“Turning trash into gold is what feeds me. Refining unused materials and castaways into something beautiful and wearable is a challenge that rewards me endlessly. It’s also a joy to know that throughout the process of finding a new life for something, I’m also helping to limit my impact, especially in an industry as wasteful as drag and visual artistry. “-Jordan
Jordan has been in my life for many years now, and over those years, I’ve witnessed him turn out stunning piece after mind-blowing costume after perfectly choreographed lip sync. Imagine my absolute shock when, after a small foray into upcycled drag myself, I found out that Jordan has been turning looks with a sustainable mindset this whole damn time. I knew peeps called him Scrappy, but I had never known why.
Jordan’s story gives me hope that artists have so much power to build a better future by showing that sustainability, upcycling, and conscious buying can be powerful, creative, fun, sexy, and fabulous!
Let me get out of the way so you can learn Jordan’s sustainably-minded, upcycling visual art story. -BB
Jordan’s story is our twenty-first story of hope in the Limitless 2020 Earth Day Hope Raiser (like a fundraiser, but for hope)! Join us every day until Earth Day (April 22), as we share 22 hope-inspiring stories of the adventures everyday people across our planet are taking to build a better future on a thriving earth.
Jordan is a sustainably-minded visual artist, drag artist, stylist, makeup artist, and hairstylist.
My name is Jordan Masurét, I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, am now living in Los Angeles, and the main way I work toward a better future is by seeking ways to give things a second life. In my art and the life I lead, I want to show that you don’t have to give into the American ideal of, “You have to get the new and trendy things or you’re not worth anything or won’t appear cool to anybody.”
As a visual artist, drag artist, stylist, makeup artist, and hairstylist, I’ve become really aware of how these certain industries are the worst when it comes to waste. In response, here’s what I do to make sure I do my work and create my art with as little an impact as possible:
- I limit my consumption.
- I have my own personal system of waste-management.
- I resist the urge to buy new.
- I resist fast fashion.
- I usually only buy when I know I can transform the item several times.
My goal for my art in 2020 is to showcase all the upcycling that I already do, and to take my upcycling skills to the next level. I see this not just as a fun challenge, but also as a way to ensure my artistic survival should we experience an economic crisis.
Jordan’s journey to sustainable art started with his mom and took off because of his work in beauty, fashion, and retail.
When I think back to how this all started, part of it was that growing up, my mom always showed me the potential in all things. She taught me that almost everything can have a second life if you are willing to see it and do the work to bring that second life into reality.
Later in life, I would find myself with a bit of a shopping addiction. Working in fashion and beauty retail really exacerbated my buying habits. Being surrounded by discounts and sales gave me an excuse to fuel this addiction. As I was throwing out items that I had only used once, and clearing the clutter of materials from craft projects, this critical question dawned on me: “Where does all this waste go?”
From that one question I realized a few things. My first realization was that I got this high from shopping, but then I didn’t actually care about the things I was buying. I mainly cared about the fleeting sense of achievement I got from each purchase. My second realization was that everything I had ever bought or owned still existed somewhere in the world, in a landfill, which freaked me out. I’m one human with the ability to create so much waste, and there are 7 billion people with the same waste potential.
My awareness of the amount of waste that the beauty and fashion industries create deepened as my career progressed. I became very triggered by the industry’s treatment of returned/exchanged items. I learned that the majority of returned products go back to the manufacturers, and the manufacturers throw the products away because their policies do not allow for those items to be resold. Not only were the unused products consuming gas in transport back to the manufacturers, but then the item would just be discarded or destroyed. So gross.
I saw myself as a part of this, then thought about how much waste was being created around me, and then realized globally, we don’t know what to do about all this. We don’t have the capacity to recycle most of what we waste, and so things just end up in a big trash heap. Thinking about waste on a global scale was enough to give me nightmares!
This series of realizations over time made it so that I had to look at my lifestyle and my buying choices in a new light.
Jordan’s nightmares about global waste led him to change his buying habits and give what he does buy multiple lives.
The first action I took was limiting my buying habits. Straight out the gate, I stopped spending money on new clothes. Even with my store discounts at the places where I was working, I stopped buying new and started shopping at thrift stores. Then, I started to get really critical about how I buy. If I do buy something, I think about its potential for multiple lives. I would ask myself “How long before I’m sick of this item? How can I re-purpose this once I’m sick of it?”
When I actually do buy something it works kinda like this:
I buy something and then I use it as is. After that I might use it a second time as-is paired with something I didn’t really plan to have it paired with. The third time, I try to give the item a new vibe or different feel. I bleach it or add different notions, things like that. After that, I move to deconstruction where I f*ck the thing up completely and make it something totally new.
For example, I might buy a hoodie, and then cut it in half. I’ll turn the top part into a crop top, and then the bottom part into a skirt or joggers. Or maybe I’ll take the whole hoodie and turn it into a romper. Then I’ll rip everything up into little pieces and turn that into a bag, or use the zipper and fabric as materials for the next project. If possible, at the end of the cycle I’ll try to sell it as consignment, or donate the item. I try to avoid throwing things away as much as possible.
Jordan still struggles to resist new because he has a strong artistic vision.
All that said, I do still struggle with wanting to buy new. As a creative type, I crave new and exciting tools and shiny supplies. Telling myself “no, you can’t have that, because it will go to waste one day,” is still hard for me. And especially so because I’m an American, and we are born and bred to be consumers. I fight that nagging voice that tells me to buy things for the sake of style or my art, every single day. My inner voices are very convincing sometimes, but my dedication to helping the earth is even stronger.
As a visual artist with a strong artistic voice, responsible and sustainable production sometimes makes it a struggle to source the things that I want to make my vision come to life. If I see the need for a certain kind of rhinestone, for example, it’s hard to find things like that in a secondhand kind of way. In addition sometimes the second hand stuff doesn’t have the level of quality I’m looking for. While sometimes the limitation works out, sometimes the process feels negative because I don’t feel like what I’ve created is as refined as I’d like to be.
Jordan has also developed a system of waste management he calls, “ethical hoarding.”
Because what I do extends far beyond fashion and into crafts, makeup, and styling, I’ve also had to figure out how to manage all the material that I gain and waste – sometimes from a single project. I’ve developed this system I call “ethical hoarding” where I conserve usable materials in an organized system for later use. I store a lot of random things such as old wire hangers, party supply cast offs, metal, and fabric scraps. I then later use these pieces as notions, patterning material, or structural pieces for future creations. Seeing materials as usable when other people see them as scraps means that I don’t have to do a tremendous amount of shopping to get supplies for my next big project.
With a system like this, the challenge is in knowing what to keep, and deciding what is actually trash. I often get caught up in thinking about the waste that I create, and try, almost desperately to figure out how to give it a second life. But there is only so much room I have in my home for craft projects or supply hoarding. I have had great purges several times in my life. It hurts every time to see how much I can collect regardless of my efforts to conserve and mitigate my impact and consumption. I experience an equal feeling of relief and freedom from my collection, and guilt about my contribution to the heaping trash mountains found across the world.
Turning trash into gold brings Jordan endless rewards.
Turning trash into gold is what feeds me. Refining unused materials and castaways into something beautiful and wearable is a challenge that rewards me endlessly. It’s also a joy to know that throughout the process of finding a new life for something, I’m also helping to limit my impact, especially in an industry as wasteful as drag and visual artistry. I’m really following my own voice and doing my art in a way that is really radical from the way most drag queens transform themselves, and I feel good about that.
While telling a story from seeing the unseen potential in things is reward enough, I also do enjoy those moments when I tell people how I created my looks. When someone asks where I bought my look, it feels really good to say, “A lot of this I recycled, destroyed and reconstructed from other things.” When they hear I build my art by hand using reclaimed material, and their eyes light up with surprise, I feel a sense of accomplishment that I moved them with a few scraps.
I didn’t get the name “Scrappy” for nothing!
I also need to add that there is something about upcycling where you can actually feel new life in something that felt impersonal before. For example, I had this mask I bought from an online store, and then I broke apart several other things and put them together in a new way with the mask. It no longer felt store-bought, and told a whole new story that was way more personal. I even used it as a statement piece in a drag competition, and took home the crown.
Jordan’s Advice For Those Who Want To Be Stylish AND Environmentally Conscious
There’s never been a better time to rethink your buying habits and become more economical and earth-friendly. It’s time to get Scrappy!
- See the potential in everything.
- Figure out how to create in a way that maintains your level of impact, expression, and integrity in a way that is good for your wallet and for our planet.
- Take inventory of what you already have from skills to resources and materials, and only take in new things as needed. Those things will either be with you forever or end up in a trash heap.
- Take care of what you have. By paying attention to what’s already in your life, you won’t feel the need to buy as many new things.
- When something does feel tired, Zhuzh it up! Add an element or take something away to make it feel new and extend it’s life.
- Leave behind behaviors that don’t serve you or that harm you.
- Resist the American fairy tale that newer is better, and that everything worth having is store bought.
- Buy second hand, give things new life, and visit upcycle material centers, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for art supplies.
View this post on Instagram
Thank you Jordan!
Thank you for flipping the wasteful paradigm that defines drag, visual art, style, and beauty. Thank you for doing art in a way that is in alignment with who you are and how you want our world to change. Thank you for resisting the pull of endless novelty to turn other people’s trash into some of the most beautiful treasures!
Jordan is looking for help to spread his scrappy message.
Love Jordan’s Message? Have social media skills to help him spread it?
While Jordan is a supremely talented artist, and has a good deal of skill in creating, he says that he could use some help from someone who is passionate about social media. If you happen to have time to help him spread the word about how to art more sustainably, contact him at:
Scrappy misses SF’s SCRAP (a creative reuse depot)
Know any stores selling used and/or sustainable art supplies in Los Angeles? Let Jordan know!
Join the Adventure to Build A Better Future on a Thriving Earth
If you have the gift of time…
Take action. Invite a friend to join you.
If you have the gift of resources…
Help us help others to take action.