‘The Lint Lady’ gives a new meaning to art

Most people throw away their dryer lint, old bottle caps and other assorted junk, but Malibu resident Sandy Buffie does not. She saves the stuff and turns it into art.

Buffie makes life-sized portrait busts out of dryer lint. It takes her an average of three months to complete a dryer lint sculpture.

“Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow is my favorite right now,” Buffie said, referring to the portrait bust she just completed. “I am now working on George Clooney.”

Buffie moved to Malibu from North Carolina less than two years ago. She said there she was referred to as “The Lint Lady” for 12 years.

She stumbled across the idea while talking to her mom on the phone. “I was cleaning out the dryer screen and my hand was wet,” Buffie said. “So I made a little man with the dryer lint.”

She added glue and learned that the mixture hardens if she adds heat to it. “I started baking lint structures from then on.”

It takes about a bowling ball size of lint to make a ping-pong ball size piece, Buffie said. A portrait bust requires about a 40-gallon container full of dryer lint.

In the beginning, Buffie would go to Laundromats to gather lint. But soon after, people started donated their lint.

“Hundreds of people [started] looking at their lint differently,” Buffie said. “They were saving it and sending it to me.”

Buffie lives in Malibu with her husband Craig, who is currently on sabbatical from Bank of America. They have three children, twin sons David and Tyler, 21, and a daughter Emily, 19.

When her children were younger, people from their schools would give them lint to take home in their backpacks, Buffie said.

“I would let them choose a charity and we would donate all proceeds [from the sale of the busts],” Buffie said. “I wanted to teach them that we should always be thinking about how we can help someone else.”

Buffie uses only recycled materials for all her work, including her jewelry line, Hardwear.

“I have a strong desire to educate people about recycling,” Buffie said.

Buffie makes bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, and bootstraps from found objects, metal and wire.

All profits of Hardwear are donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in memory of her friend and inspiration Bev Neely Bruce, Buffie said.

“I was with her when we accidently made a wire bracelet for fun,” Buffie said. “And I promised her I would continue [making] the jewelry because she really loved it.”

Buffie’s two nieces, Claire and Sarah, inspired her Embracing Equality jewelry line. It stands for supporting equality among all people, she said.

“I always believe in making art for a purpose and a statement,” Claire, who was crowned Miss New York 2010, said. “So I think it is wonderful that she is making this statement, and I am honored that it is our statement.”

Buffie has made a variety of bracelets, cuffs and necklaces with the Embracing Equality logo.

“The logo is simplistic, depicting two androgynous and equal people together,” Claire said.

Buffie inherited a toolbox from her father and used the tools along with vintage spray washers and electrical wire to make a bracelet that she said is her favorite handmade piece.

Craig Buffie said what he likes most about his wife’s work is that each piece is unique.

“Taking a walk with her is problematic,” he said. “It takes an hour to walk a quarter mile. But it’s like a fun scavenger hunt.”

“I look down all the time while walking,” Sandy Buffie said. “He has to guide me so I don’t run into anything.”

Craig offers his opinion on his wife’s finished pieces and suggests changes when needed.

“He has a great eye,” Buffie said. “And he is always right.”

Craig has always provided moral support to all her work, Buffie said.

“From the first day I met her she had wild ideas,” Craig said. “She’s always been very creative.”

The most unusual object Buffie has used for jewelry is a spark plug spacer, and for a portrait she once utilized old pantyhose.

Buffie has also donated 15 pieces of jewelry to Creative Visions Foundation, founded by Malibu resident Kathy Eldon.

“We are thrilled and touched by her gift,” Eldon said. “The profits will be used to help creative activists in and around Malibu.”

The jewelry will be featured at the Creative Visions ROC center, which will be opening in January, Eldon said.

“There is an amazing group of very talented women in Malibu,” Buffie said. “I am so excited to be here.”

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