Sitting at the kitchen table of their Wellington home, 11-year-old Michaela and 14-year-old Samantha Ryan carefully paint empty wine bottles with intricate designs.
The sisters have painted more than 20 bottles since they began selling them for charity in July during the monthly Girls Night Out event at the Players Club in Wellington.
It’s not a business because they don’t keep any of the money, nor an organization, but just two young girls giving back the best way they know how, by making colorful bottle art.
The sisters use recycled bottles and paint designs, which buyers can use as vases, incense holders or for anything else that comes to mind. They call their project Busy Hands, because their products are all handmade artisan crafts.
Michaela said she started doing it as a way to express her creativity after her art teacher at Panther Run Elementary School encouraged her to paint. “She taught me how to do them, and I got addicted to making them,” Michaela said. “She told me that no art is bad art, so I kept on going.”
Michaela enjoyed making the bottles so much, she got her sister Samantha involved in the process, and over the summer they began creating bottles from recycled wine and liquor bottles. “We get bottles from my mom, her friends and our neighbor next door,” Michaela said.
They started out giving away the bottles to friends and family. Then Michaela came up with the idea to sell the bottles to raise money for charity. Their mother, Joanne, thought it was a wonderful idea. She made some calls, enlisting assistance so her daughters would get the word out.
Soon enough, Joanne got her friends from the Kids Cancer Foundation to take interest, and they told her about the Girls Night Out event. The children were given the opportunity to sell their bottles to raise money for a different charity every month, whichever is being supported by that month’s event. “The first charity they were helping was the Kids Cancer Foundation,” Joanne said. “So they made a sign that said, ‘Help Us Help Them, Kids Helping Kids.’”
That first event reinforced their relationship with the Kids Cancer Foundation, and the sisters have been asked to participate in some of its events.
Their goal is to donate $2,000-plus to charities. They’re open to helping all types of charities, and their main goal is to give back to others while enjoying being creative — especially for Michaela, who has been painting since she was 5 and has a great passion for creating art.
“She loves doing artistic stuff,” Joanne said. “It’s great that she could incorporate that with helping charities, so that works out perfectly for her.”
Michaela’s desire to help others comes from her weeklong stay in the hospital last year after a traumatic head injury, an experience that changed her life. After falling off a golf cart, Michaela suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain.
“A lot of charities came around and gave her lots of gifts,” Joanna said. “And when she came out, she wanted to do something where she could give back.”
Charities such as Little Smiles visited Michaela and made an impact on her life. “It felt like people actually cared for other people who are injured, other than the nurses and doctors,” she said.
The bottles are $3 each, and all proceeds go to charity. The girls use their own money for the paint and accessories. The sisters are open to shipping the bottles out of state.
“We can also make custom ones, with people’s names on them,” Michaela said.
The sisters do it all on their own, without any help from anyone. “I’ve tried to do one, but it did not come out as good as theirs,” Joanne said. “To have the patience to do all those dots and small detailed designs, I just don’t know how they do it.”
Creating one bottle can take all day. From cleaning it to painting the designs, it’s a long process. The first step is to clean the bottle, removing the labels by soaking the bottle in hot water and using sandpaper to scrape off the excess labeling or glue. Then the painting begins, which can take all day depending on the design.
Occasionally, Joanne will give them some design ideas. “For the most part, they come up with their own ideas, which are really good,” she said.
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Above: Michaela and Samantha Ryan with some bottles they crafted.