Recycled alley balls are bowling over Plateau garden shoppers

Recycled Smiles owner Claire Holder roll out a batch of lady bugs and a green frog. Holder creates the critters from used bowling balls. - Photo by Brenda Sexton
Recycled Smiles owner Claire Holder roll out a batch of lady bugs and a green frog. Holder creates the critters from used bowling balls.
— image credit: Photo by Brenda Sexton

Turning throw-away bowling balls into cute-as-a-bug garden art is right up Claire Holder’s alley and she’s rolled a strike with her Recycled Smiles.

It wasn’t that long ago, when the Enumclaw stay-at-home mom took her first discarded bowling ball and turned it into a lady bug for her daughter Karlee.

“I wanted something that would hold up well for a 2 year old,” Holder said.

She made another for a friend’s birthday.

It bowled over party guests.

“About 40 people asked for them for Mother’s Day,” she said.

Holder decided to try out the market and set up a roadside stand. She sold out.

Now her bumble bees, whatchamubugger, green frog and lady bugs are available at GE and B Nursery, Buckley Nursery, Covington Creek Nursery, Farm Fresh Produce in Buckley and on her website

“I love to do artsy stuff and I love to do recycling,” said Holder, who spent 11 years working for Costco and was also employed by a company that recycled clothing before staying at home to take care of her daughter. “It’s just one of those things I fell upon. I like to create things that don’t look recycled.”

She personally creates each one of her pieces.

Each creation had a previous life either as someone’s favorite league bowling ball or as a well-used cog at a bowling alley.

“Bowling alleys usually throw them away,” she said. Her latest acquisitions came from Vancouver and Spokane. She also finds them at garage sales and on craigslist.

Getting them from lane leftover to garden worthy is labor intensive.

Holder does not use a template, so no two are alike. Each piece takes three separate series of masking and spraying to achieve the colors and lines. Each piece is then sprayed with a clear acrylic coating for color protection and easy cleaning. Depending on the piece, antennas, wings, stingers, legs and eyes are added.

Holder’s husband, Grant, has jumped in to lend a hand as well, creating stands to keep the display models from rolling away.

“My husband has been so amazing,” Holder said.

Her creative juices are always flowing. She’s already working on turning discarded home entertainment centers into children’s play kitchens and trying to find enough bocce balls to make a caterpillar.

“I’m hoping it evolves into something else,” she said. “It’s so fun.”

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