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Meet Your Neighbors: Johnson City couple embraces DIY culture and eco-friendliness through creative endeavors

Kayla Carter • Aug 5, 2013 at 1:41 PM

With their do-it-yourself powers combined, one Johnson City couple buys up neglected and forgotten records that have been wasting away in thrift store basements and turns them into unique and custom time pieces.

Johnson City residents Ari Peters, 22, originally from Florida, and native Justin Tipton, 26, create many forms of mixed media art separately, but making quirky clocks out of recycled vinyl records brings them together.

Peters said she likes to cut out the clock shapes every now and then, but Tipton has done the majority of the pieces that were on display at Earth Fare recently.

“She will design them and I cut out the rough part of it,” Tipton said. “She does the finishing work on them.”

“It is a tag-team effort,” Peters said.

To make the clocks, which Peters said they have been making for about a year, the first step is selecting the right records to use for each project.

Some people have requested they find a certain record, but the records used in most pre-made clocks are hand picked by them.

A template is made before the record’s new purpose is cut out by hand.

“We don’t use anything other than a Dremel tool,” Peters said.

The next step in the process is sanding down and reheating the edges so they are no longer rigid.

After that, the clock backs are installed to complete the record’s renovation.

“It’s really hard to make them perfect,” Peters said.

Regardless, Peters said slight imperfections are what make handmade items novel and, similar to themselves, unique.

Tipton and Peters agree that making items by hand is more gratifying and they frown upon how society has taken a liking to creating shortcuts for mass market productions.

“You just get more heart into it and also imperfections,” Peters said. “Even though it sucks sometimes because you want it to be perfect, it’s just more like, ‘Oh, a human made this and not a machine,’ ”

Peters said that using an all-purpose rotary tool on old vinyl can be hazardous to their health, if certain precautions are not taken, such as wearing a face mask and not cutting out the shapes in a confined space.

Heating old vinyl made with polyvinyl chloride in an oven to make bowls, which has recently become a trend, releases phthalates and dioxin, which are known carcinogens, according to an Etsy forum post online.

Peters said she refuses to make the bowls for that reason, but takes precautions because shavings from the records she uses for the clocks are also dangerous to inhale when the clock designs are being cut on them.

Along with the clocks, Peters and Tipton can make custom coffee table coasters out of the center of any record.

“I grew up listening to records and music has always been a passion for us,” Peters said. “We’ll always listen to a record before we cut it.”

Both working full-time jobs, Tipton and Peters find time for other hobbies like photography, which they both went to college to study, and screen printing.

Tipton personally likes to make handmade bike frames, while Peters is busy playing various instruments, including the accordion, selling vintage clothing online, creating graphics and web pages and painting some of her favorite musicians’ portraits.

“I really like the idea of contour drawings, watercolor and mixed media all in one,” Peters said. “Painting is not really one of my strong points, but I guess when you just kind of have fun with it, it just flows. We’re like jack of all trades in this house.”

Peters said she is searching for a place to hang all of her art and even vintage clothing, which she finds, along with the records used for clocks, in various cities she travels to with Tipton.

Peters is working toward securing a booth at a place like Nelson Fine Art Gallery, which would help her to showcase her artistic talent and keen eye for selecting vintage threads.

Instead of using their crafts as supplemental income, eventually the couple would like to incorporate them into their own shop, which would highlight both of their main passions — vintage clothing and handmade bike frames.

Despite her timid nature, Peters said she would like to get her name and face out more in the public domain.

To shop Peters’ recycled vinyl, crafty trinkets and vintage finds online visit her Etsy store, which is named after her pseudonym Dainty Mouse Vintage.

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