Meet Your Maker: An Interview with Etsy Artisans BootsNGus

article image
Photo Courtesy Jeff Risinger and Mark Winn
Artisans Jeff Risinger and Mark Winn of the Etsy shop BootsNGus pose with one of their upcycled lighting creations.

You’ll notice plenty of handmade goods in our Guide to Green Products feature. That’s because we love small-scale artisans and all the wonderful things they produce. Ann Arbor, Michigan, artists Jeff Risinger (above left) and Mark Winn design one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures for their Etsy shop, BootsNGus. We chatted with them about parents’ basements, recycling blenders and enjoying life. 

NHG: You make upcycled lighting out of unusual things. When did you begin tinkering?
Jeff: I’ve been designing lighting fixtures since I was a teenager. Last spring I was looking for a product to offer in our Etsy shop along with our vintage housewares. We had tons of awesome vintage Tupperware and beautiful blue mason jars, and they were begging for new lives. Turning them into lamps people could enjoy just made sense.

NHG: Where do you find your materials?
Mark: We find our materials everywhere, from our parents’ basements to garage and estate sales, from antique stores to Craigslist. Ann Arbor is full of great secondhand stores. 

NHG: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever turned into a light?
Jeff: We see so many old, broken blenders at garage sales. I turn them upside down and make them into pendant lights. They’ve been quite popular, and it’s great to see these lonely, overlooked objects become the shining star in a kitchen or office.

NHG: Apart from creating amazing lighting, what do you do?
Mark: I spent 20 years working in the corporate world. Jeff was a personal assistant. We found we never had time to do the things we really wanted to do. We left our jobs to pursue a dream of working for ourselves and living a more simple, peaceful life. We live in an old farmhouse, and we’re always working on home improvement projects. Our gardens keep us busy from spring to autumn. We have five silly cats that make us laugh every day. We also enjoy giving back to the awesome community we are lucky to be a part of!