Some talk trash, Timothy Westbrook picks it up

14 Aug, 2013

by Molly Snyder

I finally met and spent time with Timothy Westbrook yesterday. Timothy is the former Artist-In-Residence at the Pfister and was a contestant on this season’s “Project Runway.”

Timothy is a sustainability-focused fiber artist which means almost all of his work – his fashions – are constructed from recycled or discarded materials from plastic bags to the tape inside old school cassettes.

I have heard Timothy, both on television and in person, speak about his commitment to the environment by reusing and recycling materials, but yesterday I saw him truly practicing what he preaches.

While walking around in the sunshine on our way from the Pfister Hotel to his studio in the Shops At Grand Avenue – about four blocks – Timothy picked up every piece of trash he saw on the ground.

Without a pause in conversation, he continually bent down, grabbed a torn candy wrapper or squashed chip bag, and tossed it in the next garbage can.

He demonstrated how easy it is to do this, how it takes virtually no extra time out of our day at all. And I loved that he did this without hesitating, without fear that it was dirty or germy.

Timothy told me he was inspired to do this, in part, by the staff at the Pfister who he witnessed often stopping to pick up the smallest pieces of paper in the lobby or the cafe or the hallways just to keep the hotel in tip-top shape.

Timothy called it “pride of place” and said he was attempting to apply it everywhere he goes, not just his apartment and studio.

I thought about this concept a lot since our stroll down Wisconsin Avenue. On both “Project Runway” and in other news clips, people have referred to Timothy as “idealistic,” and not always in a positive way.

I see it that Timothy’s actions are aligned with his words – this is rare – and he is truly living his art form.

How refreshing. How inspiring.

About the author

Molly Snyder

Molly Snyder has lived in Milwaukee her entire life. She started keeping a diary when she was four and published her first poem at age 10 called “The Unicorn” in the now-defunct Shorewood Herald. Today, she writes less about mythical creatures and more about Milwaukee people and places. She is a senior writer at, where she has worked for the last 12 years. Telling people’s stories is her passion.

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