Artist gives old materials new lives
April 17, 2018
Former Park City resident Lauren Weliczka designs handbags, shoes and other accessories.
She uses reclaimed objects, called upcycled materials, and especially likes working with fire hoses.
"There are many different types of fire hoses," Weliczka said. "So I cut them open to see the different layers of tubes. Most of the time the inside is rubber-lined, and the outside material can be sewn more easily."
Usually Weliczka will make doormats and log carriers out of the rubber, and turn the outside weaving into bags.
One memorable bag was made for a woman whose partner, a firefighter, had passed away due to illness.
"I was given a fire hose from the Boston Fire Department," said Weliczka, who also spells her last name Williska for business purposes. "It was new, so it was so stiff and so hard to work with. I remember having to boil it to make it more malleable, and while it took longer than I anticipated, it was the coolest project I have ever done."
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Samples of Weliczka's works can be found at Artique, 283 Main St. in Kamas. The boutique is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Hours extend to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.
While Weliczka also makes limited edition leather bags, she enjoys working with the reclaimed materials.
"The upcycled products are made from materials that are found here in the United States," she said. "I've always loved the process of making something from materials that were originally used for something else. When those initial purposes end, I would try to figure out a new purpose for these materials, because that's how my brain works."
Much of Weliczka's work is done through trial and error.
"I make a lot of prototypes, because the materials are always different," she said.
She once made shoes out of Kevlar and carbon fiber.
"That was a huge challenge, because the material was so strong," Weliczka said. "It was hard to bend and mold."
Weliczka just didn't wake up one night and decide she was going to make bags and shoes.
"I tell people that I've always been a maker, but a maker in disguise," she said. "I moved out to Park City from upstate New York because, and I hate this term, I was a ski bum. So I was a maker disguised as a ski bum for many years."
Weliczka also owned a campground in New York.
"So I was a maker disguised as a campground owner," she said.
Her creative soul eventually took over and she uprooted from Park City, where she worked at Park City Mountain Resort,to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
From there, Weliczka applied for and got accepted into a master's program in footwear, bag and accessory design in Florence, Italy.
"I was there for 10 months learning shoemaking and bag design from, who I think, are the best shoe and bag designers in the world," she said.
Weliczka returned to Park City Mountain while she decided how to start her own business.
"I enjoy what I did in the ski industry, but now, I don't wake up to an alarm clock, and I am able to work from home," she said.
Weliczka is grateful to Artique owner Katie Stellpflug, who she calls her oldest friend in Park City.
"I met her in 2002 when we worked at a cafe, and we've been friends ever since," Weliczka said. "She's done a great job at Artique."
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