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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

What to do with Grandma's old stuff

Apr 04, 2023 03:32PM ● By Ursula Nizalowski

Spring is here, which gets many of us thinking of fresh ways to spruce up our yards and gardens. 

Ruth Greene, 82, doesn’t have a garden of her own, but that doesn’t stop her from creating charming teapot totems that other people can use to add some color and personality to their gardens. 

She came up with the idea six years ago when she saw a ceramics club gathered in a local park in Tucson, Arizona, working with ceramic houses.

“The area was very well taken care of,” said Greene, “and their beautiful pieces caught my eye.”

She went home and thought about what she could substitute for the houses. That’s when it came to her: teapots. 


Each totem consists of 14 pieces or so and stands about 40 inches high.

“The totem idea came because I’m a native Alaskan,” said Greene.

Greene shops the sales at Goodwill and other thrift stores for ceramic teapots, teacups, saucers, planters, plates and decorative china to make the totems. Each is one of a kind.  

“It’s fascinating all the teapots I’ve found,” said Greene. “I have a some shaped like houses and beehives…some that have cats, among others.”

Many follow a theme. She’s made totems for cat lovers, and some that are Christmas themed and patriotic red, white and blue. She currently has a Day of the Dead piece with ceramic sugar skulls.

Long before she started creating these ceramic towers, Greene had several careers, including a deputy sheriff in Buffalo, New York and a carpenter. Together with her ex-husband, they sold hickory sapling rockers and other Amish furniture. 

Her carpentry skills come in handy when she assembles the totems. She starts by drilling a hole in each piece, then artfully stacking them around a piece of rebar that’s stuck in the ground. She glues together the first three or four pieces and numbers each of them so totems are easy to take apart, package and reassemble once sold.


Greene sold many of her totems to coffee shops and tea houses in Phoenix until she moved to Grand Junction over two years ago. Now, her totems are displayed outside Ville 718, a hotel at 718 Horizon Drive in Grand Junction. 

“People smile when they see them, and tourists photograph themselves with them,” said Greene. 

Her other art gets just as much attention, especially her jackets made from old quilts.

“I use old quilts that are on their last leg. I love to repurpose that stuff,” she said.

Greene will do commissioned teapot totems as long as customers supply the teapots. She’s also willing to mix in items from her own collection. 

“I’d love to add some family pieces,” said Greene. “You know, those items where people wonder, ‘What am I going to do with all of Grandma’s stuff?’”

Prices for her artwork are around $500 for each piece of wall art, $150 for quilt jackets, and $80 for totems. 

To see more of her work, contact Greene at 970-314-6857 or email [email protected]

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