Artist Profiles

Tin cans that can do good (and look good)

 Thomas Paul Althaus of Canned Goods creates upcycled, handmade jewelry available at Local Universe. www.explorelocaluniverse.com

[DENVER] It’s clear that Thomas Paul Althaus has a road map to a woman’s heart.

Consider the story of how his company, Canned Goods, began. He and his wife, Emily, were celebrating their 10th anniversary—traditionally, the tin anniversary. Not only did Thomas know this, but as he was making dinner for his family one night, he emptied a can of something and was inspired to handcraft jewelry made of tin to go with the outfit that he bought from Anthropologie for his wife.

Dinner. Handmade jewelry. Anthropologie. See what I mean, ladies?

The raw and the finished. Thomas Paul Althaus of Canned Goods creates upcycled, handmade jewelry available at Local Universe. www.explorelocaluniverse.com

Shop Canned Goods from Local Universe, where we join Thomas in donating to food banks.

That was in 2013, but the story starts well before that. Thomas says his sensibilities were a gift from his mother, who was the fashionista of his hometown in northern Illinois. He spent a lot of time with her, along the way learning how to create and to put an outfit together.

His previous career also included time working in Chicago and Denver for American Crew, the sophisticated men’s hair and grooming products manufacturer, which afforded insight into retailing, design and the fashion industry. 

The garage in Denver where Thomas Paul Althaus of Canned Goods creates upcycled, handmade jewelry available at Local Universe. www.explorelocaluniverse.com

Thomas brings all of it together in his line of upcycled, handcrafted earrings, necklaces, bracelets, money clips and home décor. Everything is made in his detached garage on a charming street in the historic and increasingly gentrified Berkley neighborhood in northwest Denver. But that garage more resembles an artist’s loft, complete with photo station featuring an infinity photo backdrop and clamp lights. The cards on which he mounts his pieces for retailing are printed with the subtle, blurred lines of a tin can, and those lines are echoed in his Cube necklaces. Thomas even provides retailers with wooden displays that resemble pantry shelves. 

Read our insider tips for visiting the Denver area and discover why we now call it home.

It’s quite a well-thought and professional operation, and the results are stunning. Yet at the heart of it all is the simple tin can and his simple yet beautiful motto: Together, we can do good. Don’t you love the play on words? A tin can, crafted into goods for sale, becomes a way that you can do good things. And the ways that Canned Goods is doing good are constantly evolving.

 The cans from which Thomas Paul Althaus of Canned Goods creates upcycled, handmade jewelry available at Local Universe. www.explorelocaluniverse.com

At the most basic level, Thomas is rescuing cans from the trash stream, repurposing them into works of lasting beauty. He’s also planning to eventually outsource some of the steps in production—cleaning and flattening the cans, for example—to the homeless in Denver, providing an opportunity for work. And of course with each purchase, Canned Goods donates a can of food to an area food bank. Here, Local Universe is joining the cause: We’re donating 10 percent of our proceeds from each purchase of Canned Goods items to Food Bank of the Rockies, one of the largest in the Rocky Mountain Region, where 96 cents of every dollar they receive goes directly into food distribution programs.

Local Universe gives back: For every sale of Canned Goods products, we'll donate $1 to Food Bank of the Rockies.  

As Thomas supplies cans to area food banks, he chooses a variety of foods, because, as we were surprised to learn, the colors of the jewelry reflect the actual colors of the cans used to make it. The hues vary on the inside depending on the food, resulting in silver, copper, gold and brass.

Of course, as anyone who’s opened a can of food knows, the edges can be sharp. That’s why Thomas wears those fingerless gloves. They’re not just a fashion statement, but a way to test the edges of his work to be sure it’s smooth. After going through a lot of sandpaper and a lot of nail files, Thomas discovered that sharpening stones can smooth, too, if you roll them over the edges just right. And he works on a piece of denim, which further buffs each piece. Watch him at work for a bit:

As Thomas and I talk, his two young sons peek in and play. In addition to being a craftsman, he's a stay-at-home dad. And his sons might be burgeoning artists too--there's some pretty cool finger-painting on display in the garage.

Race bibs and fingerpainting from his two young sons grace the garage where Thomas Paul Althaus of Canned Goods creates upcycled, handmade jewelry available at Local Universe. www.explorelocaluniverse.com

Though Thomas's creations come from a simple source, his earrings, necklaces and bracelets can rock with an outfit from Anthropologie or any high-end fashion boutique. But perhaps the best testament to their style is this: Thomas’s mother wears his jewelry, as does his lovely wife.

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