Are You Really Up-cycling or Just Making More Crap?
First, let me explain, for those of you who don’t already know what the term “up-cycling” actually means.
Up-cycle (verb) /ˈəpˌsīkəl/ : To take something that is unused, unloved or obsolete and use it to create something of higher value.
And I guess, while I’m at it, I should define my use of the word “crap” as well. 😉
Crap (adjective) /‘krap/ : Something that has little or no value and usually ends up either in a landfill, or as a permanent tenant on a thrift store shelf.
Value, of course, is a subjective term. If you are creating for yourself you will know whether or not a thing has value to you or not, but when creating for others it becomes a little bit trickier.
The last thing we want, is to spend our precious time and energy up-cycling something, giving or selling it to someone else, and then finding it on a shelf in our local thrift shop sometime later. Not only is it a blow to the ego…….but it sort of defeats the purpose of up-cyling altogether, doesn’t it? Not that I don’t believe that being creative is always good, in and of itself, but up-cycling is not only an act of creativity….it’s an important environmental movement. We are not trying to create more garbage.
So how do we keep this from happening?
When I first started up-cycling, everything I made was functional. I didn’t have the confidence or the skills to make art for art sake, so I made sure that everything I created was useful in some way. Also, I was purposeful in my selection of “raw materials”. The majority of people out there do not use silver-plated (or even sterling) flatware any more. They have it, but it sits in a cupboard somewhere. Sometimes it is sold for scrap or smelting (if it’s sterling), is donated to Goodwill or thrown out…….but generally, nobody seems to want it. Luckily, most old silverware is also quite beautiful, so even though it’s not being used for it’s intended purpose, it’s not a far stretch to imagine it being made into some pretty nice jewellery. And…BONUS….people actually wear jewellery!
Right off the bat, I knew that this was a true up-cycle, rather than a down-cycle or lateral move. I was elevating the material into something people would actually use.
Once I became more skilled at my craft, I began to loosen my parameters and really start to experiment. I felt confident that I could make beautiful things that would be enjoyed even if they didn’t serve a physical purpose. I am now able to make pieces and confidently call them “art”. I like to think that these things are treasured and loved and will not end up on a thrift store shelf or in a landfill somewhere. I hope I am right about this!
This is my story, but I think it’s important to add that anyone can up-cycle…..whether you deem yourself artistic or not!
It’s a funny thing, but when I set up at markets and shows just as many people are interested in the teapot that I use as a flower vase, as that ask about the art that I make. This proves that you don’t have to be particularly skilled or crafty to create a good up cycle. Heck, sometimes you don’t even need to do anything…..it’s just a matter of thinking outside the box and coming up with another use for an object. A good imagination is all that’s required. And these skills can be developed and fine tuned!
Once you start to view the world of objects around you as a limitless source of raw materials, there is no end to the possibilities. You begin to see the world differently. You shift. You stop looking at things that you want to acquire, and rather begin to look at what you already have, and the ways that you might re-imagine them. Everything takes on new meaning from there. You surround yourself in things that have SOUL. Not only do these things contain the history of their former lives, they are also filled with the loving energy that you put into them with your heart and your own two hands. And often these things are appreciated so much more as a result. ♥️
So, if you want to join the up-cycling movement my advice is this: At first, go functional. If you can’t picture yourself using it, don’t make it. Then once you get the hang of it, the sky is the limit!