Upcycling fest in Albany to feature Richmond’s artistic touch

Photo and artwork by artist Steve Zwetsch of Cigar Box Kitchen Guitars.

By Kathy Chouteau

An upcycling event happening this weekend in Albany is being powered, in part, by its Richmond organizer and a contingent of Richmond artists involved in it. The brainchild of Annex resident Katie Harrison, “UPcycle {harvest} Fest” is set for Sat., Sept. 25 from 1-6 p.m. in the outdoor lot at 1245 Solano Ave. in Albany.

The free-entry fest will feature up to 18 local artisans, vendors, crafters, makers and nonprofits who share the upcycling vision, with wares such as clothing, jewelry, sculptures, coffee, guitars, quilts, garden-inspired creations and more.

A free raffle will also be afoot at the fest, as will be an “Upcycle Art Contest.” Artists of all ages can submit their upcycled artwork to the contest up until 11 a.m. Saturday. During the fest, people will vote on their favorite artworks, with several brackets (TBD the day-of) for winning prizes. Per Harrison, “artistic or functional art is welcome” and artists should email her at [email protected] for more info on the contest.

Among those selling their creations will be Richmond’s own Sophia Stilphen (jewelry); CJ Grossman (upcycled garden jewelry); Steve Zwetsch (of El Sobrante—cigar box guitars); and the anonymous Beer Can Monolith Creator, who has crafted caseloads of local beer can pyramids and who will be making an archway for the event with Fieldwork, Bare Bottle and assorted cans. The artist’s Gilman pyramid and Armistice triangle creations will also be displayed at the fest.

Fest organizer Katie Harrison with her beer can succulents. (Photo contributed)

Other artists from Albany, El Cerrito and Berkeley will also be on hand, including renowned 83-year-old muralist/painter Edythe Boone, who will also be selling her upcycled work. Nonprofits including El Cerrito Progressives, A.B.O. Comix and the Berkeley Humane Thrift Shop will additionally be in the mix.

According to Harrison, the fest is “a fun outdoor event to promote imaginative ways of reusing/upcycling/repurposing what might otherwise be single-use materials, refuse, garbage, etc.” She also sees it as a chance to educate people on sustainable living and to create a safe space for exchanging ideas about “how to make this world a truly better place for ourselves, each other and future generations to come.” 

Harrison’s interest in upcycling arose after she was “literally grounded” from her job as a flight attendant for a major airline during the pandemic. Needing planters to support her burgeoning interest in succulents, she began removing the tops of beer cans to create planters. The end result? Harrison built a side business—Beer Can Gardens—where she sells her plants in upcycled beer cans. She hopes to continue selling her creations when she returns to her airline job in November and will also be selling her work Saturday at the fest via an upcycle collective booth.

Harrison said she was inspired to take her passion for upcycling next-level when she encountered Raes of Sun’s vendor booth at another event. The artist had such a beautiful way of upcycling her works that Harrison was moved to organize her own related event.

And as for the “harvest” part of the UPcycle {harvest} Fest’s name, Harrison said it’s the event’s theme. “Harvest represents the gathering of all of our resources, creativity and thoughtfulness to actively work towards a better, more beautiful and sustainable world,” she said.

Find out more about the fest here.

Quilted letters made by Megan Ann (IG @lifeofmegananne). Photo courtesy of Katie Harrison.
A beer can pyramid by Richmond’s anonymous Beer Can Monolith creator. Photo courtesy of Katie Harrison.
Quilted letters made by Megan Ann (IG @lifeofmegananne). Photo courtesy of Katie Harrison.
Richmond artist CJ Grossman’s upcycled garden jewelry. Photo courtesy of Katie Harrison.