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Issue Date: April 2011

Waste Not

Jamie Shearer

Where the average person sees junk mail, coffee cup sleeves and magazines, Marie McGlathery sees an outlet to make wearable art. "I open up my mailbox, and I get really excited when I see ads from AT&T or Bed Bath & Beyond, especially if it's card stock," she says. Her obsession started when she took an art technique class two years ago at Ursuline College. After her professor showed the class how a crumpled piece of foil could be turned into a bead, McGlathery was mesmerized. She started to make her own beads, but with one twist: She used paper that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

McGlathery turned those beads into earrings, bracelets and necklaces that matched her outfits, eventually starting the reusable paper jewelry line, Paper Planet Wearables.

Over the past two years, the Clevelander has perfected her technique. When she first began, she would cut paper into square strips and roll them into tubular beads, but they looked too "archaic," she says. Today, she's figured it out. McGlathery cuts paper into long triangles then coats the strips with glue before rolling them with a shish kabob skewer. She hangs the beads on a fishing line to apply a coat of acrylic.

Just give her coffee and a stack of paper, and she can roll about 100 beads an hour.

She finds her material in other places besides her mailbox: paper grocery bags, training pamphlets from Mavrick Electronics, where she works as an inside sales rep. And it's the recycling that really motivated the 29-year-old's passion for her creative outlet. "The recycled material is cool," she says. "I like that. I like green stuff."

She drives a hybrid; she recycles; she wants to take care of the planet. "I don't think we need to be throwing away as much as we are. We should make a small impact just in case it might help," she says. And she thinks that's why her business is exploding.

Last September, McGlathery started showing her line (ranging in price from $5 to $20) at craft shows every weekend through the end of the year. She spends a lot of time during the shows explaining that her beads are made from paper. "People are looking, ... and then when I say it's recycled paper, they'll go, 'Really?' " she says. "That's the response I get. I mean, paper jewelry — who knew?"

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