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An artsy evolution: Artist featured at DL Library takes repurposing hobby to new level with clothing business

A little clay chorus and handmade paper and hand-bound books on display at the library--Sharon Trieglaff Jons says her art has evolved over the years and she's worked with many different materials. (Kaysey Price/Tribune)1 / 5
Sharon Trieglaff Jons models a coat she made from repurposed fabrics. (Submitted Photo)2 / 5
Beads and blazers, Sharon Trieglaff Jons makes a little bit of everything from repurposed material. (Submitted photo)3 / 5
Other wearable items that Trieglaff Jons makes are copper pins, like this one that is currently on display at the library. Kaysey Price/Tribune4 / 5
Sharon Trieglaff Jons has taken to redesigning old clothes, layering different pieces to create a new look. Kaysey Price/Tribune5 / 5

From a "family thing" to a favored pastime to art that's now being displayed at the Detroit Lakes Library. Sharon Trieglaff Jons has made a living out of her "whimsical repurposing" hobby, taking old materials, like cloth and copper, and making different, usable items.

"As a kid, we recycled old things. That was just our way," Trieglaff Jons said, remembering sitting down at a sewing machine at nine years old and making a dress that got first runner-up in her 4-H Club.

"It wasn't like we were poor. It was like, 'Oh, this is such a kick!'," she said.

Part of the thrill was finding the items, a hobby she and her sister still partake in, finding pieces at garage sales and secondhand stores for their crafts. In fact, her whole family still repurposes in one form or another.

Eventually, the "kick" became a way of thinking, as she spent her time playing with different shapes, textures, and patterns, integrating them all into a piece, which she says "takes a lot of problem-solving skills."

"Integration is key because you can put stuff together and look tacky," said Trieglaff Jons.

She's also played with different materials, allowing her art to evolve over the years.

"I started in '92 doing copper jewelry and handmade paper and hand-bound books," said Trieglaff Jons.

Her big thing with the jewelry was "movement." She liked pieces with flashy, moveable beads arranged in a more chunky, stacked style.

Then, a few years ago, she took those ideas into her clothing production, making layered sweaters with a very deconstructed, patched-together look.

One has a zipper up the back, and some of her blazers have patterned inseams, which she refers to as a nice little "secret."

As for her process, "I usually start with a sweater and add to it."

By now she's made about 500 sweaters. They are stacked in boxes along a wall in her house, and she'll cart them to about eight to 10 art shows per year.

She's even started selling her clothing at Vintage and Vogue in Detroit Lakes.

More recently, though, she was asked to display her work at the Detroit Lakes Library—and on Saturday, April 22 at 10 a.m. she'll be teaching a class there to show just how she does the different layering and creating from old, "useless" items.

"The display is a combination of everything I've done," said Trieglaff Jons.

It's got a blazer she's made, some of the handmade paper, and hand-bound books, as well as a few little clay and copper pieces.

At the class, she will be bringing different items, and she will be showing how to do a piece (probably a sweater) from start to finish.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own pieces, too, if they want suggestions, but it won't really be a class where the students are making things. Trieglaff Jons says there won't really be that much time.

"They would be able to go home and do it on their own after the class," said Trieglaff Jons, adding that it's more about showing the thought process she goes through and showing people how they can stretch their own imaginations to recreate.

"Often times people get rid of things they love, and they don't have to," she said.

That's really a motto Trieglaff lives by, like when her mother passed away, and she wanted something to remember her by—so she made her mother's sweaters into potholders for her whole family.

She did the same when her father passed away, turning his ties into seat cushions. Now, instead of having a stack of old sweaters and ties to commemorate her parents, she's got items she uses every day and can remember them every time she uses them.