When I was little, I’d never heard the words ‘upcycling’ or ‘recycling’, or ‘reclaiming’ or ‘previously loved’. Re-used, yes. That’s what everything was. Things that were no longer fit for purpose, or no longer fitted, or had been replaced by shiny new (new to us anyway) things from charity shops, junk shops or skips, these things were all kept for when they could come in handy one day.
The LVS counter, reclaimed from the old Post Office counter, with two coats of chalk paint and repurposed coffee sacks.
In the 70s and 80s this wasn’t because we had any great sense of looking after the planet or reducing our carbon footprint, although my parents’ ethos was probably unwittingly ahead of the game on this one, but because we had no money for new things. Old bits of furniture and electrical gadgetry were dismantled into component parts and the bits repurposed into something that needed mending, or made a new chicken shed or some odd item ‘essential’ for camping, or often just some brilliant bit of garden sculpture. Clothes were mended so often they were transfigured into being a motley collection of patches with little in evident of the original item by the time we’d finally outgrown them. When I reached teenagehood, my mother’s fantastic collection of 70s hippy clothing was fashionable again, so I appropriated it. And I’ve still got a load of her cheesecloth skirts and purple suede bellbottoms. You know – just in case they come in handy one day.
Birch log turned into an insect house, made by Cow Close Mill
So upon discovery several years ago that upreclaimedcycling was a ‘thing’ – and that people paid REAL MONEY for stuff made out of other people’s junk, I was a bit surprised, because I’d always assumed that’s just what everyone did anyway. Keep old stuff and turn it into other stuff. Apparently not.
Lavender hearts made from old kids’ clothes and bra straps for the hangers.
And then even they started making telly programmes about how to do it, mostly along the lines of ‘get an old thing’ (although I noticed they tended to buy their old things from posh junk shops, rather than just get it from the mounds of stuff in the garage where it had been malingering for the past 20 years) and ‘paint it’, or ‘replace the fabric’, which was a bit well, basic, really.
Now we have the joy of Pinterest, so we can all aspire to be the kinds of people who have absolutely nothing else to do with weeks of their lives but create entire gardens using only old teacups and tractor tyres. Bedrooms are transformed into magical fairy forests for tiny offspring, who will never be allowed to actually play in them lest they ruin the effect, and who don’t really care anyway.
The LVS garden pallette plant stand, from the ‘get an old thing and paint it’ school of upcycling
I keep everything, because one day – one day – I’ll need it. To be fair, that hasn’t happened with everything as yet, but there’s plenty of time for the old creative juices to get flowing. I keep broken things because they have useful parts in them or because I reckon one day I’ll fix them. I keep old things because I have a seed of an idea of how I could eventually reuse them, when I have time. I keep things I find when I’m out and about – nice sticks, tactile stones, bits of wool caught on fences and bushes. I keep things because they have aesthetic qualities I like, and I keep things because I’m emotionally attached to them and I can’t bear to give them away, so they get turned into cushions, pegbags or clippy mats.
Clippy Mat made with reclaimed fabric.
So, taking the long way round to the actual point, Upreclaimedcycling (I’m going to trademark that) is something that we’re really, really into at LVS. On April 1st and 15th I’ll be running Upcycling Drop-Ins at Lorton Village Shop. We’re not aiming for Pinterest perfection, we’re just going to find ways to help and inspire people to get creative with their preloved stuff and make it loved again, in a different format. So get into the back of the garage or loft or shed, find something interesting, chuck it in the back of the car, get yersel’ out here and we’ll see what we can cook up between us, even if it’s just a pinecone hedgehog.