Society’s junk becomes a medium for these recycling artists

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Maria Fernanda Arguedas and some of her products from
old milk cartons and other discards

For many, the solution to getting rid of those odd and end pieces is to place them all in a drawer for a time when they can become useful again.  This time is one that usually rarely comes, and the drawer continues to accumulate random items.

Chemist Marco Morales Corto has found a way to turn those items that have lost their purpose into something worthy of adornment.  He takes ordinary junk and turns it into wearable jewelry through his business Neki Arts.

“A lot of people have things in a drawer that they don’t use,” he said.  “They bring it to me, and I make things out of it.  It works because they are cleaning the house and getting jewelry at the same time.”

Morales’s jewelry is made from conventional recycled items such as bottle tops, beads and buttons as well as unconventional ones like pencil shavings, crushed red peppers from pizza deliveries, expired pills, old fax machine pieces, rusted nails, birthday candles and memory cards.

He arranges the items in a design inside a mold, and fuses them all together with acrylic glass or polymethyl methacrylate, a clear glass-like plastic.  The compound is commonly used for artificial nails and shower doors.

The formula is something he studied through university chemistry classes and has perfected through experimentation.  The final project is a one-of-a-kind designer piece.

The idea, he said, came to him from watching his father work at his recycling business.  Morales’s dad makes products for industrial use out of polyvinyl chloride.

“I thought I could take the same idea and use it to make jewelry,” he said.  “So I went to the university and learned how to do it.”

For eight years Morales has been selling his art at different festivals such as last weekend’s Transitarte 2013, which brought various artists together and gave them a venue to showcase their work.

The chemist was not the only one at the event with the day of recycled goods.  A few booths down Maria Fernanda Arguedas shared her milk carton creations agreeing with Morales’s sentiment that “some of the best things come from an experiment.”

“I started when I was 16,” Ms. Fernanda said.  “I needed a key chain, and we had a lot of milk cartons around.  I took them and made my key chain, then I kept making different things.”

She began creating things for her friends, and eventually grew a clientele.

Through her business Kibé, Ms. Fernanda now sells hair accessories, earrings and notebooks.  The products require her to cut and layer several of the carton pieces until she receives the desired thickness.  For the hair accessories she then paints the item in a unique design.

The whole process requires her to accumulate a lot of waste, a process with which her friends have helped.

“My house has turned into the garbage,” she joked.

The two entrepreneurs continue to develop new products drawing inspiration from random items in the streets or suggestions from friends.

For instance, Morales started a coin jewelry installment after a lady brought him a bag full of coins that he turned into rings.

“A man saw them and said I have a lot of coins, do you want them?” he said.  “I said of course I want them.  They were the really little coins and I thought I can’t make rings out of these, but I can make earrings.”

As for Ms. Morales, she says she will keep cutting and arranging her cartons in different ways to make different things people can use.

Neki Arts can be viewed HERE! 

Kibé can be seen HERE!

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