Francie Hansen is a ball of energy.
“I went swimming and then Zumba and then went for a walk,” she said before sitting down in my office and placing large rings with bright stones on each of her fingers and attaching a hairband with colorful streamers to her hair.
Mark Cunningham says it best when he describes Hansen as “artwork herself.”
Perhaps that’s why Hansen has spent five summers organizing the Trashion Fashion Show at the County Fair, which gives people a creative outlet to turn recycled items into a dazzling outfit.
“You’re going to have a good time, strut your stuff,” Hansen said. “And its fun to be looking at things you would be throwing away in a new way, seeing they have value.”
This may be Hansen’s last year as head organizer.
“We’re pulling out all the stops this year,” she said.
Hansen gave me a few hints to the new additions this year, like an elevated stage and two helpful and handsome young men to escort contestants.
Hansen seems to find enthusiasm in whatever she is doing, from the Trashion Fashion Show, to her days teaching in inner city schools in California to her travels to places like India and Mongolia. During her travels she was inspired by the creative way people reused various items.
“We are such a throw away society. I like to turn peoples dials so they look at things,” Hansen said. “We often discard things that maybe have value. I was brought up by my mom, who used to say, ‘rub two nickels to get a dime.’”
As a teacher, Hansen would visit the local dumps and find things for art, like parts of a telephone or plastic containers with lids.
“I guess my big thing is that we’re all just going along,” she said. “Sometimes we need to get reprogrammed.”
The Trashion Fashion Show is one way for Hansen to “reprogram” people to think about recycling in a whole new light.
Hansen, Penny Torkington and Harriet Keces started the show five years ago. Keces still works as the backstage manager and Hansen calls herself the “pom-pom girl.”
“I cajole them, bake brownies, make promises I shouldn’t keep,” Hansen said about how she gets people to participate.
Cunningham describes Hansen as one of “the world’s greatest people and the driving force behind the show. Without her energy this show would not happen.”
Two years ago, Cunningham collected about 1,000 wine corks, attached them to his clothes and posed as a “floatable” golfer afraid to fall into the water.
Other memorable participants include Steve Porten, who wrapped a hose around his body and attached a faucet at the top and called himself Farrall Faucet.
Beth Helstein collected cigarette butts one year and glued them to her shorts.
“It smelled pretty bad,” said Helstein, whose outfit made the statement don’t litter or smoke. Another year, her outfit was “information overload” made of cassette tape streamers and a shirt of old CDs.
“I want people to be creative,” said Hansen. “I’m dying for someone at the post office to be junk mail or someone to make an outfit out of trashy books. People should have fun with themselves.”
Cunningham is coming back to the show this year because — “I’m a ‘cunning ham.’ I don’t mind being ridiculous, it has its place in the world and it’s just too much fun.”
For Hansen, the event is a time to let loose and enjoy life without spending too much money.
“I am constantly inspired by things that people toss. I grew up in Beverly Hills and I know money doesn’t buy you love,” said Hansen. “Find some joy in simple things.”
Hansen is still looking for more participants in this year’s show and now is the time to begin creating your own original recycled outfit.