June 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

Handmade

Recycled zippers a business success

A collection of finished zipper flower pins sits in a tray in Heather Merritt's studio. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

Heather Merritt of Goodrich, who has a masters degree in social work, spent 13 years working as a substance abuse therapist inside the Genesee County Jail, which left her needing a way to unwind each day after work. Lucky for her, she one day saw a piece of jewelry made with zippers, but chose not to buy it after figuring she could make it herself. So the crafty therapist started making jewelry using zippers as a way to relax following a long, hard day on the job.

At night I would use my creativity to process all the negative energy that I had dealt with all day while counseling clients, explains Merrit, who soon found herself in the position of choosing between her job and starting a business. I could no longer handle both. So she chose to leave her job two years ago and start a business called Re-Zip It!, selling the unique jewelry shed been designing and making, along with the interesting zipper wall hangings she later began creating. She says, Before I knew it, my business had blown up right in front of my eyes.

Her collection includes earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelet wraps, cuff links and flower brooches, her biggest seller and very first product. One of her latest wall hangings is a custom ordered Old English D. Her husband, Sean Poole, makes wooden frames for her hanging artwork, using old bed frames. Im huge into recycling, she notes. And instead of buying new zippers, Merrit prefers those found in vintage clothing. A lot of the old zippers are made with cotton, so I can bleach and dye them to get the colors I want, she adds.

Merrits industrial-looking work is sold in 56 stores across the country and beyond, including Korea and Australia. Im at the post office more than Id like to be, she confesses. Locally, her products can be found at Poesy in Royal Oak, Our Greentopia in Berkley, Found Gallery in Ann Arbor, shops on Mackinac Island and in Traverse City. She also sells through her online Etsy store at www.rezipit.etsy.com, on Facebook and at a lot of Detroit shows, including Detroit Handmade. Prices range from $5-$400.

The talented entrepreneur is inspired by being able to show others whats possible with dedication and hard work. She says, People are shocked that I can do this full-time and support myself, but it just shows you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Zipper Brooch

Level: Beginner

Estimated time: 45 minutes

Tools: Hot glue gun, glue sticks, scissors, ruler

Supplies: Both a 12- and 20-inch zipper, piece of felt, pin back

1. Unzip zippers and cut zipper pull and metal stops off each.

2. Now, cut each side of the 20-inch zipper into six 3-inch pieces (12 total).

3. Apply glue an inch from one end of a 3-inch piece, along one side (opposite teeth), down toward cut end. Curve into U-shape with teeth facing outward and adhere/overlap inner edges just enough to form open petal with pointed tip (see photo). Repeat with remaining 11 pieces. Set aside.

4. Cut one side of the 12-inch zipper in half, apply glue along outer edge and roll to form center of flower with teeth as top portion.

5. With one petal facing up, add drop of glue to cut ends opposite point and adhere to bottom edge of flower center. Repeat with 5 more petals. Then, attach remaining six petals to form second layer around bottom.

6. Cut a 2-inch round piece of felt to fit back of flower. Apply glue, adhere to back. Glue pin back to felt.

Contact Re-Zip It! at www.rezipit.etsy.com or email thezipperlady@gmail.com.

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.

Step 4. Cut one side of the 12-inch zipper in half, apply glue along outer ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
Step 5. With one petal facing up, add drop of glue to cut ends opposite ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
Wearing one of her zipper flower pins, Heather Merritt poses for a photo ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)