Upcycling and DIY are huge trends on Instagram. There are a lot of creative people who are able to turn anything they want into decoration, accessories, or even clothes. They don’t buy presents, they sew them. They don’t google for videos of cute kittens but for DIY instructions for their next project. Got my point? Just to avoid misunderstandings – of cours, I’m not one of them. But Thomas Paul Althaus is. His superpower? To turn empty tin cans into the most amazing jewelry. What started as a unicum for his wife on their 10th anniversary turned out to be the foundation for his very own accessory brand called CANNED GOODS. And CANNED GOODS isn’t only known for its products – but also for his commitment to hunger. For every upcycled jewelry they sell, they donate one food can to charity. Curious how Thomas started his business and what kind of upcycled product sells best? Read the interview to find out!
How and when did you come up with the idea to turn cans into jewelry? What is the story behind your label?
In June of 2013 my wife Emily and I were approaching our 10-year wedding anniversary. We had decided not to purchase gifts for each other because we had planned a weekend away. I thought I could still give her something if I didn’t have to buy anything, so I looked on the internet about traditional gifts for 10 years of marriage – Tin. One night after dinner I saw an empty tin can. I took it to the garage thinking that it would be fun to make something out of it for her. I cut, hammered, bent, sanded. After a bit I realized that I had created a bracelet and a pair of earrings. I stole ear wires from lone earrings in her jewelry box. Put them all in a package and smiled – she would laugh. She opened the package, I told her they were made out of a tin can, for 10 years. She loved them and asked where I purchased them. I replied I made them myself. When she woke up the next morning she had the idea for CANNED GOODS. Together we worked on the plan, the stories, added the CAN DO GOOD give back element and then pitched the idea to an acquaintance that owned a well-respected shop in Denver. He said, “Bring me 100 pieces.” So, in November of 2013 the first CANNED GOODS pieces appeared on the retail floor.
Did your friends and family support you right from the beginning?
Believe it or not, most everyone was “on board” with the idea after they saw that Tin Can Glam could be created out of something that most everyone discarded every day. Then they saw the attention from different blogs, media, and fashion outlets … we were all pretty amazed by it all.
What kind of recycling products do you personally like best?
I don’t know that I could choose one over another – they all have their place, a memory of their design inception, and an appreciation of the hard work that goes into each. During the making of each piece we become excited about the person who will eventually wear them and how they will feel about their choice – to wear something that is recycled and glamorous.
Which product is the most requested one?
The requests are surprisingly pretty equal. In most every design, we offer it in different colors and sizes – that way we don’t have people left out that like a certain piece. The most requested design would probably be the DIAMOND DROP FOLD earrings. They are dynamic, bold, relaxed and glamorous depending on how they are integrated in an ensemble.
What was your most special project? What project do you remember most of all?
Those first pieces I made for my wife that inspired the start of CANNED GOODS will always be the most “special” project. Otherwise, there are many memorable firsts: being featured by a prominent Denver news reporter, being part of an amazing TED x MileHigh talk video, our first red carpet appearance, seeing our pieces in print and online media and then of course the many custom order requests from couples for their “tin” 10-year wedding anniversaries. And finally, our CAN DO GOOD program is amazing – the feeling of giving all of the full cans of food to charity is one that I will never get tired of.
Thank you so much for your time, Thomas!
Have you heard from Thomas’ unprecedented brand? And how do you like his work?