As a variation of the traditional saying goes: one woman's trash is another's treasure. That certainly rings true for one departing Athlone resident who turns old, worn pairs of jeans into unique and exquisite handmade toys.
A trained artist in Milan and her native Russia, full-time mother Nadiya Byelousova has been making the beautifully crafted soft toys for a year now as a hobby, in between caring for her three-year-old son Tykhon.
Always on the lookout for new creative ideas, she came up with the idea of taking recycled jeans and transforming them into eye-catching pieces, combining the creative with the practical beautifully.
The animal toys, particularly the elephants and whales, have proven extremely popular for Nadiya, who has been living in Athlone for the last two years, but relocates to Dublin this week with her husband Anatolii. What makes them distinctive is that each is hand painted with a unique design which can take several days to finish.
"So far people really like the toys. The jeans toys are fresh and new," Nadiya told the Westmeath Independent. "Children often massage them as if they are real animals," she enthused, explaining that she got the idea after reading Russian fairytales to her son.
Importantly for parents, the toys are completely washable on a delicate cycle in the washing machine and the 3d paint used to decorate them is completely safe and non-toxic for the little ones. They are very suitable for young children as they are very soft, durable and colourful.
Very inspired by nature, she said Irish people are very lucky have such beauty all around them, something they don't have in Russia and Ukraine.
"When I arrived in Athlone, I loved the river and the swans. For me, it was fantastic. I've also visited Connemara at least ten times, it's my favourite place in Ireland and I love Dingle as well. Your nature is fantastic for me," she said, adding that she is also inspired to create different pieces by the wild Irish spirit.
For now though, she is concentrating on the big move from Athlone to Dublin, and finding time to work on a brand new Christmas collection which will feature jeans angels and festive decorations.
In the future, she hopes to develop a hypo allergenic range of toys for children made of just fabric and thread. She also makes custom made piece to orders on request. Recently, she made a beautiful decorative jeans elephant as a wedding present for a customer.
As she prepared to depart Athlone, she thanked everyone for their support for her creative venture.
"I like Athlone, I'm grateful for everyone's support and positive energy. I think I will miss Athlone very much," she concluded.
The toys and home decorations are available in The Bastion Gallery, Athlone or from Nadiya by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org