ruby the resourceress

After admiring her work for many years and volunteering together at Master Food Preserver events, I met up with Ruby the Resourceress at the recycling camp for the Yujin Gakuen Japanese Immersion School last month, to see her in action.  Jeanne Mandrapa-sensei had a wonderful program for these kids, doing Japanese and other crafts while teaching them in Japanese. And she brought in Ruby and her Lady Pirate to make danger flowers, garden sculpture using snipped lids of jars mounted on old wire clotheshangers.

Danger flowers got their name from the edges, of course.  Plant them before they plant you, says Ruby.

Ruby’s recycling projects can be seen all over town.  She’s known for found art, or rather, art made out of discarded items she has gathered.  I love her clocks made out of cans and her snake friend, who smells savory like garlic thanks to its body made out of lids from artichoke and olive jars. She also makes jewelery out of bottle caps (the kids did these):

Ruby Collette is a homeless activist as well as an artist and writer (and former homeless person herself, though she now has a pretty sweet hand-built mobile setup).  She writes an occasional column for Eugene Daily News, tackling the eco-haves and havenots, urban homesteader hypocrisy, food eliminations, and other liberal sacred cows.  I like having her voice out there — she keeps us honest.

If you’d like to see more of Ruby’s work and even learn how to make the crafts yourself, please contact her at or visit her at these upcoming shows and festivals:

Cracked Pots Art Show (
July 19-20, Troutdale

Next Step’s ReArt Festival (
August 7, Eugene

BRING Birthday Bash  (
July 24, Eugene

Better yet, bring along some of your jar lids.  She sent me a list of her favorites for crafts:

What kind of jar lids does Ruby love? First, it has to be metal, not plastic. What make a lid cool? Even in trash, the rare ones are the most valuable. Pink and purple are the hardest colors to find, lime green also. I even have a hard time finding red and orange at times.Any kind of design on the side of the lid will show up on the petals. The center of the lid usually gets covered up with the smallest lid and the pop rivet flange. So the color and patterns on the edges are the most important.

  • Safeway’s select salsa, medium
  • Marmalade with black and white stripes
  • Smucker’s jam (gingham lids)
  • Goober PB and Jelly (lovely striped lavender and purple lids)
  • Mezzetta olives
  • Kroger Pimentos
  • Bonne Maman Jams
  • Hero Jam—Beautiful fruit on lids!
  • Amir Jam—same as above
  • Welches’ Grape drink or jam
  • Ovaltine, orange lid
  • Rose’s Lime Juice
  • Twist-off booze and wine caps
  • Salsa, Amy’s salsa, any with bright lids
  • Hainich brand
  • Hengstenberg red cabbage with apple
  • Round candy tins—willy wonka candy has purple, European ones have fruit
  • Vlasic Pickles—beautiful shade of blue
  • Nalley pickles and relishes—great yellow
  • Yohoo chocolate drink
  • Cap’n Eli’s soda
  • Looks like orange soda
  • Jack Black soda
  • Aicha olives, pickles, capers—cool Moroccan design
  • Skippy Peanut Butter—edge design
  • Miracle whip
  • NuMade Mayo
  • Adam’s Peanut Butter
  • Oysters
  • Ortega salsa
  • Star products
  • Foxhorn Vineyards wine cap
  • Iris wine (the “I” is an eye)
  • Knudsen juice spritzer
  • Abacela wine
  • Our Daily Red
  • Abacela wine
  • Powers winery
  • Brasserie D’Achouffe beer (gnome on bottlecap, one of my faves)
  • Izze, both bottlecaps and twist off lids on larger sizes