It turns out old bottles have yet another use.
For two weeks over October, Ryan Mondich invited Canberrans to drop off their used wine and beer bottles to his Queanbeyan workshop. His plan was to grind them into smooth shards in a large cement mixer and, over the course of a couple of days, turn them into beautiful pots.
Ryan is the founder of Eché Pots, crafting plantwares of various sizes through a “unique process of 3D printing and sculpting”.
“I was working in hospitality, and I think that drives anybody to look for other options,” he said.
Ryan hails from Michigan in the US, but moved to Canberra with his partner in time to make his first pot “about three and a half years ago”.
“My father was a business owner and my siblings are business owners, so I guess the mentality to try to find a niche was kind of instilled in me growing up,” he said.
His first creations were little succulent pots, but once he’d mastered the basics of the trade he lost no time in trying new designs.
“I purchased some 3D-printed silicone moulds online, and made pots like that,” Ryan said. “But I got kind of curious to expand my own expertise, so I started creating the designs and the moulds myself.
“It’s really cool when you’re able to come up with something on your own.”
You might also know Ryan from the Haig Park Markets in Braddon, where he opened his first stall, or from a shop in Westfield Woden he had just as Canberrans emerged from the COVID lockdown, imbued with a fresh desire to tart up their homes with more greenery.
“That was just huge,” he recalled.
“People were coming out of COVID lockdowns and everybody wanted plants. It really propelled my business and made me think this is an actual viable business I can do long term.”
He now has a small studio and workshop off Bayldon Road in Queanbeyan, where visitors can come past between 10 am and 2 pm every day, except Monday.
“It’s the perfect location. Saturday is the busiest day, when I may have 20 people in here.”
The plants might be sourced from wholesale nurseries in Sydney and Melbourne, but Ryan is most proud of the fact the pots are local. And feature some unusual materials.
“I’ve messed up so many pots and moulds, but that’s how I learn and try something else,” he said.
The base material is called ‘hempcrete’, or fibres from the hemp plant mixed with lime. Ryan says it’s not so common in Australia, where “hemp is grown but not used so much”, so it can be hard to get. He then adds brown coconut fibres to make it “a bit more unique”.
He first saw the potential in recycled glass two years ago.
“I just took a bottle, broke it up, chucked the pieces in the cement mixer, and put it in a mould with some hempcrete,” he explained.
The only factor holding him back was a steady supply of glass, but he worked his way around it by inviting the community for a set time to donate their used wine and beer bottles in exchange for a free mini succulent pot.
Ryan said one woman came in with a special vase that had broken and asked if the gold rim could be incorporated into a pot. So he’s open to custom orders too.
“Just a little small batch to make her a little memorabilia from the broken vase she had,” he said.
Ideally, he would like to grow Eche into a national venture, where he can focus on crafting the pots and a third party can take care of the sales.
“I’d prefer to let different shops sell pots and then that would give me a lot more flexibility to make a big stockpile of pots.”
Eche Pots at 24d/45 Bayldon Road, Queanbeyan, is open from 10 am to 2 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Some products are available online. Ryan is still accepting donations of used wine and beer bottles – contact [email protected].
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.