THE work has been heralded as modern art, revered as historical documents, even likened to jazz rendered in fabric scraps. Now, after 2 1/2 years of touring, an exhibit of quilts made by four generations of African American women in rural Alabama finally arrives in California. "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" will make its only West Coast appearance July 15 to Nov. 26 at San Francisco's De Young Museum. "In the 1930s, this was one of the poorest communities in the U.S.," says Jill d'Alessandro, associate curator of textiles. "You look at quilts from that period, and they are beautiful and moving. The inner strength and the aesthetic of the women are incredible." (415) 863-3330, www.thinker.org/deyoung/index.asp or www.quiltsofgeesbend.com.
-- Craig Nakano
Placemats with a twist
In three villages in Nepal, families collect potato chip bags and snack food wrappers, then wash and weave them into bowls, baskets and placemats. The project, run by the nonprofit Spiral Foundation, recycles nonbiodegradable waste while raising money for healthcare and education. The placemats here come in a set of six, with a lidded box, for $120 at Lost & Found Etc. in Hollywood, (323) 856-5872.
-- David A. Keeps
Run your fingers over this new countertop, and you'd never guess that it's recycled paper. The PaperStone Certified surface blocks water, resists stains and can withstand heat up to 350 degrees, according to manufacturer KlipTech Composites, which combines recycled paper (100% post-consumer waste) with an environmentally friendly resin derived from cashew-nut shell liquid. "In the past three years, interest in environmentally friendly building products has grown exponentially," says Joel Klippert, KlipTech founder. "Mainstream Americans, not just old school tree huggers, want to make a difference." (360) 538-9815, www.paperstoneproducts.com.
-- Craig Nakano
Post-consumer, shiny and chic
At Viva Terra, catalog shopping goes earth-friendly. Case in point: Bark vases and Branch candlesticks, shown below, molded in recycled aluminum. Fine detailing re-creates the delicacy of birch in each vase, sold individually in two heights, 10 inches ($110) and 16 inches ($169). The candlesticks come as a pair -- one 16 inches, the other 20 inches ($159 for both). Viva Terra's other finds include dinnerware made of recycled glass and Asian-inspired benches crafted from old wine barrel staves. Stylishly stitched black rubber containers started their lives as discarded tires and are appropriately named Forty-Thousand-Mile Baskets. (800) 233-6011, www.vivaterra.com.
-- Craig Nakano
Where red is green
Tucked inside an aging affordable-housing complex on the outskirts of Chinatown lies a bright new surprise: a decidedly modern courtyard surfaced in recycled rubber and designed by students at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. They covered an old courtyard with a wood skeleton and thin concrete shell topped with rubber, providing a soft, undulating surface for tai chi and cookouts. The project was the brainchild of SCI-Arc community programs coordinator Michael Pinto and SCI-Arc graduate Noel Toro, who works for affordable communities developer LINC Housing. Under the guidance of faculty member Alexis Rochas, students crafted a space that is otherworldly yet inviting -- and eco-friendly.
-- Times staff