snapped up by a visiting Connecticut woman. A purple sweater was recently transformed into an oversized handbag, and those aforementioned jeans ended up as the seat of a purse with prints of horses along the top.

Jackson said that she was immediately impressed with Gross’s work and wanted to start selling her wares in the store.

“She’s very talented,” Jackson said. “She just needs that little bit of push sometimes.”

Oftentimes, Gross likes to make up stories about the backgrounds of the creatures she makes. A stuffed frog was named Phyllis, for instance, because the snap-on eyes reminded her of the late Phyllis Diller.

Aside from fabric, Gross also has a bucket of “reusables” that she will dig through to find just the right accessory.

“It’s full of stuff like Altoids tins and the pieces of metal you pick up out of your driveway that you hope didn’t come off of your car,” she said. Gross also sells her wares on her Web site, www.tamdoll.blogspot.com.