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Green Living 2012
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Eco Jewels: Designer Monique Weston turns discards into gems that wow at One Green Street

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Monique Weston crafts wearable art from castoff materials like vintage keys, plumbing fixtures and salvaged power tools. Photo by Joel Luks
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At One Green Street, visitors can see Monique Weston in action at the Artist Workstation, an area in front of the store where local designers outfit clients personally. Photo by Joel Luks
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This pendant began with a decorative Victorian ice box hinge. Photo by Joel Luks
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Re-purposed from personal fans, these earrings tickle Weston's clients' sense of humor.  Photo by Joel Luks

Vintage keys, door hinges, decorative locks, Victorian ice box parts, power tool scraps, salvaged plumbing fixtures, plastic toys, gently worn clothing, personal fans, guitar picks, strings . . . for jewelry designer Monique Weston, the old adage that one person's junk is another's treasure doesn't quite hit the mark.

Though these raw materials do not have cash value in and of themselves, it's Weston's own added ingenuity that morphs the castoff trinkets into whimsical gems that are as individual as the person wearing them.

"I have made jewelry from classic materials," she explains. "But I found that clients would ask me before they decided if they liked a piece or not, what is it made of?"

When you re-context materials and put them in a different light, it tickles people's sense of humor, she says. The piece becomes a better expression of their taste.

One particular metal necklace was assembled from drawer pulls, hardware odds and ends, and part of an engine she found abandoned in a deserted parking lot. At the hands of an amateur designer, these components run the risk of looking cheap, tacky, even kitschy. But Weston's finished pieces are nothing of the sort, evoking funky sophistication and spirited mischievousness. Her strategy is to make them playful by incorporating a cornucopia of eco-sourced materials. 

 "I have made jewelry from classic materials," Weston explains. "But I found that clients would ask me before they decided if they liked a piece or not, what is it made of?"

"One you find the materials, they really just speak to you, " Weston says. "And once you have a feeling of opportunity, of knowing that things will come to you, objects just pop up everywhere, even out of the ground or out of the parking lot."

Weston is an artist-in-residence at One Green Street, Houston's chic boutique destination for all things eco-conscious. Whether that's sustainable fashions, smart fireplaces, organic mattresses, up-cycled household objects or natural cosmetics, founder Sherry Eichberger sought to create an environment where people could find healthy products. Her inspiration was the loss of two neighbors to cancer.

To know Eichberger is a joy — she encouraged me to summon my inner Rambo and sling-shot-beautify empty city lots at "Guerrilla Gardening: Mission Possible I," and now I sport a re-purposed satchel crafted out of retired fire hoses (with a matching belt) and a wallet made out of rubber from old tires, retiring my own timeless couture accessories.

Frequent visitors will notice something new at One Green Street: Yes, the store looks different. The front lobby has been rearranged and outfitted with two very large workstations, and one of them is dedicated to hosting local talent, like Weston.

The Artist Workstation is where local designers can spend a day onsite working on their craft, meet clients, answer questions and style fashionistas personally. For shoppers, it's an opportunity to learn what it takes to remodel raw materials into one-of-a-kind wearable art. A schedule is posted online.

"Our customers really love our education that we provide, in addition to one-on-one consultations and coachings, " Eichberger explains. "A lot of our customers have become collectors and come to see what Monique Weston or Jeannine Peace have made lately.

"Having the artists here creates a nice synergy and interaction."

The other workstation is for the Eco-Body Bar, aimed at helping clients understand organic skin care through makeovers and education.

In this CultureMap "Art and About" video adventure (above), we learn about Weston's journey, Eichberger's passion and One Green Street's mission to make Houston healthier.

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