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Turning Trash into Treasure: Norb Smerecki & Agi Smerecka on upcycling, insipration, and the oc

As many of us know, the best way to contribute to the wider health of our environment is to

simply use less. Yet, life is fraught with little obstacles that make minimizing our consumption difficult. So we do our best, and we probably follow the familiar “reduce, reuse, recycle” adage when possible. But, inevitably as human beings, we still create waste. One possible contribution to reducing waste is through upcycling – a concept AMCC business members Norb Smerecki and Agi Smerecka, owners of Kettu and crafters of upcycled bags and accessories, utilize in their business. To gather further insight into their business and ethos we poised a few questions about their creative process, their perspective on upcycling/recycling, and their connection to the ocean.

To see Kettu’s current creations please visit the online store.

Are you interested in becoming a business member?  Check out AMCC’s business member page.


“We love salmon. Salmon love healthy oceans. We love oceans. We are all connected.”

– Norb Smerecki and Agi Smerecka


Q: What inspired your creations and products?

A: Simple answer is Alaska. This is a great land in which raw beauty is displayed in abundance. There is so much to explore. All this open space invites one to come in and enjoy it. It is therefore easy to get inspired just by living here. When you are away from noise and chaos creativity has a tendency to storm your mind. You are influenced by natural surroundings and energized to create.

Q: Why recycle/upcycle? And how do you incorporate your business ethos of contributing to a healthy environment into your own wider life?

 A: Upcycling is really an old concept, which has been practiced by mankind for a long time. Before throwing it away, look at something with a new perspective. Chances are that what was bound to become useless scrap will turn into useful treasure. Upcycling/recycling is so important because we generate way too much waste. Taking some of this stuff out of our environment and giving it another life is a win for everyone.

Our daily life includes a lot of upcycling, which happens in our sewing shop. At home we upcycle, recycle, eat organic and local foods, and spend hours enjoying outdoors. The connection with environment is ever present. When you are part of something so grand you want to do something to help it to stay that way. You want to preserve it.

Q: In your mission statement you note that part of the unique nature of your items is derived from the story of its past. What is your favorite story behind a material you use or an item you have crafted?

 A: Our story begins with a couple of bike tubes, a sewing machine, and an idea. We started out sewing mainly out of bike tubes. Gradually, with time we introduced other materials and combined them into finished products. When we were doing our hybrid backpack project we fused four repurposed materials together: bike tubes, truck tube, fire hose, and wet suit. Each material had its own story. In our minds we imagined their past life. Bike tubes perhaps on a long trek on Seward Highway. Fire hose from local Homer fire station was used to put out a number of fires… brave fire fighters who used it. Truck tube had its share of heavy hauling. Maybe a hardy surfer braved cold Alaskan waters in search of the best wave while wearing this suit. This backpack will take all of its history into a new adventure wherever it will go.

Q: What is your connection to the ocean? And why do you feel stewardship of our ocean and our environment is important?

A: We can’t imagine Alaska without it’s magnificent coastline. Each morning when we open the curtains Kachemak Bay greets us with a new and fresh visual treat. We play on the local beaches. Whenever we go away we miss it immensely. The ocean sustains life. It is a home to many forms of life. The ocean is a source of valuable food. We love salmon. Salmon love healthy oceans. We love oceans. We are all connected.

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