From Waste to Wonderful - Upycling Tucson’s Art Scene

PopCycle-1 When Shannon Riggs and DeeDee Koenen from DDco Design partnered with Jennifer Radler from Monster Booty Threads to open a retail store in Tucson, they knew they had to bring something unique and meaningful to Tucson’s vibrant 4th Avenue.

PopCycle, the fruit of their labor, opened with the goal of “upcycling” used goods to create new pieces and distinct pieces of art. The uniqueness of PopCycle’s art goes beyond aesthetic choices, according to Riggs, because the store’s goal is to sell products that are made of at least fifty-percent recycled or sustainable materials.

The shop focuses heavily on building Tucson’s art scene by selling work that is produced locally or within 100 miles of Tucson. Riggs says this wasn’t always the case, though. When the store was opened, they bought items from across the world.

After PopCycle found its footing, the focus began to shift towards Tucson’s economy and supporting local artists. “There is such a wealth of talent in Tucson and nearby,” Riggs says, “Sometimes it only takes a little tweak for an artist to create work that fits in with the philosophy of Pop-Cycle.”

PopCycle-4Though there are items sold that aren’t from Tucson, Riggs says they try to work directly with artists as much as possible, both out of their love for the city and because they enjoy watching people experiment with PopCycle’s model.

That model embraces Tucson’s vibrant arts scene and aims to help the community support it as well.

But Riggs, Koenen, and Radler’s support for Tucson doesn’t end with the art itself. “Obviously, we can’t ask people to shop local, and not walk the walk,” Riggs says. That’s why PopCycle seeks local alternatives for their business needs.

This is done by carrying the work of local artists, seeking out local business and services for the shop’s needs, and working with local restaurants and caterers for PopCycle events. Riggs also lets customers know when they are buying something that was made by a local artist and recommends locally owned businesses for customers to shop, eat, and drink at.

Riggs believes this not only keeps money in the state and produces better products, but it also helps bring Tucson closer together. “It also contributes to a pride of place and community that I think is essential to personal happiness,” she says.

Catch Jennifer Radler at September 11th’s Arizona Living Economy Forum speaking on their model of creating sustainable fashion through upcycling and keeping fashion waste out of landfills.