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SouthState Financial institution turns swag into artwork – Unbiased Banker

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Artist Gardner Cole Miller, left, and SouthState Financial institution’s Shretta Godbolt flip bank-donated T-shirts into an unique woven placemat.

After a current merger, SouthState Financial institution had a whole bunch of unused T-shirts that includes its outdated brand. Fairly than ship them to the landfill, it donated them to a neighborhood textile arts venture that continues to encourage others.

By Paul Sisolak


SouthState Financial institution had a swag downside on its fingers.

In 2020, the $46 billion-asset neighborhood financial institution in Winter Haven, Fla., merged with CenterState Financial institution and went by an entire rebrand that left 650 T-shirts emblazoned with the financial institution’s outdated brand sitting in a nook of a warehouse.

“We had modified our brand, so these have been shirts that have been left over,” says Donna S. Pullen, SouthState Financial institution’s senior vice chairman and director of company giving and occasions administration. “We didn’t need to simply throw them away and we didn’t need them [circulating] locally. If we may do one thing fascinating with them, they wouldn’t simply go in a landfill.”

For inspiration, Pullen recalled a charity artwork occasion the neighborhood financial institution held 20 years in the past for the grand opening of its new headquarters constructing, the place native artists got carte blanche to pick items from the constructing’s former places of work and reuse them of their paintings. One participant, Susan Lenz, took outdated workplace telephones aside and long-established their multicolored wires into artworks.

Now, in 2022, Pullen reached again out to Lenz to gauge her curiosity, however Lenz had a greater suggestion: Gardner Cole Miller, a textile artist who was then curator on the Sumter County Gallery of Artwork in Sumter, S.C.

“[Lenz] knew Cole had been making rugs out of recycled strips of cloth. That’s how we acquired linked with him,” Pullen says. “I requested him if he may do the identical factor with T-shirts.”

Trash-to-treasure transformation

Miller leapt on the likelihood, seeing the T-shirts as supreme supplies for a neighborhood fiber arts venture he was main. “I had talked about [to SouthState Bank] that my pandemic lockdown venture was making rag rugs,” he says. “It was kind of the proper alternative. Listed here are all of the supplies I may have dreamed of.” With that, the neighborhood financial institution shipped the T-shirts to the gallery in 14 giant bins.

As a part of the Sumter County Gallery of Artwork’s neighborhood fiber arts venture, Miller was instructing others to create rag rugs and different textile tasks. He visited 4 rural neighborhood and senior citizen facilities throughout Sumter County over the course of per week, principally in underserved areas the place such assets are scarce or the place low-mobility seniors can’t attend gallery lessons.

“I want extra banks would do stuff like this, as a result of there’s a lot stuff that will get tossed out yearly, whether or not it’s outdated types or merchandise. It offers it a brand new life fairly than filling a landfill.”
—Donna S. Pullen, SouthState Financial institution

Miller taught his college students the Amish knot technique. First, they reduce off a T-shirt’s sleeves after which the physique of the shirt in half. Subsequent, they sliced these items into skinny strips of cloth, producing about 20 ft of yarn. After that, the weaving started; they used a toothbrush needle to sew a collection of half-hitched knots, so that every consecutive knot spirals outward, forming an oval. Miller says it takes roughly three T-shirts to knit one rug for a small kitchen or toilet.

He inspired pupil artists to flex their inventive muscle groups. Some made small potholders. Others made doilies or placemats. Miller believes the venture additionally helped his senior college students with their hand-eye coordination and motor abilities.

“It appeared prefer it was a great way for them to assume by the method,” he says. “It’s nearly like crocheting; there’s a sure geometry to it. There’s additionally a variety of dexterity, so it was nice to place all of it into movement.”

Knitted carefully collectively

There’s nonetheless lots left to create. Miller says the remaining T-shirts may very well be used for a lot of different tasks, from positive arts purposes to quilting bees. “It’s one thing we’ll see extra iterations and incarnations of,” he says.

For SouthState Financial institution, donating one thing aside from cash felt good. Pullen hopes it is going to set a precedent.

“I want extra banks would do stuff like this, as a result of there’s a lot stuff that will get tossed out yearly, whether or not it’s outdated types or merchandise,” she says. “It offers it a brand new life fairly than filling a landfill.”


Paul Sisolak is deputy editor of Unbiased Banker.



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