This Woman Made A Dress From Over 10,000 Candy Wrappers, And The Item Made Her An Internet Star

Even as a youngster, Emily Seilhamer had a knack for upcycling. In fact, it was the candy wrappers that she started saving as a 12-year-old that would become the basis of a project in her adult life. But it was worth the wait, because when she unveiled a dress that she had crafted from more than 10,000 Starburst wrappers, Seilhamer found internet fame.

Seilhamer is a 25-year-old artist from Pennsylvania. She works as an activities assistant at a nursing home rehabilitation center. And in her spare time runs a group called Connecting in Color, which hosts art-based activities in painting and crafts for groups and individuals at all levels.

Through her own creative work, however, Seilhamer takes the opportunity to pursue her some of her other passions, such as crafting, sewing and upcycling. She gets a particular buzz out of using materials in her work that may be overlooked or even discarded by others.

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In other words, where most people might see trash, this artist sees potential for a new purpose. A look at her Facebook page, Artistry and Upcycling by Emily Seilhamer, shows ornaments, decorations, furniture and jewelry made out of discarded accessories, trinkets and other knick-knacks.

It’s a passion that first blossomed when Seilhamer was a child. Indeed, when she was 12, she found the inspiration for a project that would later take five years to complete. And it started with a packet of Starburst given to the artist as a young girl by a boy who, years later, would become her husband.

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“The first time I met [Malachi] he offered me a pack of Starburst,” Seilhamer explained to ABC news of the initial encounter with her future husband. The pair first met when they were just 12 years old and in the same drama group one Christmas. It was the moment that the juice was set loose.

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“He gave me a pack, and once he broke the ice he kept bringing me packs of Starburst,” Seilhamer explained. “I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to make something out of these. Do you mind saving them?’” So save them he did, and before long the candy wrappers started piling up.

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As Seilhamer described, “He would eat them and bring me grocery bags full [of the Starburst wrappers]. I was like, ‘Wow, I can do something pretty big from this.’” The arrangement wouldn’t last, however, as the pair lost contact with each other. For a while, anyway.

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Just before they started attending college, Seilhamer crossed paths with her future husband a second time. And, remembering how the pair had bonded when they first met, the candy lover started collecting Starburst wrappers for the craft enthusiast once again. Lucky, then, that they happen to be his favorite sweet treat.

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After four years of collecting the candy wrappers with help from family and friends, Seilhamer started work on a dress design that she had in mind. Most of the work was done while the artist was at college. “I would sit for hours folding wrappers while studying for college classes or watching TV,” she told ABC news.

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Seilhamer meticulously grouped the wrappers into colors, then ironed each little square, folded the paper into links and looped them together into chains. It perhaps goes without saying that the artist’s college friends thought her to be “a little nutty”, but it’s something that they grew to accept.

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One of the biggest challenges that the 25-year-old faced was, perhaps surprisingly, her lack of needlecraft skills. “Funny thing is, I don’t know how to sew,” Seilhamer admitted to ABC news. “I know how to use a sewing machine, yet I’ve never actually learned how to follow a pattern.”

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But the artist wasn’t about to let her lack of tailoring skills hold her back. She added, “I am a crafter, so I if I can picture something in my head, I can usually figure it out.” Indeed, it took Seilhamer a mammoth five years to figure it out, and it didn’t happen without some challenges.

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As Seilhamer explained, “Because [the dress] took so long [to complete], the Starburst company kept discontinuing some of the colors that I was using, so I had to revise the design a couple of times. But that’s OK. I actually like this design better.”

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Seilhamer estimates that more than 10,000 Starburst wrappers were needed to complete the dress. As she explained, “In just one row, there’s about 300 wrappers to wrap it around my whole body.” And with so many candies consumed, she jokingly added, “Thank goodness nobody got any cavities!”

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As a thank you for using their product to make the dress, Starburst gifted Seilhamer a giant jar of the candies. And what’s a dress without accessories? So with those wrappers, along with some leftover from her own collection, the dressmaker fashioned a matching purse and a pair of shoes.

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Seilhamer believes that the cumulative cost for the Starbursts needed to complete the dress amounts to over $1,000. When a fan asked whether it was comfortable to wear, the self-confessed crafter told the Sun Online website, “It’s smooth like snake skin so yes, but [it’s] heavy.”

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The arts and crafts teacher completed the dress mere months before her husband proposed. This not only allowed Seilhamer enough time to make her own wedding dress, but also meant that the sweet creation had a sentimental place on the day. “Because we met through the candies, the dress had a spot at our wedding reception for everyone to see,” she explained to ABC news.

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The dress was just the start of Seilhamer’s passion for making upcycled dresses and other clothing and accessories. So far she’s completed a gown made entirely of men’s ties and another out of her grandmother’s kitchen wallpaper, a summery design that she fashioned into an Easter dress.

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“Growing up I always thought that this flowered wallpaper from my grandparents’ kitchen would make a nice Easter dress,” Seilhamer wrote on a Facebook post. “So when that kitchen was remodeled recently I had a chance to make that fantasy a reality.” The artist’s most recent upcycled garment is a poncho fashioned from more than 250 plastic bottle caps.

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