Published in Issue 19, October 2012
Written by Bridget from Inkahoots
It's quite possible that we are in the midst of a new craze sweeping the nation… No, it's not the pursuit of celebrity or trying to beat Usain Bolt - it's a much quieter pastime that's crept into our culture gradually over the last few years. Now is the time to start shouting about 'Upcycling' and appreciating the amazing results that can be achieved with a little time and skill!
If you've never heard of it, you won't be alone, but put simply it's the act of taking something that you would otherwise throw out and finding a way to make it into something else, something better or more beautiful. Or, as I would say 'taking something a bit naff and turning it into something that someone might actually want!'
So, why has it become so popular? There are lots of personal reasons why people do it, but the main themes are an interest in eco-living and not wanting to leave an huge footprint on the environment. Doing things like shopping locally, reducing energy consumption, saving precious resources and doing your bit by recycling and re-using in all its forms. The recession has played its part too, people are looking to save money and the planet - Upcycling does both.
A book by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, 'Cradle to Cradle - Remaking the Way We Make Things', published in 2002, brought the topic into the fore by getting people to rethink the way they used things. It was only last year I discovered that Upcycling was the word for what I'd been doing for the last 5 years!
The fantastic thing about Upcycling is that we can all do it and we can do it at home, in our lounge whilst watching telly or at the kitchen table. It's so satisfying to see something transformed from a very ordinary thing (or even a horrible thing!) into something that is unique, a one-off. Your options are endless - you can redecorate by using paint or decoupage, or change it completely, such as using an old jumper to make a doorstop or turning an unwanted children's game into hanging decorations.
You'll find that lots of the handmade products, sold on Etsy and other craft sites, are made with Upcycled items. In fact, the number of products on Etsy tagged with the word 'Upcycled' rose from 7,900 in January 2010 to 167,000 in October 2011! The craze is here, without a doubt, but is it here to stay?
It seems we are hooked on Upcycling. It's a bit like our obsession with vintage - that harking back to another time. Everyone recycled and upcycled during the wars - 'Make Do & Mend' wasn't something invented to go on tea towels! There are opportunities too, for mums like me, to set up a business and work quite happily from home, using a personal website or bigger craft websites, like Etsy or Folksy.
Also, it doesn't have to cost much to get started, you basically need glue, a bit of left over paint…. and there is inspiration everywhere you look on craft websites, magazines and Pinterest. There are even blogs and videos to show you how to tackle specific projects. I think that we've all got a little 'Upcycler' in us - the only thing to do is have a go - you never know what hidden talents you may discover.
I'd like to see Upcycling Clubs spring up in our local communities - places where folks can go to be creative and artistic, swap ideas and finished products, sell their creations and, of course, do it over a cup of tea and a big wadge of cake…. now there's an idea…!