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This year’s Swap-O-Rama-Rama at Maker Faire Austin will have a special local flavor as artists, Lisa Stevens and Molly Whitten, head up the popular clothing swap that was created by Wendy Tremayne. Recruiting locals to run the Swap at Maker Faire Austin will help reduce Tremayne’s carbon footprint by not traveling from New Mexico. Stevens and Whitten run the Greater Austin Garbage Arts, and with its mission rooted firmly in creating art and craft from reused materials, their participation in the event seems only natural. Stevens, the founder of GAGA, filled me in on their participation in the Faire.
Can you give a brief description of GAGA and its mission? 
GAGA, or Greater Austin Garbage Arts, is an organization created to represent and promote the works of artists who primarily work with salvage materials.  Our artists’ work is comprised of at least 50% salvaged materials, with a goal content of 95%.  We also promote the idea of reuse, repurposing and upcycling through hosting scrap fabric dollmaking, junk art and salvage art crafts with children.
 
How did GAGA start? 
I had been thinking about the concept of a resource/sharing center for years.  The idea developed into a salvage arts store/gallery, but I knew I could not make it work by myself.  I put an ad on Craig’s List around Christmas last year, and I had an incredibly enthusiastic response from someone who said they, too, had the same idea.  As I read the response, I became more and more excited that I had finally met someone who shared the same passion for re-use and repurposing that I did.  When I finally got to the signature, I was blown away!  It was Molly Whitten, whom I had met just a few weeks prior at an art event at the Enchanted Forest.  She was in charge of that event, and she has subsequently taken charge of my life!  She keeps everything and everyone connected at GAGA, and her tireless enthusiasm is inspiring and motivating.  I could not have seen this vision become a reality without her input and energy. 
 
How does Maker Faire fit in with GAGA’s mission? 
GAGA is supportive of the creative endeavor.  We are primarily concerned with landfill issues, and promote the reuse of non-recylable materials.  However, the inventors and creatives at Maker Faire, while not entirely about reuse, are zealous in their use of imagination and creative solutions.  This, in itself, is supportive of non-consumerism, and that promotes less waste ending up in our overfilled landfills.
 
How would you describe the Austin art/craft scene? 
The Austin art/craft scene has been growing steadily over the past decade.  Numerous entities have been emerging to promote local talent, each with their own “flavor” of uniqueness.  We have many artists and crafters here who have made it to a national level, and Austin shoppers have become quite supportive of the handmade and hand-crafted works available locally.
 
What do you hope to share about the Austin art/craft scene with participants of this year’s Maker Faire? 
We hope to share that there are many incredibly talented artists, craftspeople and artisans in Austin whose work is unique, eco-oriented, and reasonably priced.  And that there is a supportive network for those willing to “go out on a limb” and creatively reuse materials with inspiration, wild abandon, and a mindfulness toward reducing the waste that our children, our children’s children, and all future residents of our great Planet Earth will have to be responsible for.