by MIKE CHAIKEN
As the ban of plastic grocery bags nears in Connecticut, members of the creative community are jumping into the fray by using their talent to provide reusable bags to consumers.
And Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum is pondering a way to reward those creatives who, in their own way, are encouraging environmental responsibility.
Visual artist Andre Rochester of Hartford, within days of the implementation current 10 cent tax on plastic grocery bags, wrote social media posts promoting the bags he made featuring his original artwork.
The bags aren’t necessarily a new wrinkle in the artist’s retail repertoire. Rochester said he had set up an online store (AndreRochester.com) for his art a while ago. He added tote bags to his inventory last fall.
“The bags themselves aren’t a new idea… as I’ve seen artists selling them in various sizes at different events,” said Rochester. Following in the footsteps of his peers, Rochester decided to get in the action.
Later, said Rochester, “My friend… local poet, Mind Evolution… posted something about the plastic bag tax and encouraged artists to start putting their work on bags.”
“I had a light bulb moment. Why the heck am I not promoting my bags (which have multiple uses not just for grocery bags) right now?” said Rochester. “So after this enormous ‘Duhh’ moment I started posting.”
Fashion designer Rachael Karrington, who has ties to Waterbury, decided to create her own reusable bags after the state started making the move to eliminate plastic shopping bags.
“Since you have to pay 10 cents for bags at every store in Connecticut (before the full ban goes into effect), I decided that I would just design bags that were functional,” said Karrington.
New Britain’s Bertha Angelo, who is the designer behind Connecticut fashion house La’Moo, also is jumping into the environmentally friendly, creative grocery bag universe.
“It has been on my mind to make bags,” said Angelo. “My job stopped using plastic bags eight months ago. I started thinking of finding a way to replace those.”
“I think it will be fun for all (fashion) designers to use their leftover fabrics to make bags,” said Angelo. “We will be doing the earth some justice. There will be less fabric in landfills.”
While Rochester is already in the retail game for his bags, Angelo is still working on her bags to ready them for market. She expects them to be ready for sale within the next few weeks.
Nicole Reichenbach of South Salem, N.Y., the fashion designer of Elizabeth Cordelia, began to put her brain power to work in creating reusable bags after she heard about other creatives taking that tack.
“With everyone going more eco-friendly I thought this is a great way to stay fashionable and relevant,” said Reichenbach, who is going to use fashion remnants for her bags like Angelo plans.
Reichenbach saw the ban of plastic bags as a blessing in disguise for creatives.
“It’s a great way to stay up to date in products and be creative in a different way other than clothing,” said Reichenbach.
Although like Angelo, she hasn’t any bags ready just yet, she expects they all will be different and all will have a look that reflects her fashions from Elizabeth Cordelia. When the bags are ready, she will be selling them online (ElizabethCordelia.com) like Rochester is doing.
Artists aren’t the only ones who see the plastic bag ban as a good opportunity. Arts organizations also are seeing a benefit for themselves.
The American Clock and Watch Museum (ClockandWatchMuseum.com) is selling reusable bags with its logos in its store at 100 Maple St., Bristol and at events, said its director Patti Philippon. The museum is also marketing the bags on social media.
“I think one of the benefits of nonprofits/artisans selling these bags is that the purchase supports multiple causes,” said Philippon. “The purchase supports the museum that sold the bag. The bag also serves as an advertisement for others who see it… plus the reusable bags help the environment.
“It is a way to make my art accessible and it serves multiple purposes,” said Rochester of the artist-born bags. “You can use it for groceries but you can also use it to hold your laptop, books, and other items like a purse… (W)ho doesn’t want to walk around with something not many people have?”
“There are so many artists out here that should take advantage of this option for reproducing their work. I would like to collaborate with a fashion designer and design a purse,” said Rochester.
“I feel (the ban) is a great opportunity for artists and designers because no one wants cheap looking bags. Why not carry bags that had function, style and maybe reflect your personality?” said Karrington, who hopes to sell her bags at flea markets and fairs.
Bob Burns, the director of the Mattatuck Museum, temporarily located at 63 Prospect St., Waterbury said the reusable grocery bags already fit into the Waterbury museum’s recycling efforts.
“For the last few years, the MATT has been recycling our exhibition banners into unique, sturdy and attractive bags,” said Burns. “The goal had been two-pronged: capitalizing on the original investment in creating the banners and helping to provide a stylish alternative to single use shopping bags.”
The efforts by local creatives to capitalize on the elimination of plastic bags to promote their art was inspiring for Burns
“The opportunity to turn this ban, which is intended to benefit Connecticut and the world by limiting more potential plastic pollution through artistic endeavors is a positive one,” said Burns.
“I’m now thinking that we (the Mattatuck) should look into a contest to commission some artists to help us identify other artistic means for reusable bags that we can launch with the opening of the museum downtown next year,” said Burns.
Rather than complain about the loss of the plastic bags, Rochester said consumers should consider the change to reusable products as an opportunity to support their local artists.