Thursday, 24 September 2009

Veni, vedi, veneer

Sim, who is an interiors stylist and therefore is running all around the London Design Festival, very helpfully pointed me in the direction of designer Zoe Murphy. I am now sick with desire for Zoe's cushions which are made from recycled wedding dress silk, hand printed and then backed with vintage cloth. Sick I tell you: I want I want I want. Visit Zoe's blog and join in my mania, why don't you?

Meanwhile, what Zoe is really known for are her reclaimed and refurbed pieces of furniture. With new veneers and hand printing, she makes tired mid century oldies into objects of affection. Have a good old wander around her webular site here:

And as we've now established that Sim has a great eye, don't miss the Affordable Art Fair 22-25 October where she'll be lending a helping hand at Alicia David Contemporary Art.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

On the bottle

What motivates the upcycling phenomenon? In some communities, upcycling in fact is no phenomenon - instead it's an everyday matter of economic necessity borne of limited resources. In other places, upcycling is almost a backlash against excess, embraced in a spirit of aesthetic experimentation and environmental action.

Yesterday Kedar got me thinking about the upcycling-by-economics motivation. (Kedar is a copywriter in New Delhi with a blog filled with great ideas and lovable illustrations - check him out here.) Anyway, Kedar introduced me to a fantastic word, "jugaad". The Double-Tongued Dictionary defines it like this:
jugaad n. an improvised or jury-rigged solution; inventiveness, ingenuity, cleverness.
And Wikipedia has this to say:

Jugaad are locally made motor vehicles that are used mostly in small villages as a means of low cost transportation in India. Jugaad literally means an arrangement or a work around, which have to be used because of lack of resources… "Jugaad" is also colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix, often pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such, or a person who can solve a vexatious issue. It is used as much for enterprising street mechanics as for political fixers. In essence, though it is a tribute to native genius, and lateral thinking.

So what if you're practiced in the art of jugaad? Then you're a jugaadu. (Awesome.)

I also had lunch with Lucy yesterday, who recently met a social entrepreneur called Cameron Saul. His dad started the Mulberry fashion house and Cam did volunteer work in Uganda. Armed with these two bits of background, he launched the charity Bottletop, which could be the place where the upcycling-by-economics and the upcycling-as-aesthetic motivations meet. Bottletop funds education and sexual health initiatives in places such as Malawi, Brazil and Rwanda. How it works is Bottletop will set up in a local community, paying members of the community for resources that can be upcycled, like bottletops or ring-pulls. The charity also pays people to manufacture these resources into fashion accessories, like belts and handbags. The Bottletop team brings these to the UK where they're sold online and in upscale shops, and the money goes back to projects in the original community. (I don't speak Hindi, but doesn't this make Cameron a jugaadu?)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Carat and stick approach

Esther Coombs is what I like to call a Golden Raisin. This does not mean she was a green grape as opposed to a purple one in a previous life; it means she is someone who has taken the humble act of upcycling a step further - she's gone and made it an art form.

Esther searches charity shops and boot sales in order to adopt unloved, mismatched crockery. Then she draws on it, fires it and releases the rehabilitated orphans back into the wild. I just browsed her wares at the Craft Central One Day Sale. Sadly for all of us, both the Day and the Sale are now over, but you can catch Esther again at Tent London, the design event at the Truman Brewery running 24 to 27 September.

Esther is someone who understands that upcycling begins at home - we should all make an effort to creatively reuse things whenever we can. So instead of a business card she was handing out fantastic make-your-own-collage kits. Like I said: pure gold.

Let them light cake

My friend Sim introduced these lamps to me - they're from Love Your Home For Less. One is a former bike light that's now having to get used to an office job; the other is an upcycled cake tin that was so sick and tired of slaving over a hot oven that it got itself a promotion to the secretarial pool.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Soapy sales

I've been going through my camera and have found some photos I intended to upload in order to brighten up the lives of Raisin readers everywhere. The first was shot at my friend Anne's house. Anne is an illustrator, so can always be counted on for creative ideas. She invited Belinda and me over for some coffee and cakes, and I invite you to now feast your eyes on her oversized cake stand. (It may seem obvious, but have you ever upcycled a piece of DIY equipment in the pursuit of sweet confections? Try it; I think you might like it.)

The second pic is something I came across at my mom and dad's house. According to my mom, this is a little crocheted soap scrubber from the 1930s. You would collect all your old bits of soap and squish them together, then stick them in this little pouch for an experience of bathing beauty. I just about can't remember the last time I saw an actual bar of soap - and it's not because I'm dirty. Now everyone everywhere uses liquid hand soap and shower gel. This might be because it's more hygienic (is it? I don't know), and this might be because we as humans love any excuse for a plastic bottle.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Who needs Swarvoski

Yes, London Fashion Week is almost here. Did you think that we here at Give Me One Good Raisin are too ascetic to care? Make no mistake: we care. It's an over-the-top celebration of creativity, and we're all about celebrating creativity in all it's crazy forms.

And anyway, designers like Jasper Garvida make it easy to care: take a look at these images of the upcycling masterpieces he'll be unleashing in his new collection. Jasper first made a name for himself as victor of Sky One's last series of Project Catwalk, but these days you'll find his work on Shakira Caine, Jodie Kidd, Sophie Dahl and Liz Hurley.

Right now he's putting his finishing touches on his catwalk show taking place this Saturday, but just over a year ago he was competing on the small screen against 13 other fashion hopefuls while being judged by industry insiders like Grazia editor Paula Reed, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and designer Henry Holland. Ben di Lisi mentored the contestants as they worked to new challenges week after week, while Kelly Osborne fronted the series.

Although appearing in reality television has been the kiss of death for many a starry-eyed celebrity aspirant, Jasper says there have been no negatives to doing Project Catwalk. “My intention was to show how creative I can be; winning wasn’t my goal,” he insists. “I just wanted to show what I can do so I took risks all the time.”

And although the cameras are no longer rolling, he's continuing to take risks as he explores the outer limits of creativity. In his new collection, Jasper re-styled Asahi bottle tops into embellishments on dresses in an admirable endeavour that he's calling "couture recycling". He hammered the bottle tops flat, punctured holes through the metal, placed large sequins on top, stitched them all on and secured them in place with beads. 

Want to know more about the man himself? Visit West London Living where my interview with Jasper appears.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Paper trail

Remember the good people at Urban Upholstery, who scour the streets for abandoned furniture to refurbish? They'll be at the Space + Time exhibition at Hoxton Hall for London Design Week. The exhibition explores "the intricate relationship, evolution and longevity of 21st century designs", promoting the idea that "renewable resources are paramount to the sustainability of our environment".

They'll be showing alongside London Origami, whose site is worth a wander especially since it provides some origami pattern downloads - perfect for upcycling the paper you no longer have a use for. I also explored their links page which led me to the genius of Mark Bolitho of Creaselightning, whose work is pictured here. Mark created a whole range of creatures for an Inland Revenue campaign that promoted the use of online forms instead of paper ones, and his work for Tesco was a witty way to encourage the use of their Clubcard.

To see more examples of materials being used and reused in innovative ways, Space + Time runs 19th September - 20th September from 10am to 8pm at Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6SH.

Monday, 14 September 2009

What's it all about?

I ran into my friend Sarah at the Thames Festival, and she was like, "I voted for your blog! I really like it!" She shoveled a spoonful of rice into her toddler's mouth and cocked her head. "But can I just ask you - what's it all about?" 

Ok so that's a really good question. I can always count on Sarah for really good questions, and I hope I can do it justice with a fairly good answer. 

I started this blog to coincide with New Years in January after coming across a word I’d never heard before, upcycling. To upcycle is to take an old redundant object that’s served its life purpose already, and then revamp it so it can enjoy a brand-new existence. It’s a happy ending for the object, but it benefits the environment too because whenever you can use existing materials instead of new ones you minimise energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. And what's more, upcycling lets us flex our flabby creative muscles. 

A lot of mainstream media can only exist with advertising, so a lot of the inspirations that are provided to us in what we see and read are predicated on a desire for us to buy something new. A blog doesn’t have advertising though, so instead of encouraging readers to buy new stuff, I wanted to give people inspiring examples that will encourage them to make creative leaps in solving everyday problems. So even though you might not go out and make dumbbells out of breeze blocks (which someone I blogged about did), you might look around at the redundant resources available to you and try to get maximum use out of them before they wind up in the landfill – like when Hannah made a whole stationery set from paper and scraps she salvaged on the street and from bins.

So anyway everbody, let's quiz Sarah next time we see her and make sure she's been reading carefully... And in the meantime, our pic for today is one that came via Vaughan. Here we have a bike that features a sawed-off broom handle as its replacement handlebars, along with a beer can that's been mustered into service as shimming material - courtesy of a blog called Bike Snob NYC. Cheers dears!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Sign of the times

Recently we talked about upcycling metal cans, number plates and shipping containers. I think recylced pieces of metal that feature their old logos, graphics, type and palettes are cool - they play up the reincarnated object's past. Which is part of the appeal of the work of Californian high schooler David Joseph-Goteiner. Liz Hafalia's photo above gives you a glimpse of how road signs become furniture in David's hands - read more by taking a short trip over to Noelle Robbins' article in The San Francisco Chronicle


Thursday, 10 September 2009

Be my guest

Hey Raisin readers I have some exciting news. Lucy Land is my very first guest blogger. Lucy edits West London Living magazine, where this feature originally appeared. She recently spoke to Claire Read of Poppy Valentine boutique where old fabrics are upcycled in fashiontastic endeavours...

WLL: What sparked your love of vintage?

CR: I’m from northern England (near Newcastle) and love the ’60s kitchen sink dramas, such as Saturday night Sunday morning and Poor Cow. The style names for my collections are a tribute to the actresses of that era. The Tushingham bag, for example, is named after Rita Tushingham who starred in A Taste of Honey. I love the clothes in those dramas and I’ve also collected fabrics since I was 13.

WLL: Tell us a bit about your background…

CR: I studied fashion at Newcastle. After five years of working in fashion, I began teaching textiles at Holland Park School. I missed the creative side of my work, so started doing studio sales and the business grew from there.

WLL: How did the name Poppy Valentine come about?

CR: Originally I was going to go into business with my sister-in-law, but she decided to continue teaching. Her son is called Valentine and my daughter is called Poppy.

WLL: What’s your favourite era for fashion?

CR: I love the early ’50s when design exploded with new prints, especially Lucien Day’s atomic print and the work of Mary White. There was so much inspiration in interiors and art after the Festival of Britain, such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. I also love the ’60s. Fashion was pretty staid until then: that was when girls stopped dressing like their mothers.

WLL: Who are your style icons?

CR: Audrey Hepburn, of course, and both Jean Shrimpton and Mary Quant really moved fashion on.

WLL: What do you like to wear?

CR: A nice Poppy Valentine-print frock.

WLL: What’s your most embarrassing fashion disaster?

CR: A corkscrew poodle perm in the late ’80s.

WLL: What would you save from a fire?

CR: After my family, my Lucien Day cushion – sad, I know.

WLL: How ethical is your business?

CR: All of the vintage range products are made in London and we recycle both vintage fabrics for the outside of the bags and plain dead stock fabrics for linings. We use every last bit of fabric, for purses and cosmetic bags. We try to use vegetable tan leather where possible and use a hybrid vehicle to deliver locally.

WLL: What’s your current bestseller?

CR: The Twiggy shift dress with white collar.

WLL: What are you working on now?

CR: Leather and metallic clutches for Christmas; developing the Twiggy dress in ’60s brocade fabrics; and putting together make-up bags for John Lewis.

Find Poppy Valentine at: Unit 16 Portobello Green Arcade, 281 Portobello Road W10 5TZ, 0208 9641350, open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5.30pm

You say tomato

I speak English. The Real Gent speaks English. But having originated on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we don't speak the same language at all. Our conversations (which are simply stimulating, as you yourself will soon witness) involve constant vocabulary negotiation. 

Me: How I love to come across an example of garbage being reinvented as something new.

RG: I know, you are always on the lookout for rubbish that has the potential for a fascinating future.

Me: Exactly. You really never know what you might find lurking in a trash can or dumpster.

RG: I must admit, your blog has taught me to see rubbish bins and skips in a whole new light.

Me: Gosh, thanks. I know you really liked those veggie cans being used as planters for peppers.

RG: Ah yes, the untapped promise of the humble soup tin - a wonderful thing to ponder.

Me: And remember the license tags upcycled into bracelets and handbags?

RG: Who could forget those humble number plates reincarnated into fashionable new lives?

Me: And hey, did I tell you how I came across SCABEL Architects, a firm that that uses former shipping containers as construction components?

RG: Shipping containers you say? How positively wonderful.

With some words, fortunately, we are in happy accord. Maybe we should have more conversations about shipping containers... By the way, the pic above is of Dunraven School, which SCABEL built with the help of Urban Space Management, whose Container City building system has already been used to create offices, retail spaces, artist studios, a nursery and youth centres.

(Thanks to Clare for pointing me in the direction of the Dunraven School shipping container upcycling example. Incidentally, if you're into the funny nuances of words, grammar and punctuation, then visit her blog Goodcopybadcopy - it's good for insight and a giggle.)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Ideas out of Africa

My pal Andy sent me off in the direction of a blog called AfriGadget. Put simply, AfriGadget's awesome! In their own words, AfriGadget is: 

"a website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. A team of bloggers and readers contribute their pictures, videos and stories from around the continent. The stories of innovation are inspiring. It is a testament to Africans bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges."

Recently I've been thinking about plastic bottles and bags, and it seems the people behind AfriGadget have too. Above is a video about turning waste plastic into plastic sheets on Vimeo by the blog's gifted editor Erik Hersman, and below are his pics of a drainpipe upcycled from a Fanta bottle and a tetherball game made from a water bottle (photographed during a sandstorm). 

Check out their Flickr pool at the very least - you'll find musical instruments from bottle caps, soccer balls from plastic bags, bellows made from cement bags and a bike retooled as a knife sharpener. It's almost painfully ingenious.

Friday, 4 September 2009

I flipping love these

I'm actually just going to go ahead and admit it: I am only really truly happy when I am wearing flip-flops. I love flip-flops. I measure success in how much I am able to wear flip-flops. So while the fact that I am not a surgeon or fund manager makes me unsuccessful in the eyes of some, the flip (sorry) side of that equation is that those situations would probably curtail my rigorous flip-flop wearing schedule. And I just can't have that.

Last week I was checking out the latest in footwear fashion at Abbadabba's in Atlanta. They sell a whole heap of flops, including some from Simple. I started looking into Simple, and discovered that they have an admirable recycling and upcycling agenda. The following is from their press pack, and I'm including it not because I think everyone should necessarily go out and buy their shoes, but because it illustrates some truly resourceful design. 

Upcycled Inner Tubes Our inner tubes come from big tires. The recycled inner tube accents in our sneakers look nice and move lots of retired inner tubes off the streets and onto the sidewalks.

Recycled Plastics (PET) PET is the abbreviation of polyethylene terephthalate, which is really just a fancy-pants word for clear plastic that comes from soda and water bottles. We use PET to make some of our shoelaces and as the wrapping around the latex elastic we use in some of our shoes.

Post-consumer Recycled Paper Simple boxes and foot-forms are all made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, or as it’s known in the world-saving biz, PCR paper. This means all of our boxes and foot forms are made from paper that other people have used; it could have been a take out restaurant menu, an abandoned printout left at the copy machine, or a weekly gossip mag, we don’t discriminate. By using PCR paper we are able to recycle a material and extend its useful life.

Upcycled Car Tires Have you ever thought about what happens to car tires once they’ve completed their useful life on the wheels of your car? Best case scenario is that the tires get recycled... worse case scenario is they wind up in a landfill or worse, incinerated. We’ve figured out a way to take used car tires and turn them into the outsoles of our shoes. Besides being super durable and grippy, we’re extending the life of a material that is otherwise considered trash. And did we mention we can make 6 pairs of men’s size 9 shoes from a single car tire?

Upcycled Bike Tires Bike Tires.... little circular pieces of rubber that roll around on the ground attached to your bike. We’ve found a way to re-use the rubber for heel and toe bumpers that would otherwise become fodder for a landfill.

Upcycled Carpet Padding In the ever-consuming search for new and eco-friendly materials, a light finally went on. We spend all day walking on carpet padding so why not use it in the shoes? Our carpet padding is durable, comfy, and made almost entirely from scrap and post-consumer foam. It will not, however, match your wallpaper.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Hit the bottle

In the past we’ve talked about upcycling plastic bottles into building blocks for houses, and we’ve explored how PET can be recycled into materials useful in clothing and footwear manufacture. 

Today I was crossing the Hungerford Foot Bridge and admired birds cruising along on the surface of the Thames, but they were sharing the waterways with a fair bit of rubbish. Which made me think of plastic bottles and how perfectly buoyant they are, which made me think of a weird and wonderful upcycling project I read about recently. 

The Plastiki is a 60-foot boat is modelled on a traditional Polynesian vessel and has a crew of six people. It’s made out of all upcycled and recycled materials, including 12,000 reclaimed 2-litre plastic bottles tied to a structure made out of Self Reinforcing Polyethylene Terephthalate (SRPET). Right now the Plastiki is in a three-month adventure as it crosses the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney, but at the end of its life, the boat’s components will be upcycled again. Into what? That’s yet to be decided.

This is from The Plastiki’s website, and explains what the expedition is hoping to achieve:

"90 percent ocean debris is plastic - so it’s fitting that the expedition focuses on it and the plastic bottle epitomises the absurdity of our throwaway society. Some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year; in the US alone nearly $11 billion is spent on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water. In bottle production alone, more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the U.S. and 1.5 million barrels of oil is used over the course of one year, resulting in about 22 billion empty plastic bottles being trashed. It's something that, when you dig a little deeper into it, you realise that the facts just don't add up, for example, it takes between three to five litres of water to make a one litre bottle of water and, then you need to include the energy needed for transportation, just to produce something that ultimately ends up in the ground. When you think that plastic bottles are 100 percent recyclable and yet only 20 percent are actually recycled, there is a lot of work to be done."

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Time's a-wastin'

My fellow blogging fiend Clare just sent me info on a large-scale upcycling experiment taking place next month...

The V&A, one of the world’s most famous museums for art and design,  will be at the heart of the London Design Festival, proving a fitting hub for the capital’s major celebration of design which runs from 19 to 27 September. As part of the proceedings, Wasted is a project conceived and curated by Arts Co, presented in the tunnel connecting the London Underground to The V&A. Architect Ian Douglas-Jones and designer Ben Rousseau will create a vast architectural seating strata using reclaimed materials.  Wasted will interrogate a UK environmental problem – the tons of traditionally un-recycled waste that end up in landfill.  The climax of the project will be to show how reclaimed materials can be used to create aspirational products.  This project for the London Design Festival forms the launch of E&K Arts, a range of everyday, beautiful products created in collaboration with artists from waste.   

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

You send me

I've said it before (subtly) but now I'm saying it again (earnestly). Seeds and stitches is a very nice blog that's worth taking a peek at. I particularly love the greetings card project in the make and mend section. Anyone in possession of a pair of scissors and a spot of glue could undertake such a task, and having a few tasty examples to look at for inspiration means you won't go wrong. All the materials are salvaged, which is just how I like it.

Go. See. Cut. Glue. Enjoy.