Monday, 21 December 2009

Play's the thing

My mom's friend Mary pointed out an upcycling story in our very own local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This comes from a feature on 12 things to do over the holiday season with kids:

Though there are certainly exceptions in these hard times, most kids receive a stunning number of store-bought presents in coming days. A visit to the exhibit “The Power to Play: From Trash to Treasure,” at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum through Jan. 10, might give them the gift of understanding just how good they've got it.

It’s a show of 75 recycled toys made by children in war-torn and impoverished areas in Asia, Africa and the Americas. For instance, there’s a soccer ball made of plastic grocery bags wrapped with twine from Kenya and trucks from plastic bottles or wood scraps from Dominica. 678- 222-3700,

The exhibition was organised by ChildFund, and has already appeared this year at the Children's Museum in Boston, the Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Monday, 14 December 2009

To the rescue

What do you get when you combine a firehose, truck tarpaulin and safety belt? If you are the nifty German company Feuerwear, you get a messenger bag, shopping bag, handbag, laptop bag...

Hot hot hot, right?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Fruit toss

My last post was about unusual aesthetic uses for fruit and veggies. Today I've discovered some fun furnishings upcycled from fruit crates and timber off-cuts. About a year ago I interviewed two lovely people called Sarah Kay and Andrea Stemmer, who together are the furniture design firm Kay + Stemmer. You can commission the pair to make bespoke furniture for you, or you can buy their pieces at places like Heal's and SCP. Or... you can take yourself over to Contemporary Applied Arts like I did last week and admire then buy their Tutti Frutti waste paper bin and magazine holders. These will soon be available on the Kay + Stemmer website as well.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Tater truths

Don't eat potatoes that have started to go a bit green, because the change in colour indicates that the skin now contains poison that's similar to arsenic. I read that on the interweb somewhere, which I'm sure you'll agree is a very reputable source of information.

When your tubers turn radioactive in colour and poisonous in composition, they are no longer fit for human consumption. So why not turn them into a Christmas scene, as the greengrocers in East Wittering has done?

(Although Mr Green Santa Potatohead cannot talk, I can read his facial expression and it's clear that he also wants us all to consider his friend the chili pepper - pictured to his left - as a candidate to be upcycled into a nose for your next snowman.)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Tie one on

Remember Esther Coombs, the designer/maker who takes vintage crockery and overlays upon it her own line drawings? Here's another example of a designer taking existing materials and giving them her own eco-styled stamp. Tamasyn Gambell prints onto vintage scarves to make something new and lovely from something old and unloved. I'm quite keen on her hardback notebooks - covered in vintage printed scarves, these are bound by a family bookbinders in Essex and use recycled paper stock from a 100-year-old British paper mill.

But hey don't take my word for it - Tamasyn's work will be available this weekend:

East London Design Show, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street
Friday 4th December (12pm – 8pm )
Saturday 5th December (10am – 6pm)
Sunday 6th December (10am – 6pm)
Admission: £4, concessions: £2, accompanied children under 16 free

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Bright futures

Forget upcycling for the minute folks - can you believe there are still people out there who don't recycle basic things like glass, newspaper and aluminium? My brother lives in Miami, and lawmakers and taxpayers there apparently don't think recycling is a priority. If you leave cans, bottles and papers at the kerb they'll stay put till a tropical breeze comes and blows them away. If you want to recycle them, your only choice is to load them into your car and drive them to a recycling centre in Dade County. Not clever!

Maybe examples like this stem from the fact that recycling is kind of abstract (unlike upcycling I suppose, where the rewards are more immediate). Naysayers should take a look at Resilica's new website, where they will learn that "Resilica is a truly bespoke worktop and surface material which is hand made in the UK from 100% recycled glass waste. Mixed with a specially developed solvent-free resin system then cast into solid panels, the surface is ground away and polished to reveal fragments of embedded glass which reflect light."

If you click on over and view their case studies, no doubt you - like me - will come down with a bad case of kitchen envy. And maybe you'll be encouraged to collect a few more glass bottles to recycle for the cause.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Monday, 30 November 2009

All's fair

This Sunday I worked on a stall at Spitalfields market selling t-shirts for my friend Gerry, who silkscreens onto fair-trade tops in a studio in Hackney. I gave him a hand at his stall in the Sunday Upmarket too, and passed by the Eco-Design Fair on the way.

Being on the clock, I couldn't stop in - but today my friends Giff and Wendy have told me it's their mate Louise who organises it. I was checking out the Eco-Design Fair website and came across something too good not to share.

"This Spring, Eco-Design Fair teamed up with Regenersis – The UK’s biggest mobile phone recycling company, to run a design competition during Love London Green Festival 2009. Designers were invited to create an original and innovative product suitable for any sort of domestic use; from a piece of jewellery to an item of furniture, using old mobile handsets as raw material."

Anna Kompaniets snagged a runner-up spot with this snazzy hat. Inspired? Intrigued? Don't miss their next fair or crazy upcycling competition - sign up for the mailing list at

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Table top sale

Earlier this autumn I interviewed Elsie Pinniger who makes bespoke wetsuits in Newquay through her company Neon. She also does womenswear (non-neoprene thankfully), and upcycling contributes to her her efforts:
"One style of summer dress I make out of old tablecloths from charity shops. It's really nice stuff, all the little embroidered ones. It's about reusing stuff and being efficient, not buying new all the time."

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Sock it to me

Today everyone in the world is surfing but I am not because I am writing up an article about... surfing. I could cry but I shall not. Instead I will give you a preview about an upcycling initiative that features in the story.

Katie and Chris are the pair of people behind a business called Oddsocks. They source unloved and redundant 1970s curtain fabrics at boot sales and charity shops - the crazier the better. This stuff tends to be fantastically durable, which means it would take approximately one squillion years to break down in a landfill. Katie sews the end-of-line booty together with natural unbleached canvas sailcloth to create drawstring surfboard bags. The board socks are whipped up on a hand-wound (as in not electric) sewing machine she bought on Ebay for £15, purchased from an octogenarian whose own grandmother was the machine's original owner. 

The bags suit soul surfers who ride hand shaped sticks and like a bit of personality in their kit. Says Chris, their customers are looking for a bag "that can rise to the occasion". Each one is completely unique, and they aim to create products that are in fact "one-off pieces of art that just happen to be functional".

I do believe the Oddsocks website has been redesigned since I last checked in, and it's looking lush. Take a peek, and in the meantime let Katie's words inspire your own upcycling efforts: "With the board socks I wasn't aware it was something I was capable of doing until that very first one - I think you can surprise yourself!"    

Friday, 27 November 2009

A little birdy told me

It's always gratifying to come across people who can teach a dedicated upcycler like me some new tricks, and Bird is a venture in Ravenscourt Park launched by a pair of girls who could write the book on creative reclamation.

First they upcycled their casual relationship (their kids are school friends) into a business partnership, just as they upcycled their hobby of going to antique fairs into a vocation. To seal the deal they upcycled a railway arch owned by a garden centre called Ginkgo into a showroom and retail environment dedicated to "found objects and furniture rehab".

I visited yesterday and encountered a host of fantastic upcycling ideas. As Thanksgving is now behind us, the most relevant of these relate to Christmas. I'm particularly enamoured with the Victorian salmon nets now posing as festive trees (see below), as well as the old toy cars and spools of thread posing happily as Christmas tree ornaments (above). How very merry!

Bird at Ginkgo Garden Centre, 17 Ravenscourt Avenue W6 0SL, 020 8563 7112,


Triple word score

Why is Pixie Lott in my blog you ask? Those who know me understand that I have an unhealthy fixation on Scrabble. Look closely and you'll see Pixie herself has an appreciation for little wooden (or plastic) letter tiles, which she's wearing on her fingers no less. (That E on her pinkie finger is from a deluxe set, ooo.) 

The jewellery designer behind these cunning inventions is Katarina Louise, who also uses Lego, dominoes and vintage buttons in her work. Definitely take a peek at to browse and buy - prices range from £5 to £20.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Santa's secret: upcycling

Ok chaps, here it is: Christmas is coming. You can either buy your Secret Santa less-than-a-tenner crap at Tesco, or you can take the opportunity to support upcycling. The choice is yours.

If you're thinking of joining the latter camp, then take that mouse of yours and pop on over to the Eden Project shop. Shown above you'll find something I quite like - the Acarage coin purse made from recycled ring pulls. It's a handy home for loose change and ladies and gentlemen, it costs £10.

While you're there you might want to put together your own wish list. I have, and this is on it: a retro wall clock made from recycled coffee cups. The entire ashortwalk recycled range is designed, sourced and manufactured in the UK and made from recycled vending machine coffee cups. The innovative material looks and feels like natural slate, and the clock is £24.95.

And I've got one last bit of holiday cheer up my sleeve - they're also selling Christmas crackers for the cause. Each one is made in Dorset from newspaper and contains a packet of Seeds, a recycled paper hat, an environmental message about the planet and of course a bang, all for £12.95. So there you go - ho ho ho.

Flow with it

Lucy at West London Living kindly keeps her eye out for opportunities to further the upcycling cause. Here's something she came across and sent on over to me...

To coincide with the turning of this year to the next, Flow gallery presents Transformations, an exhibition running from December through to February 2010 showcasing the work of 13 artists who are concerned with the transformation of the old into something new. The exhibition will explore the different ways artists alter existing, discarded and forgotten objects to give them greater significance, unexpected beauty and new life. I’ve chosen a few artists to highlight here along with images of their work.

Grant McCaig explores through his work the use of silver and the meanings that we attach to it. “I enjoy playing with concepts of preciousness,” he says, “combining the silver with the throwaway and the discarded to create familiar but alternative objects.”

CJ O'Neill revamps existing ceramics by adding new patterns and cutting away geometric forms from them. Rejuvenating discarded objects with new features allows the story of these objects to be continued.

Barbara Massey and Helen Rogers are concerned with the need to consider our environmental impact. They imaginatively integrate recycling into their contemporary design practice by weaving with discarded materials. Old army maps were used in the fabric of the tea towels shown here.

Maria Militsi is interested in the power of absence that makes us look, the dimension of the lack and the space left by a missing object. In an attempt to absorb what already exists rather than adding to the world, Maria collects objects that have suffered a loss; the loss of their owner or the loss of their function. This triggers a desire within her to complete them, to reassess their function and to fill their empty space with precious metals.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

mOma said there'd be days like this

I've just interviewed Tom Mercer - a neighbour of mine and the man behind mOma - for Living South magazine. Tom's venture mOma makes and sells breakfast foods at mainline rail stations that are uber-healthy and super convenient. Think Bircher muesli and thick smoothies packed with probiotic yoghurt, fresh pressed juices, jumbo oats and fruit that come in in grab-and-go pots and bottles. 

Entrepreneurs are interesting to interview because they tend to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers who make the most of resources in getting their enterprises off the ground. Tom's story even includes a little bit of upcycling in the form of repurposed drinks bottles and a souped up filing cabinet:

“Back at the beginning when it was a real grassroots start-up company we did trials on the streets of Waterloo with old water bottles filled with product. Our first stall in Waterloo Station was made from a filing cabinet that had wheels on the bottom and branding put on the side.”

Find mOma at Euston, Charing Cross, London Bridge, Victoria, Liverpool Street and Waterloo.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Thirsty work

Being from the American South, I am no stranger to bourbon or to Southern Comfort. I have in my time put away many a JB&C (Jim Beam and Coke), as well as the occasional SoCo cocktail. Earlier this week we went to the launch of Four Roses bourbon at the Light Bar, organised by the dapper Antoni Heatley. In a nod to the country casual ways of the traditional Deep South drinker, cocktails were served in jars. Just about since birth I've been a fan of bourbon and ginger ale, but Four Roses were mixing with ginger beer - an outstanding invention, and one that I vowed to recreate at home, with an upcycled jar for authenticity.

And now Southern Comfort's latest news has landed in my inbox too and their Christmas cocktail is called the Louisiana Jam. It contains apricot jam and is mixed and served in a jam jar, so if you're in an upcycling mood, I suggest you wash out an old glass receptacle, follow these instructions and treat yourself to a drink...

35ml Southern Comfort

20ml lemon juice

20ml apple juice

2 teaspoons of apricot jam

8 mint leaves

15ml sugar syrup 

1. Place mint leaves into a clean, empty jam jar and gently muddle.

2. Place remaining ingredients into the jam jar.

3. Half fill with crushed ice, put the jam jar lid on and shake vigorously.

4. Remove the lid and top up with crushed ice.

5. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of mint.

Visit for more Southern Comfort Christmas cheer.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Free for all

Le Cool magazine is my new best friend. It's like Time Out, but for people who don't have time to read through anything remotely irrelevant and can no longer see the benefit of communication that is paper-based. You will love it too, so subscribe - subscribe I tell you! 

To convince you of how relevant and wonderful it is, here is something I've casually copied and pasted from their latest issue - an insider pseudo shopping opportunity that's too good for all us rummagers, upcyclers and cheap-skates to possibly miss:

SHOPPING Non-Commercial House

Organise a cricket match with the passing bankers at the Old Spitalfields Market. Drink a stolen beer from Dirty Dick’s. Throw a step aerobics class on Liverpool Street Station’s escalators. Beg for a penny, to spend in the station toilets. Eat one of the free copies of the gutter press handed out at Bank. These are just some of the myriad things you can do for free in the City. Ok, they might be a little bit silly, but you haven’t heard my best proposal yet: The Non-Commercial House is indeed, a shop where everything is free; a space that promotes community without consumerism, in the heart of Europe’s centre of finance. People recycle stuff they don’t need (anything really) and you can simply pop in, have a cuppa tea and take what you need. And they don’t expect anything in return. Can you believe it? An uplifting glimpse of what the world could look like. / Marta

where Non-Commercial House, 165 Commercial St

when Opened from Fri. to Sun. 12-8pm (Tue. at 7pm house-meetings)

how much Free!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Up, up(cycle) and away

Recently I went to Liberty and spent all of 68p on a piece of ribbon. I also went to the magical cobbler on Lower Marsh who never seems to want to charge me for anything. (He's fixed handbags for me twice, using quantities of stitches and glue, and didn't want any money either time.) I got him to punch holes in these pirate boots I got at Shellys a long time ago. (I know it was a while ago because a) the Neal Street Shellys isn't even there anymore, and b) after I bought them I met my friend Emily at Souk and that was before she had any kids and now she has two kids and two dogs.) So I threaded the 68p ribbon through the holes and laced the boots up in the back. Now they are thigh-high, and I am ready for anything. 

Monday, 16 November 2009

Use it or lose it

When I was growing up, old car tyres (tires, if you will) were used for making swings or as floatation devices in river rafting scenarios. This kind of upcycling is all good and well if you like to play all day, but if you have to go to work then allow me to present to you a more suitable application.

Cyclus make bags and accessories out of recycled inner tubes, shop awnings and umbrellas salvaged in and around Bogota, Colombia. They also incorporate fabrics woven by indigenous tribes with a profit payback scheme to ensure that money is paid back to grassroots development. So you see it must be true - what goes around comes around.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Blankety blank

Some time in the early 80s, a quilt making frenzy swept the neighbourhood where I grew up. My mom and her pals couldn't get enough of it! Only I guess they did eventually get enough of it, judging at least by the number of half finished quilty things I come across that have been quietly squirelled away in my parents' household.

Quilts have a real Little House on the Prairie vibe, which speaks a little bit to the make-do-and-mend tradition of early American homesteaders who were so fond of this particular art form. An old pair of trousers, a christening dress, a bedsheet, a nightgown with holes in it, a stained workshirt... Did Laura Ingalls Wilder put such things in the landfill? Did she heck. She would have made a snuggly nostalgic blanket from said castoffs, and these days you can too.

Beyond Fabrics in Columbia Road is offering quilting classes. The next one is 21 November 9am to noon and costs £35. 

Monday, 9 November 2009

Reclaim for Christmas

Last week I was working at the Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia. It seems just a tiny bit early for Christmas carols, but not at all too early for upcycling ideas. Antiques by Design was exhibiting, and let me tell ya - these people are upcylomaniacs.

Here's how you can tell. Their website lists such mysterious and exciting items as:

Piglet feeding trough herb garden

BSA car grill mirror

Tennis racket mirrors

Galvanised water tank lamp table

Norwich jail window mirror

French gate console with white Carrara marble top

And don't even get me started on their lighting. I'll put it this way - in their hands, no cello, boxing glove, shotgun, snowshoe, Second World War helmet, fire extinguisher, oar, bowling ball, watering can, discus or cartwheel is safe from their illuminating reclamation antics.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Roll with it

I have a skateboard, but I'm a bit scared to ride it. Maybe it's a skareboard. I'm just afraid I will get broken on it. Real skaters worry about other things - like their skateboard getting broken. My pal Clare has directed my attention to an outfit called 2Revert - they create jewellery out of 100% post-consumer recycled skateboards. That is to say they make nice stuff from old, busted skates. Please direct your attention to the fantastic cuffer linkers above, available on Etsy. If I fail to master my skateboard, at least I can rest easy in the fact that I could always make it into 100 natty sleeve fasteners instead.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Climbing the walls

I still haven't been to Anthropologie on Regent Street, but I have read an awful lot about their indoor vertical garden. I've been looking into vertical gardens, and came across London's experts in the "field" - Garden Beet is a company that helps walls grow green things. They sell Woolly Wally Pockets, which is a vertical gardening system you can use inside and out. And while that is fairly special, guess what else is special about them? They're manufactured from old plastic bottles, hooray. I nicked the following Q&A session from the WWP website for all of us to enjoy...

What is breathability?

Plants need oxygen in their soil in order to thrive. Woolly Pockets are made of felt derived from recycled plastic bottles that allows the soil to refresh its oxygen supply. This feature is called breathability.

What are the benefits of breathable containers?

There are two primary benefits to container gardening in breathable containers. First, it allows the soil to aerate naturally, which reduces the need to drain the containers and also helps to conserve water. Second, when the roots sense air they do something called air pruning. This is the natural process of stopping their own growth when they sense they've reached the limits of their space. This keeps the roots healthy and stops plants from becoming root-bound by growing in continuing circles as they do in non-breathable containers such as clay pots.

What are Woolly Pockets made of?

Woolly Pockets have two main components: the breathable felt and the built-in moisture barrier. The breathable portion is made of 100% recycled plastic bottles that have been industrially felted. The moisture barrier is made according to military standards for impermeability from 60% recycled plastic bottles. We stitch each pocket together by hand with a double lock stitch and strong, UV-resistant nylon thread.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Feeling fleeced

Just when you might have thought there would be no more upcycling inspiration to come from chez Graeme, I have some happy news for you. Graeme's girlfriend Nicky is also an upcyclophile. Here are some ideas from her to you via me...
"This is my current favourite way to 'release the fleece'. Easy peazy - you just get a jumper which is no good for actually wearing and shove it in the washing machine on around 60, along with towels if needed to fill up the drum and ensure plenty o friction. If it's not quite woolly enough for ya, then put in spin dryer until satisfied (check regularly - it's quite difficult to make anything with a postage stamp). Once you're happy with your fuzzy felted item, just use it as fabric - cut, sew or sculpt - whatever turns you on. Bags are my obsession at the mo as you can see. Identify the features of the garment and try to incorporate into your bag design; I used a nice panel of cable for the duffel and kept the fairisle tank top more or less intact, just constructed the whole thing around it's original structure. As I'm an avid collector of vintage buttons it also puts them to a good use."

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Measure of success

Just when I thought my driving instructor could not possibly have further upcycling ideas to share, voila - look what he posted on his blog. (By the way, I am a safe and alert driver. If you see me coming down the street at you in a Honda with L plates, you have my solemn word that I am concentrating at the business at hand and am not chatting about upcycling. Very much.)

"A couple more Upcycling ideas from the House of Bear... These enamel liquid measures - actually 3 of those, plus one salt holder - were pretty hopeless around the house. There wasn't room in the kitchen to hang them on the walls and they couldn't stand up on their own, being legless and round bottomed, so for months they were sent into internal exile in a comfortless box in the cellar. But then, one day, hurrah! a brain wave was had and they were rescued from their damp exclusion and attached to the sunny, south facing, wall of our extension and duly planted up with, er, well, plants. This was greeted with much joy by the enamels and they have been happy with their botanical charges ever since (yes, I know these plants don't look too healthy now. But believe me during the summer they were thriving). Enamels are especially good for this kind of task because they each have a spout which allows for free draining, meaning they don't get waterlogged."

Friday, 30 October 2009

The talkies

The enterprising Mr Slope opened the Cinema Royale in Chiswick in 1910 and had great success until the ultra modern Art Deco Odeon styled cinemas turned it dark in 1934. The deserted fleapit served briefly as a parachute factory in the 40s and then fell into further disrepair until the 1970s when Martin Hanness and some other antique dealers took it over to ply their trade. Today Martin runs The Old Cinema as a giant shop of antiques, organised by department according to theme and era. I asked him about old stuff, upcycling and the business of upcycling old stuff...

What does your work as buyer for this unusual enterprise entail? There are about 15 dealers who help me supply The Old Cinema with the variety of stock now expected by our customers who include professional stylists looking for the next big thing and young locals in search of bargains. I travel around the UK buying at trade fairs and warehouses plus some regular haunts in Europe but my big love for the last few years has been buying 50s Americana and vintage industrial pieces from the American rustbelt.

Who are some of your influences from the world of design and elsewhere? William Morris was my first hero but currently I am very interested in the mid-century Cotswolds furniture maker Gordon Russell and E Gomme Ltd which became G-Plan. However my real passion is for the lost and found objects, things which have been ignored but deserve appreciation. Faded old advertising signs, factory trolleys, old school lockers and printers drawers full of old type faces. The greatest inspiration for me to keep searching is Sir Peter Blake, whose work with ephemera, found objects and popular culture I think is of huge importance to us all.

What’s the weirdest object that has been sold at The Old Cinema? The most bizarre was a stuffed lion in a huge glass case, which we wheeled down Chiswick High Road one Summer’s afternoon from an auction house in town.

What do you consider to be your best ever find? Oh! That’s easy - my wife! She’s had to put up with broken clocks on the kitchen table, 50’s ball gowns soaking in the bath, rusty balconies in the garden and much worse over the years. Fortunately she makes just as much mess with her pottery making.

What’s your favourite piece in your home? We don’t really go for grand pieces at home so our favourite piece of furniture is an old Victorian chesterfield I bought with Mary in a barn somewhere in Wales 30 years ago. It’s curved and fits perfectly into a bay window, we had it completely restored and upholstered and have watched it slowly sag under the weight of jumping children and hairy dogs. Good furniture for good memories! 

What’s your current bestseller or something in the shop that you’re really excited about? At the moment I’m interested in early twentieth century American industrial design.  I love picking through the derelict objects in abandoned factories.  Americans, like the Victorians before them, designed and manufactured to a very high standard, so with a little love and know-how we have rescued some amazing pieces which should be around forever now.

Some of the pieces in the shop are upcycled, meaning they incorporate objects or materials originally conceived for one purpose now being used for another. Why is this kind of practice interesting and important right now? We’ve had a lot of interest in this idea. Antiques are green by nature but upcycling objects is ecological and exciting as we think of new uses for old stuff. Typewriter keys for cufflinks, inverted water tanks for tables, old flags for upholstery  - it’s just the start of something very big that anyone can get involved in. 

Special Christmas event!

The Old Cinema will host the spoof filming of a pilot TV game show featuring Quizmaster Eben Scruise and plucky contestants Mr and Mrs Cratchit. Be part of the studio audience as the penniless couple value, auction and bid their way to a dramatic and heart-wrenching finale. Drinks and canap├ęs reception at 7pm, show commences at 7:30pm, late night shopping with special 15% discount until 9:30pm. Tickets are free but limited at; see for more information.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Light of my life

Everyone and his blog brother is talking endlessly and writing on and on about Anthropologie on Regent Street. Being from the US, Anthro is a place I go to in the mall with my mom when I am at home and buy things when they are on sale and browse a bunch of very aesthetic stuff, much of which I don't need but all of which I want.

Here is a pic borrowed from beloved journalist India Knight and her excellent blog depicting the Regent Street shop's chandelier of upcycled plastique. It's gorgeous, I know. No wonder that place is the talk of the town.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bed (side) table

And here's one last Graemism, in which we learn how to upcycle some old bed bits into something useful:

"The small table you can see was built from the bones of a bed frame and then painted with an old piece of blue sky that I found in the road and liquidised. It is a sturdy little chap and can be sat upon, stood upon and generally put upon."

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Ifs ands and butts

Welcome to the second installment from my guestblogoperson Graeme. His new blog at is coming along nicely, and I am going to recreate some of the magic here.

"Here is a Baby Burco that I adapted as a water butt. What is Baby Burco? I hear you say; well Baby Burco was a very early washing machine which was basically just a tub with a plug. You would fill with water, then switch on and marvel as said H2O atoms wiggled and jiggled themselves into a boiled up frenzy. Then you would add clothes and torture them with abrasive soap powder and wooden tongs until they came clean. The Burco was bought for 50p from a bootsale, but having no wish to harass articles of soggy clothing I turned it, with the help of a piece of washing machine pipe, a funnel and some gaffa tape, into the magnificent water collecting specimen it is today."

I especially like the re-use of the wine cork depicted above - gently used and with a corkscrew scar in its head - for some extra upcycling activity. Tune in tomorrow for a final piece from Graeme...

Monday, 26 October 2009

For the birds

It turns out that there's more to my driving instructor than a handy ability to reverse around a corner. Graeme is also a natural-born upcycler too. Here is his fascinating account of how an ammunition box became enhanced by bird life and now serves a peaceful existence in his Balham house. (By the way I lifted this from Graeme's brand-new blog at

"The box, originally an ammunition box was found naked and shivering without even a coat of paint to keep it warm in the attic of a house that I moved into in 1989 in Balham. For a while I kept it warm but failed to clothe it, and it was content, but rather embarrassed at being left continually naked for all to see. But then one day, having no canvas to speak of but a hell of a lot of newly acquired acrylic paint to use, I decided to dress it.

And so I did: initially I just added the blue coat and left it at that. But box was not happy. It wanted more, so a flock of gold finches and two parakeets were added to its lid and a pair of Shelducks to its front elevation. When it was finished both artist and canvas were surprised at how well it turned out. And that was it. Box and man were, just like ye olde American beat group The Turtles, happy together and have remained so ever since. Box now lives in my bedroom and guards all manner of miscellaneous crap within its pink interior. It's a quiet life, but a happy one."

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Candid can-do camera

Yes yes, I know what you're thinking; I'm thinking it too. This is the best upcycled camera creation the world has ever seen. Get them at Oye Modern - or get to work on that old broken Pentax K-1000 in your loft/shed/attic/basement and see what you can do.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Win win win!

Checkitout people - an upcycling contest!

Upcycle Christmas is a competition for people to take second hand and charity stuff and make it into something new and desirable to be sold at an online auction starting on the 7th December. It's sponsored by Folksy and benefits Sue Ryder Care and the judges are:

Wayne Hemingway MBE, who’s been at the forefront of British design for yonks, initially with Red or Dead and now moving into architecture and built environment

Louise Roe, the fashion journalist and ex BBC Clothes Show presenter who now guests on programmes like Britain’s Next Top Model

India Knight (wikipedia), the columnist, champion of craft and making, and author of amongst other things The Thrift Book: How to Live Well and Spend Less 

There are all sorts of exciting rules and prizes and tickets and forms and things, so I'd better start typing and get myself over to the website NOW.