Athens is a quirky, little town full of dozens of artisans and craftspeople, all of them incorporating their own little touch of style into their work. However, it seems that none take an interest in the environment and ethical side of things quite like Talcon Quinn.
Quinn is an Athens County native who makes jewelry, leather, baskets and tinctures from materials that are all ethically sourced and naturally processed by hand. She focuses on making sure everything is ethical and sustainable, and it doesn’t have any “soul tax” — something most artisans don’t even consider.
“I came up with the term ‘no soul tax’ because I was like, ‘How do I say that I’m doing it all?’” Quinn said. “I’m exclusively using materials that are found and repurposed, and when I’m repurposing them, I’m using methods that are natural and nontoxic. When I get electrical wire, it’s coming from a friend that’s an electrician, and it’s being taken out of buildings that are too old and not safe. It comes with a plastic coating on it I could throw in the fire and melt off, but that’s a really nasty way to deal with it. So instead I — by hand — strip it all off.”
Quinn began creating jewelry and selling beadwork at a young age, which led to silversmithing in high school. In her early 20s, she realized the impact she could make on the environment through living sustainably and incorporating the “no soul tax” idea into her work.
When she first took an interest in sustainable living, she focused most on learning how to harvest food from gardens, woodlands and roadsides. She then learned how to tan animal hides and weave baskets, and she began collecting seeds and other materials during her time in the woods.
“I started thinking really deep, like crazy deep, about where everything was coming from,” Quinn said on her mindset in her early 20s. “Sort of questioning how I could really do everything from the ground up, and in a way that was being kind to all beings on the planet and not just being like ‘I’m buying organic food.’”
Quinn left Athens and traveled around the U.S. when she graduated high school, feeling a need to get out of the town she grew up in. She credits much of her style and ethical practices to the experiences she had while living outside of Ohio.
“I lived in the Pacific Northwest for years, which is where I got a lot of my fundamental skills for the leatherwork, the basketry, the game processing,” Quinn said. “I lived in Montana, California, North Carolina. I just always came back here because of deer season, the landscape, the people and the heritage of the craft. The crafts that I do are part of Appalachia and part of Appalachian culture.”
It seems that people are attracted to Quinn’s art because it’s simply beautiful, but some feel as if the ethical practices help provide a second life to animals that Quinn turns into art. Meredith Jensen and Jenny Easter, two huge fans of Quinn, purchase Quinn’s art because her artistry recycles things most people would see as trash.
“(Quinn’s art) is made of what people would usually consider ugly things, and I’m super interested in that,” Jensen, who is an Athens local and an Athens Public Library associate, said. “There’s a focus these days on fast fashion and things that are disposable, and I’m not really interested in that as I get older. I’m much more interested in things that will last longer and that are made of high quality products. I think Talcon does a really good job at that. Even if something might be a bit of roadkill, she’s formed it into something that’s going to last for a really long time.”
Easter, who is from Rio Grande, Ohio, and is a coding auditor, is drawn to Quinn’s simple style and the beauty of her work.
“If you think about wearing a necklace made of bone, that’s not something that people would generally think of,” Easter said. “In this day and age, some people may shy away from it. But she makes it a beautiful piece of art, and it kind of makes me feel like that animal can live on through her artwork.”
Quinn hopes her artwork drives people to have conversations about how much people consume and the cost of not thinking about where things come from. She also wants her art to give people a deeper connection to the planet they live on.
“It’s not that I want everyone to walk around in horrible, shameful guilt, but I feel like we need to be more aware of our being on this planet,” Quinn said. “We’re not the only beings here and we need to be in balance with it. I see my art giving people a connection to something greater than themselves, like feeling connected to something else...because they’re not just going to some corporate chain box store and buying something. They’re really choosing something that has a piece of magic, and (is) hand-created and has a deeper meaning. I hope that that goes on for their lifetime.”