Chapter 1: Crispiness…

A dozen or so years ago, I was in a rough place. I had a job I loved, doing incredibly important and fulfilling work, and… I. Was. Crispy. I was working for a local non-profit and focused on improving our community’s response to domestic violence – ideally ending domestic violence in our county. No pressure.

Part of my job was giving ALL the presentations to just about anyone who would sit still long enough to hear our message. What an incredible gift when I had the chance to present at a yoga studio to about 40 beautifully patient and empathetic yogis. Among them was Sami Aaron, founder of The Resilient Activist.

She was volunteering with our agency, providing yoga nidra for our clients… and she saw all that I was carrying. Sami’s capacity to hold space for hurt and to help see and lay out a path to resilience is a finely honed skill. I know I am not alone in experiencing that gift of hers.

Sami introduced me to yoga, helped me tune into myself, and set me on a journey to growing my resilience. I made a lot of changes in my life as a result. It’s a path I’ll forever be walking, and I feel grateful to have more tools at my disposal than I did then.

I’ve been a victim advocate now for over twenty years. In doing this hard work, it’s been deeply important for me to find ways to metabolize the trauma I take in. Yoga and meditation are part of that for me. Another important resilience tool that has also been a wildly effective way for me to feel purpose and release is crafting. So much of victim advocacy is heavy and ongoing. I don’t feel a lot of completion/resolve – there are constant, open loops, even in great progress. Crafting brings such peace as it is tangible. I can see the impact, and it has a clear and distinct end. Completing projects is uniquely fulfilling because so little in the rest of my world comes with a tidy bow.

Chapter 2: Finding my medium

I’ve always been crafty: knitting, scrapbooking, needlework, sewing, beading, and whatever else I could get my paws on… I’ve played with different materials and have always been drawn to upcycling. I love creating something new and interesting out of what could have been trash. I love mending clothes and the resistance to fast fashion. I prefer to pull from my existing stash, rather than purchasing new materials.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

I’m also horrified by the wild amount of plastic in our world.
Single-use plastic is literally everywhere and one of the biggest and most visible culprits is plastic grocery bags.
A lot of people have a stock of reusable bags and may even be super dedicated to using their reusable bags (even remembering to actually bring them to the grocery store!), and yet… So. Much. Plastic.

Audrey’s Recycled Bags

Last holiday season, I got a wild hair to craft gifts for my family. I wanted to create something intentional in a season so full of stuff. It seemed a great space to play with upcycling – to see how these absolutely everywhere plastic bags could get a new life. So, I gathered different bags. Grocery bags, bread bags, wrapping from toilet paper/paper towels, restaurant takeout bags, etc. Once I started collecting, it was bonkers to see how many plastic bags come through our pretty intentional home.

I cleaned the bags and ironed layers together to form a sort of “fabric.” Then I sewed in a zipper and the end result is a durable little bag! In playing with different patterns, I’ve settled on a small makeup bag size that can be created from two grocery-size bags with almost no waste. I’ve had such fun creating them and it has become a powerful piece of my process to metabolize stress. Processing “trash” in this way is energizing and positive for me and it is a great way to bring my crafty and my advocate identities
into alignment.

Chapter 3: Building awareness of our dependence on single-use plastics

I didn’t anticipate the reaction from friends and family! Folks love these little bags and have enjoyed seeing the ways a tortilla bag or potato bag transform into a great little pouch for your stuffs. The people around me have also started collecting bags. It’s incredible to see the diversity of plastic that comes through our hands and the awareness collecting it creates. Many have expressed the same surprise I felt when I first started paying more attention to the source material: it’s EVERYWHERE. I can say with confidence that I have rescued a heck of a lot of plastic from landfills or litter, just by increasing the awareness of plastic in my little network.

This little resilience project has grown into a very tiny business – AUD Bags (Audrey’s Upcycled Designs). It has been a wonderful journey of creating and metabolizing my own stress. It’s also been a great way for me to share the impact of The Resilient Activist. A portion of all AUD Bags sales is donated to TRA. After hearing more about the great work of TRA, stores where AUD Bags are sold have opted to match donations (Check out the Less is More Lawrence, KS store).

Audrey’s Upcycled Designs

Audrey Cress

Audrey is an advocate, committed to making the world safer and a little more whimsical. She and her husband live in Lawrence, Kansas, and spend an inordinate amount of time being walked by their sweet dog, Desmond. Audrey loves crafting, reading, connecting with friends and family, and having an impact on our community. Follow for more info about her upcycling journey.