First published on 14 May 2013. Updated on 19 Feb 2014.
Melbourne design blogger Cintia Gonzalez-Pell, blogger at My Poppet, is an avid upcycler who regularly updates her followers with ideas, including how to make yourself a new rug from old T-shirts, and fashioning cushion covers into a cute tote. You can even buy e-books on craft from her website, and PDF-form patterns. The first eight photos in our gallery are of Cintia's creations.
“I am very interested in the fine line between an object’s utility or desirability and obsolescence,” she says. “It also saves me a ton of money, helps relieve the pressure on landfill and reduces unnecessary use of the earth's resources. I think upcycling is a rediscovered trend – in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations it was borne out of necessity and the understanding of an object’s value. Our generation is realising that just being a consumer is unfulfilling.”
Similarly, Joanne Crocker who runs the online shop Upcycle Studio – having been a homewares buyer for 12 years and becoming increasingly horrified at the wastefulness of consumerism – thinks the trend is an eco-artform. Her website sells creations like ottomans made of plastic bags from landfill in Cambodia, bags made from navy kit bags found in Germany, iPad holders made from used bike tubes and a particularly chic lamp made from recycled PET bottles. You can see some of the products she sells in the second half of our gallery. Then there's her own collection, 'Trash Garden', which she designed and gets made in India.
“It’s a way of expressing yourself creatively while minimising consumption,” Crocker offers. “Its growing followers are proof that this shift in thinking is our way of being part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.”
Top upcycling tips
Joanne Crocker and Cintia Gonzalez-Pell can get you started
1. Use plastic bottles. Our planet will particularly love you for this. Any plastic that can be upcycled means less in our landfills.
2. Use old clothes. There are hundreds of things you can do with pre-loved fashion. Convert old shirts into bags; denim can make great upholstery fabric given its durable characteristics; T-shirts can be braided into rugs; swatches of fabric can be made into a patchwork quilt; and broken accessories can make great pieces of art.
3. Find pallets. This is super popular at the moment. Pallets are versatile and take up lots of space in landfill, which makes them ideal candidates for furniture projects. Check the stamps on the timber first: all pallets will have a code on them. Avoid if you see ‘EHB’ (an insecticide treatment), ‘CCA’ (copper chrome arsenate) or ‘MB’ (a fumigation treatment called methyl bromide).
4. Make art. Upcycling doesn’t have to serve a purpose – it’s an artform in itself. You can make beautiful portraits out of junk mail, sculptures made of scrap metal and chandeliers made of spoons.
5. Rehaul your furniture. Old furniture can be given a quick facelift with a bright coat of paint and new hardware. Handles are cheap!
6. Use jars. Decorate old jars with washi tape or blackboard paint (so you can write on them with chalk!) and use them as vases or to organise bits and pieces.
Top 5 sources of upcycling material
Joanne Crocker shares her secrets on where to find secondhand gold
1. Resource Rescue Inc. is a community-based, non-profit organisation that collects craft and fabric rejects, seconds and factory off-cuts for super-cheap resale (by the bag-full!) Find them at 7/31 Hosie Street, Bayswater North.
2. Salvage Bazaar is a listings website where second-hand and unused building supplies are posted for cheap sale around Victoria. Check out their listed items including French doors, windows, lights, cabinets, timber and more.
3. eBay is ideal for those looking for furniture to revamp a space. Amazing bargains are just waiting to be found on great timeless pieces of furniture that can be refinished, painted or reupholstered.
4. Camberwell Markets is a hive of excitement every Sunday morning. This market has everything from pre-loved fashion to cheap vintage finds, handicrafts, books and lots, lots more.
5. The Garage Sale Trail happens once a year and is a national day of simultaneous garage sales. This amazing event is about minimising the volume of landfill. Just log onto the site closer to October 26th, check out who’s involved in your local area and start plotting your route!