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Hidden treasures

August 18, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

TYLER - One day Deb Mikkelsen of rural Tyler got three boxes of old records from a friend. "She brought me three boxes of records from the '20s and '30s," Mikkelsen said. Mikkelsen wondered what to do with the old 78s, so she went on Pinterest, an online pinboard where users can post interesting things they see on the Internet, for ideas. But the recipe she found to melt old records into bowls wouldn't work with the records from the 1920s and 1930s.

"I had to come up with something to do with them, I had three boxes of records," Mikkelsen said.

That's where she came up with a new plan for the sturdy 78s - making them into other items, such as a cake plate or a decorative flower.

Article Photos

Photo by Cindy Votruba

Deb Mikkelsen has used many different items to create new pieces, such as license plates for the roofs of birdhouses, old records into bowls and flowers out of license plates.

In her spare time, the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Elementary School fourth-grade teacher has turned old items into something new, decorative or useful under the name Deb's Creations. Several of her creations are found at Italy Ava in Marshall and Countryside Nursery in Lake Benton. She's also making items for the upcoming Harvest in High Heels event in October in Tyler.

Melting the old records into something new and different was a "fluke," Mikkelsen said.

"I spent two days making a mess of records," she said.

To melt records in order to make a bowl, Mikkelsen used two glass bowls, putting the record on the top of one. Setting the oven for 200 degrees, she'd put the bowl and the record in the oven on a cookie sheet. As soon as the record started drooping, it is taken out of the oven and another, larger bowl is put on top and it is flipped over.

Mikkelsen's also put old sweaters to use, buying two big trashbags of sweaters from both the Marshall and Brookings, S.D. Goodwills. For the past three years, she's made scarves out of sweaters. Then she learned a pattern to make mittens out of the sweaters.

"Last winter, I was just gonna do 10, I did 50," Mikkelsen said. "From January to April, my dining room became my 'scrap sweater' room. The mess was already there, that's why it continued."

Making the mittens was relatively simple, Mikkelsen said, as there are only three pieces - the front, the thumb and the palm. Then the pieces, which can be from up to four different sweaters, were sewn together. She then had to do the same with the fleece lining.

But Mikkelsen's recycling of items and creating decor isn't new to her. She started about 20 years ago when she was teaching at the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Middle School. One of her co-teachers, Pat McGill, needed some help with some decorations at home. Mikkelsen had learned how to make bows for a Christmas wreath. She also took some of those items to the autumn boutique in Slayton.

And Mikkelsen's always used old stuff in her creations - graters, coffee pots, milk cans.

"That's really my thing," she said, which is making something "pretty" out of an antique item.

Mikkelsen said sometimes ideas will come to her while she's trying to sleep. Then she'll wake up the next day and act on that idea saying, "oh, I can do that."

Many of Mikkelsen's creations are around her house and yard - birdhouses where she used old license plates for the roof, flowers made from old license plates, an antique panel she found at the Brookings Arts Festival that she turned into a clock.

"To me, it's not junk," she said, adding that some of the pieces she's found have held up better than things she's bought new in the last decade.

Mikkelsen's even found a use for old purses, placing a plant inside. And it grows, she said, as one is in her backyard.

"Trailing petunias work really well," she said.



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