Our friend Sara Basehart has a life that's rich in art, fashion and creativity. Sustainability and up-cycling plays a part in all aspects of her life -- home, business and art -- and she lives with panache! We're happy to have a chance to interview her for the blog.
Escama: You live in Taos, NM. What’s it like? It seems like it has its own thing going on, far removed from the hipster circuit of Portland, Austin, San Francisco, Brooklyn. How do you describe Taos?
Taos Pueblo, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sara: Taos is unique in many ways. Nestled at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains it’s a mesa crossed by deep gorges and sagebrush, with a sky so wide open the sunsets often empty restaurants. Diners are drawn outside to stare at the sky in amazement as it fills with colors too intense to describe with mere words. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, we still see enough snow that our ski valley is world famous. Culturally, we are diverse with strong influences from the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and creative influences from Spain, Mexico, and over a hundred years of being an art colony. But my favorite thing about Taos is how it is so genuine, so real, in a world where so many people feel stifled, Taos sets you free to be anything you can imagine.
Escama: Is that where you’re originally from or did it pull you in?
Sara: I am originally from Oxford, Mississippi. If there was an opposite to Taos this might be it. I grew up as a reluctant Southerner in a community that really wished I would just stop being so weird. Luckily, my mom saw the creative potential in me and always encouraged me to embrace opportunity. A year abroad in high school changed my life when I realized there was a whole world out there. I got back off that plane in MS with a blue Mohawk and a big smile on my face as my small town collectively had an aneurysm at the sight of me. I knew then that I’d be leaving the South behind. It took until after college, but I stumbled into Taos, NM in 1991 and it was like coming home. Hard to describe it, but imagine an inexplicable desire to weep with joy because you are so alive, so happy, so overwhelmed with the potential of each new day…I still feel that way after 24 years.
Escama: You have your own shop there, Seconds Eco Store. Do you have a particular fascination with recycled things?
Sara: My husband, (the pioneering Earthship fabricator, Phil Basehart) and I built our own home out on the mesa west of Taos. It is called an Earthship -- an off grid house constructed of recycled materials. They are common in this area, and there are hundreds of them the world over. Instead of trying to explain them, I’ll just say you can find more information at www.earthship.com. So, we spent years building our beautiful recycled house and as we grew up and had babies I stopped working my more conventional jobs and began crafting at home and costuming for our local schools. At some point I had an epiphany that I should be doing everything with recycled materials and it caused an explosion of creativity in my life. The concept of my store started as a secret dream, one I talked of only to my husband always starting with “Someday…” After 9 years of dreaming about it, I finally found the right space to pursue it and now we are in our 6th year of business!
Example of an Earthship in Taos, New Mexico
Escama: Your shop, Seconds Eco sells cool recycled products (including Escama purses and apparel) but you also have a broader mission with your shop, an educational component?
Sara: Our mission is to bring the fun back into being green. To help people see that recycled also means clean new products made from old materials. We also have a strong element of solar power to many items in the store, from solar toys and lights to radiometers and solar chargers. Ideally we’d like to do crafting classes and workshops, but haven’t gotten that far yet. I realized soon after opening that the administrative duties of keeping a store open and running would severely limit my crafting time, and one of the ways I deal with that is to teach people how to make the things I wish I had time to do, provide them with the materials, and then buy back the finished product. That way we can spread a little bit of our success around our community and enable people to make a little side income when they have complicated lives.
Escama: Now comes the big question…. Your interest in recycling doesn’t stop there, you also create fashion out of trash (“trashion”), right?
Escama: That’s awesome. When I was a kid in elementary school I glued macaroni bow tie pasta to a Cambell’s soup can and then spray painted it silver. (it’s a family heirloom and who knows, it may have been the earliest inspiration for Escama Studio). Do you have one thing that you can remember that got you interested in creating fashion from trash, ‘trashion’?
Sara: It was watching all the creativity on the runway at the Glam Trash Fashion Show. In a town full of artists, you can imagine the incredible outfits. It was inspiring and intimidating at the same time. I had always altered my clothing, ever since I learned to sew when I was around 8 years old, and I always made my own Halloween costumes too, but creating high couture in unexpected alternative materials wasn’t on my list until watching the GTFS (here's a video to give a sense of what it's all about).
Escama: I did a Google search on the word ‘trashion’ and I was amazed to see that there are ‘trashion’ fashion shows and contests all over the place – from Hawaii to Alaska and internationally. It's has overlap to a show we've written about previously called the WOW World of Wearable Art. How deep into it are you? Do you just do the Trashion show in Taos NM or do you also travel and compete?
Sara: At this point, I do try to make one outstanding piece and compete within NM in order to try and win cash prizes to bring home and use as cash prizes in our own contest. I’m sure it would make more sense to most people to write grants and apply for donations or something, but I don’t know how to do that. Last year I managed to win $1000 in varied contests. And I did try to apply for the world famous World of Wearable Art contest in New Zealand, but I filled out the application last minute as I was boarding a plane to Mexico for an adventure and I was disqualified because I rushed and didn’t follow all the application instructions. I still had a great time in Mexico though!
Escama: I’ve heard of the Art Car Parade in Houston (we sell to the Beer Can House / Orange Show Center for the Visual Arts) is there any overlap with ‘Trashion’ fashion people and Art Car people??
Sara: That, I do not know. Not here anyways.
Escama: Where are some of the ‘must go’ places / events in the world of ‘Trashion’?
Sara: I’m still a small town girl. I would have to say Taos’ Glam Trash Fashion Show is the best one ever, anywhere. But that’s just my opinion.
Escama: Okay, finally, can you share some of the best ‘Trashion’ pieces that you have created, or show some outstanding pieces that you have seen?
Sara: With pleasure! These are all mine, but there are many, many incredible outfits all over the internet by artists from all over the world.