You might have heard of the phrase “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” but it’s never been more on-point than now. Perhaps that’s because of the rise of KonMari (a movement that encourages us to own less but to love what we own). Or maybe, it’s an increasing awareness of the environmental footprint of our purchases or even just a growing appreciation for possessions with history. Whatever the reason, the tides are shifting away from IKEA flat-pack and towards a more sustainable model of ownership. That model is Upcycling.
What is Upcyling?
Upcycling is defined as the “the reuse of discarded objects or material in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original”. Although, we’d like to stress that often that sense of value comes emotionally, and not always financially – alas, the amount of Upcyling millionaires are few.
In the process of creating ‘value’, it’s important to add beauty or usefulness. Upcyling is more complicated than just re-purposing. For example, unraveling a wire coat-hanger to rescue your keys from a drain is not ‘Upcycling’. However, twist that hanger into a circle, wrap it in beautiful printed fabric and add some threaded shells to create a mobile is the result of ‘Upcycling’. In the same way, there is a lot more to ‘just’ painting furniture. It requires a lot of prep work to obtain the perfect finish, whether this be shabby chic or contemporary art.
Grandma Was An Upcycler
Pinterest might have us believe that Upcyling is a new phenomenon but it’s been prevalent throughout history from as far back as 1930. During that era it wasn’t uncommon for doors to become tables or curtains to become dresses – items were used until they were no longer useful.
While the original Upcyling movement was born from necessity, todays thrift is more a fashion. Neigh, not just a fashion – for many people it’s a way of life. It’s helps channel creativity, reflect individuality and, more importantly, reduce the environmental impact we create with every new purchasing cycle.
Where Do I Start?
Interested in Upcyling, here are some tips:
Look in another light – The first step is to look at the household objects which no longer bring you joy or those which have fulfilled their current function. Now, instead of thinking of the object in terms of purpose, try considering it terms of shape, material, and form. Don’t be afraid to pick it up, flip it over and consider how it sits at different angles. Ask yourself what else the object can be, once you answer that, no matter how far-reaching your vision seems, the path to making it happening will form.
Start small – A good idea is to start small. Your first Upcycling experience, and it’s success, will probably determine if it’s something for you – so don’t go for something too labour intensive or too expensive. More importantly, make sure it’s something you can complete in one or two sessions – the project should be fun and not tedious.
The Joy Of Upcycling
At the heart of the Upcyling movement is the want to preserve rather than destroy. The will to honour a sense of personality, and capture imagination by infusing quirks onto reused objects. Upcycled items are crafted through love, a mission to respect history and tell a story that all your friends will want to hear.