When Marina Williams tosses a to-go cup in the trash, her brain ticks.
Wait . . .
"I need to wash that out and put it in bag B, because I'm going to see that person on Thursday," she said.
Williams, founder of St. Petersburg's ARTpool Gallery, is getting ready for Saturday's Trashion Fashion show. It's the fourth year for the show, which celebrates all things recycled and features more than 20 designers.
They're young, full-time artists. They're hobbyists. Or they're second-time-arounders like 83-year-old Katherine Wagner, who made a flapper dress out of newspapers. Williams nurtures their seedling sketches, helping the designs become fully realized and outrageous. She collects trash everywhere and offers it up.
"We are here to be a sounding board if they need some help," said Williams, 26. "That's my vision. We want to be approachable. We want the process of making art to be fun."
Williams is St. Petersburg's indie art queen, an avid repurposer known to wear whole Polaroid cameras on her head. She has sported a gown made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and a bustier made of Skittles. In her gallery recently, she wore a Trashion Fashion necklace assembled entirely from old Scrabble tiles.
She graduated from New College in Sarasota, then went to graduate school in London where she immersed herself in the underground art scene. She didn't have formal fashion training. Her earliest creations included a dress cobbled together from neckties, and another from vintage photographs.
"I liked working with these materials where you didn't have to put them through a sewing machine," she said.
When she came home to St. Petersburg, the options for creative people were anemic.
"There were very few indie art venues for people my age," she said. "I found it challenging as an artist to find people who would buy my work or follow me."
She opened ARTpool in 2008, renting out wall space to local and national artists and letting them keep all the profits. Trashion Fashion was her very first show. Its success led to a string of more than 50 productions, as well as a strong vintage clothing and art business at her shop on First Avenue N.
Her mother, Becky, is right by her side, helping her organize, send e-mails, clean the shop. Williams has a network of friends who band together with potluck dinners and all-nighters to help her prepare for the monthly art shows.
Trashion Fashion remains one of her biggest projects, and it keeps growing. This year, she has introduced an 80-page color coffee-table book featuring the designs. It's an exciting keepsake for community artists, some of whom have never had their work printed for posterity.
The designs, too, are more ambitious. They incorporate sheet metal, glass, bicycle inner tubes, air mattresses, grass fertilizer bags and beach umbrellas. One dress fashioned from plastic bottles was inspired by Chihuly blown glass art.
Williams hopes guests will wear their own recycled fashion to the show. Start small, she said. Make a purse out of a hollowed book, or attach battery-powered LED lights under your skirt.
"You definitely have plenty of materials at your own house," she said. "You don't have to be a fashion designer. You don't have to have sewing skills. You just have to have a little imagination."
And if you don't, no worries. Since she's all about helping spark creation, the first 200 guests will get a complimentary bow tie or a hair bow made out of newspaper.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.