Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What the bleep is Upcycling? - An Introduction


I've always been fascinated with using found objects to fulfill both my creative & practical needs. Instead of buying paper to make my latest journal, I'll hunt for paper that I can reuse in some way. When it came time to find a bookshelf for my new place, it was a trip down to the brickyard for a bootload of old half bricks and the neighbour's nature strip for old fence pailings. The second booksehlf came from someones old deck.

There is an intense satisfaction for me in taking something that most wouldn't look twice at and creating something beautiful, unique and sometimes a little quirky, that fits my need.

Given the rise in environmental awareness and current economic times, I figured I wasn't the only one doing this and nor should I be. Along with organics, this is a bit of a passion of mine.

So whilst this started off as being a notion for one article, given the broad scope of products I've found during the research phase, I'm going to run separate posts on areas such as upcycling in art, interiors, at home, jewellery, clothing and toys.

What the Bleep is Upcycling?

It's the new buzz word in fashion: upcycling. And until I started investigating, I actually had no idea how many prolific producers were actually doing this. Until I started investigating, I figured this was a realm left to small time producers, home craftspeople and those who produced for the love of the art form as opposed to the dollar producing capability. As it turns out, I was wrong. My notion of what classed as, and what could be, upcycled was narrow. Although, I still debate whether using a bolt end is as valid in terms of upcycling as using a 20 year old garment to recreate something new.

So what makes upcycling different to recycling?

According to Word of the Week at Away with Words upcycling is:

...the practice of converting waste materials into products of greater value--beer bottles into building materials, for example. Coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2003 book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things" (North Point Press). Different from "recycling," which turns waste back into the same thing over and over.
So essentially, used paper made into more paper is recycling. However, if one was to take used paper and make it into say a journal or an album, this is upcycling.

Next: Upcycling in the realm of Jewellery.

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