Elevate Difference

Upcycled Box

When I met my friend Jo at Café Coffee Day, I brought a gift for her with me: York Peppermint Patties. My mom gave me a bag full of the tiny circular treats before I hopped on a plane to return to the place of my temporary residence. From time to time she sends me care packages with miscellaneous unattainable American goodies that can’t be found in Kolkata’s plentiful markets: grits, nutritional yeast, black beans. It’s not that I can’t live without garlic powder or stick antiperspirant; it’s just that sometimes when living outside of one’s country of origin for a lengthy period of time, one needs something to keep them grounded, a small reminder of home.

When Jo saw my gift, her face lit up with a smile. “You know these things make one of my favorite sounds!” she exclaimed to my complete surprise. Um, sound? This was not exactly the reaction I’d anticipated. Unwrapping one of the chocolates, she handed it to me and said, “Hold this to your ear and break it open.” Confused, but willing to play along, I did as instructed. Jo wasn't kidding; the sound is fantastic!

During the course of our conversation, Jo played with the patty’s square, aluminum wrapping. She carefully peeled the silver topcoat from the thin, white paper interior and then used the paper to create an origami crane. She smooshed the aluminum up into balls of varying sizes and then ordered them from large to small in a curved line behind the paper bird. “Some people are just more imaginative than others,” I thought to myself. Where most would see a candy wrapper in need of a dustbin, Jo saw the potential for creativity.

Karen Malcolm shares this way of viewing the world with Jo. The driving force behind Malcolm Studio Shop, Karen takes discarded items and upcycles them into works of art, jewelry, and boxes. The vintage Buxton jewelry box I got a hold of has an exterior lining of chocolate brown velvet with a resin tortoise shell gem affixed atop. The interior lining is pink satin on the lid and a piece of cream handmade paper in the bottom, both of which are stamped with a gold flowery design and the bottom edges are lined with tiny, dark-colored beads. At approximately six inches by four inches, the delicate box is a nice size to house my earrings and rings. While a larger jewelry box that can hold all of one’s treasures may be warranted for some, I’ve learned to make due with and appreciate what I have at my disposal, a sentiment that resonates in the creation of Malcolm Studio Shop's found object crafts.

At home I don’t eat York Peppermint Patties, but I wasn’t about to tell my mom “no” when she offered me the silver bag. I don't consider myself to be a spiritual person, but I do like to think there are reasons for odd happenings and the uncharacteristic decisions we make. I like to think my intuition was at play when I grabbed that crinkling plastic and shoved it inside my bag before boarding the plane. Perhaps this is what Karen thinks too as she picks up the random assortment of fabrics, beads, buttons, pins, and other items that go into her creations. Happiness can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Written by: Mandy Van Deven, August 25th 2009