Some of the best ideas hit when least expected. That’s what happened to me. A friend’s family came over for dinner and brought their food in a cool looking bag that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. I had never seen the sort of odd, but super durable material the bag was made of in this country or during any of my travels. “It’s just fused recycled plastic bags that have been ironed together,” they explained.
It was love at first sight. Within an hour of the family leaving our house, I had run into my studio and started ironing whatever plastic bags I could find around the house. I took the empty bread bags and tortilla bags, the bags our newspaper is delivered in, and bags I’d saved from shopping trips to clothing and shoe stores. I even had old plastic bags from my travels to places like Vietnam, Africa, Guatemala and France.
The early recycled tote bags, recycled purses, recycled handbags and recycled wallets I made were not so great. But I kept experimenting until I came up with a process that really worked.
This wasn’t the first time I had gotten interested in making things. My grandmother, Bella, taught me how to sew when I was a little girl. I loved sitting with her at the dining room table. We’d lug the heavy metal sewing machine from the 1950s up onto the table—no easy task—lay down the fabric, lower the presser foot and needle and zoooooommmmmm, we’d be off and sewing.
My grandmother, a holocaust survivor, was an haute couture seamstress who had practiced her craft in France after the war. She carefully pinned and basted every single pattern piece to her fabric, cut it carefully, and made sure there was little to no waste. I had no patience for this level of perfectionism. I just wanted to sew straight and fast. Little did I know how her lessons would later prompt some of my most creative upcycling ideas.
In 1991, I founded the original Sara Bella*, which I named after my grandmother. Our company’s philosophy was to utilize high-quality craftsmanship and top-grade materials to produce exuberant Polartec© and Polarfleece designs that appealed to both kids and adults. But I needed to tap the artist in me. So in 2010, Sara Bella* Upcycled was formed, this time with a greater mission: to hand-craft environmentally friendly and artistic goods and to share our unique and positively non-technical upcycling process with people in the United States as well as abroad.
Today, all of our work is done in honor of the earth. Our upcycled products are 95% recycled plastic bags and banners that would otherwise have been tossed into a landfill. The only parts of our products that aren’t made of trash are the thread and the metal fittings, the zippers and nylon webbing straps, and the plastic clips.
Thank you for your interest in our handmade, upcycled products and in supporting our efforts to decrease trash, clean up the earth, and save countless birds and marine life from the growing volumes of plastic that end up in the earth’s oceans every year.