Written by: 
Heather Noel
Photography by: 
Ranjani Groth

design challenge is nothing new for Kayla Lindberg (’11), but her latest endeavor might be the most interesting one yet. Lindberg, who doubled majored in merchandising and hospitality management, sells a variety of bags and other custom products through her business Lindberg Supply Co. Most are crafted from solid or patterned canvas without too much pattern mixing and an emphasis on fabric durability, a few tips Lindberg learned as a student at UNT. Her newest line of goods is a bit of a departure however, since the material it’s made from once flew over the UNT campus.

Kristen Kendrick Bigley, director of the UNT CoLab, salvaged the old university banners from UNT Facilities. She reached out to Lindberg for help making the banners into something new for a collection of “Mean Green-inspired goods” at the retail boutique of the UNT CoLab, the university’s new space on the Denton Square run by the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism.

“I would’ve never thought to use banners for anything. You walk by them all the time on campus and never give them much thought. But this project offers them a second life and creates a functional piece of UNT history for people to carry with them,” says Lindberg, who currently is a communications strategist in UNT’s Division of University Brand Strategy and Communications.

Numerous Mean Green items available in the CoLab have been created by UNT alumni.
Numerous Mean Green items available in the CoLab have been created by UNT alumni.

Shaping the vinyl banners into keychains, catch-all trays and tote bags took some work. The banners were made to withstand high winds, rain and heat -- not necessarily to glide through a sewing machine, after all.

“The material was extremely thick. I had to get a couple different types of sewing needles to figure out what would work right with the machine. It was exciting to try something new, though,” Lindberg says.

Getting participating makers and students to push their creative boundaries is exactly what Kendrick Bigley hopes to encourage at the UNT CoLab, which also will serve as a learning lab for College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism students and offer a range of programming from lectures to art exhibits and installations featuring the work of students and other creatives. In August, it premiered its first exhibition in the new downtown space at 207 N. Elm St. in partnership with Envision Art Show. Re.Fresh is an open-themed, contemporary and fine art exhibition that can be viewed online.

“This is a collaborative effort. We want the maker to be inspired by what they are creating for us. We’d love for this to be a place where makers, especially UNT students, can test their products, get a feel for customer response and refine their brand identity,” Kendrick Bigley says.

Meet the UNT CoLab makers with Mean Green ties

Erin Allice, Green Faerie Designs

Rachel Aughtrey, Rachel Elise Bags

Kimberly Bien, Salted Sanctuary Soap

Carrie Crumbley, Resoycled Candle Co.

Mary Jarvis, Mary Jarvis Designs

Robin Kohen, Robnko

Kayla Lindberg, Lindberg Supply Co.

Skye Rayburn, Isle of Skye Studio

Brent Reaves, Smokey John's BBQ

Matt Sallack, Otter Illustration

Carey Sewell, Cheaney Heritage Leather

Being environmentally conscious is another focus of the UNT CoLab. All of the retail displays come from UNT Surplus or other donations, and Kendrick Bigley is purposefully seeking out vendors who are ecofriendly like Resoycled Candle Co., founded by information science graduate student Carrie Crumbley (’12).

Crumbley, who started her company shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree in international studies and minor in photography from UNT, uses soy wax and wood wicks that burn cleaner and don’t leave as much soot. Her candle labels are even made from recycled paper. For the UNT CoLab, she formulated two earthy scents in varying shades of green -- tomato leaf and lemon grass, as well as moss and bamboo.

Erin Allice, who does marketing and outreach for the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, sculpted mugs and planters adorned with geometric patterns and Texas-shaped magnets with a Mean Green color scheme. The organized, repeating patterns on her work are calming, she says.

Inspired by learning of her eastern European ancestry, Allice began painting intricate flora and fauna on pysankas, a Ukrainian Easter egg. A few years ago, she took a wheel throwing class in the College of Visual Arts and Design and got hooked on ceramics. Now, she has her own home studio and finds time nearly every night to work on projects. She’s part of a community of like-minded artists through the Denton Ceramics Collective, a group she co-founded with fellow College of Engineering staffer Melissa Getty.

Shoppers will find an array of other exclusive finds in the retail boutique, from the Salted Sanctuary Soap, “Smells Like Green Spirit,” to screen printed green-and-black bags by alumna Rachel Aughtrey (’10) of Rachel Elise Bags. Kendrick-Bigley also created a signature design to appeal to a broader Denton audience. That Denton license plate design is available on T-shirts, stickers and baseball caps, as well as keychains, coasters and wallets from leather craftsman Clint Wilkinson.

“UNT and Denton forever changed me. This is where my creative roots started, and I’m excited to be back collaborating in this giving and open community,” Crumbley says.

View the CoLab's Fall 2020 catalog.

The CoLab is set to open to the public Oct. 1.

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