Drink up

When Ashland artist Margaret Garrington sent an e-mail written in English to a Belgian fruit juice company a year ago, she didn't know if she would ever get a response.

Garrington had asked the Looza company to donate juice bottles for a project in which she is asking people to drink the juice and then fill empty bottles with things they would otherwise throw away.

Six months after sending the message off to Looza, she received an e-mail from Belgium telling her she should e-mail the distributor in the United States.

Garrington found that Looza juice is actually a product of PepsiCo, a sign of just how interconnected the global marketplace is today. She e-mailed the distributor and then spent several months hoping for a reply.

A few weeks ago, FedEx delivered 140 bottles of Looza brand fruit juice to her house.

"I actually had given up. It's kind of like when you let it go, it happens," she said.

Before the FedEx delivery, people had filled nearly 170 bottles. Now with dozens more bottles of fruit juice to give away, Garrington is feeling confident that she will hit her goal of collecting 300 filled bottles by June 30.

Hanson Howard Gallery in downtown Ashland, which shows her pastel landscapes, has agreed to host the display of filled bottles.

Anyone interested in joining in the project can pick up free Looza juice while supplies last at the gallery, drink the juice and clean the bottle, fill it with nonperishable items, put the cap back on and then return it to the gallery at 82 N. Main St.

Hanson Howard Gallery's hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Garrington said she continues to be amazed and amused by the creative ways people are filling the bottles.

"I just got one from a dentist filled with molds of people's teeth. It's really sort of creepy," she laughed. "But it turned out to be so fabulous."

Other bottles are filled with tangled fly-fishing line, rubber gloves, cut up straws layered by color, keys, Tic Tac boxes, Q-Tips, tea bag packets, aluminum foil, dog hair, dryer lint, beer bottle caps, eyedrop containers, plastic bags, gum wrappers, broken toys, pencil shavings, cotton balls, computer keyboard keys, batteries, gum wrappers, candy wrappers, corks, plastic rings from soda six-packs and other odds and ends.

One bottle has teal and yellow feathers from a pet tropical bird.

"I had one person say, 'My bird loses a lot of feathers. I could never bear to throw them away, but I never knew what to do with them,'" Garrington said.

She said she doesn't care if people fill bottles with things another person has already chosen.

Garrington has more than one bottle filled with tea bag packets. One person folded the packets into pleats and stapled the middles to form butterflies. One bottle is filled with multi-colored gum wrappers while another is layered with silver and green wrappers rolled into balls.

Everyone from little kids to octogenarians has added material to the bottles.

Students from as far away as Eagle Point High School and St. Mary's School in Medford have taken a second look at things they would otherwise view as mere trash.

One group of kids had Dixie cups with dried paint inside left over from an art project. They cut the cups into strips and filled a bottle.

Garrington said that many people have told her they started to fill their bottles, weren't satisfied with the results, pulled the material back out and then arranged it again until they were satisfied.

"It became their canvas," she said. "People who aren't normally artists are using the bottles as canvases for themselves. That part of it is really gratifying.

People are seeing the artistic in something they would otherwise throw away as trash."

Garrington said she still wants people to first reduce, reuse and recycle. But if material is bound for the garbage can, she hopes they will stop and think for a moment: "Will this fit in a Looza bottle?"

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