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Living Life to the Fullest In Southwest Missouri

Handmade by Rebecca: Transforming Trash Into Art

Handmade by Rebecca: Transforming Trash Into Art

I originally wrote this article for Show Me the Ozarks Magazine’s April 2016 issue (flip to page 106). For other articles on the faces and places of the region, check out the current issue of Show Me the Ozarks here.




After you take the final sip from a Coke can or pour the last drop from a wine bottle, you toss these items into the trash or recycling bin, knowing that they will be taken somewhere where they will either decompose or be used in some other consumer product down the line.


But do you ever envision wearing either one in a piece of jewelry?


handmade bracelets


Rebecca Bristow does – constantly. She’s even created a business about this hobby which occupies her mind day and night: Handmade by Rebecca. The materials that Rebecca mainly uses are aluminum cans and glass; items that she rescues from trash and recycling bins and transforms into treasures such as earrings, suncatchers, and mobiles. “The fun part is taking somebody’s trash and playing with it, and seeing what kind of stuff you can make out of it,” said Rebecca.


handmade necklaces


Rebecca comes from a family of creators; her mother is a weaver, her brother carves, and her sister draws. Rebecca began making jewelry as a small child, and has used this hobby as a form of stress relief throughout her life. She began working with silver and continued to do so in her free time when she worked as a chiropractor.


Working with glass came to Rebecca in an unexpected way. “I was buying used glass from somebody else to put in mosaic cuff bracelets,” said Rebecca. “He wanted more money that it was worth and he wasn’t giving me good quality. So in January 2005, I ran the first batch of my own glass and I got hooked.”


handmade rings


Rebecca has a jewelry kiln at her home in Wyandotte, Oklahoma. When she’s not working at her day job as a paraprofessional at Wyandotte Elementary School, she’s on her back porch cutting glass, drilling holes in it, and then – the best part – putting it all together into jewelry.


handmade rebecca


Rebecca sells her pieces at the Webb City Farmers Market, as well as at regional and national art shows. In fact, it was at an art show in Santa Fe a few years ago when she was introduced to using aluminum as a material for her craft. Inclement weather had forced the art show to close to the public early one day, but the vendors couldn’t leave until the end of the show, so Rebecca found herself facing four hours of having nothing to do.


“Somebody brought me a can and said, ‘Here. I know you are bored; make something out of it,’” said Rebecca. Always up for a challenge, Rebecca did just that, making a “weird, crazy, fantasy flower” with some metal- and wire-cutting tools that she always carried with her in her jewelry-making kit.


handmade metal


Rebecca quickly found that she liked working with soda cans. “I like the patterns and the texture,” she said. “It’s just fun to manipulate the metal and it’s easy to manipulate it. If I screw it up, I just recycle it and nobody knows – and I’m not out a lot of money.”


Currently, you can find Rebecca’s aluminum butterfly earrings next to her recycled glass suncatchers, rings, and other jewelry at the Webb City Farmers Market, where her creations sell from $5 to $50.


Rebecca hopes to expand her business in the future by launching a website and selling some items online. She also plans on purchasing a bigger kiln, which would allow this artist the opportunity to turn people’s trash into even more treasure.


butterfly pic


Living Life to The Fullest!

Joplin MO LifeI love seeking out new experiences and finding places off the beaten path. I started Joplin MO Life in August 2013 as a way to share my discoveries with others in the Joplin community so that they can learn about the resources that exist right in their own backyards.

I have worked in education and event planning, and have always loved to write. I hold a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Tulane University.

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