Friday, 4 March 2011

Upcycling


My first time as a stallholder at Frank Kitts Market was an interesting experience.  By "interesting" I don't mean "exciting" or "fascinating", but rather how it compared to Craft2.0 fairs that I'm so used to by now.  It was quiet.  Quite.  No, not even quite quiet but very quiet.  The lunchtime rush was more of a gentle flow that was seemingly short in duration.  Most of the crowd was still in diapers as many parents didn’t realise that the Frank Kitts Teddy Bears Picnic was postponed due to a weather forecast that would make you want to hide under your bed.  The vile weather didn’t eventuate, although it got rainy and cool and a little windy later in the afternoon.  Alright, not exactly nice, but not the havoc expected.  Enough about the weather though. 

Strollers.  I have never seen so many strollers in one place before.  Craft2.0 would be a competitor, but in the case of Frank Kitts, there was enough space for tired parents to move through without having to use their stroller as a battery ram. 

The day’s highlight was my mum bringing me a cherry gelato and also chatting to my stallholder neighbour Dael who makes carry bags and purses from used bread bags.  Appropriately, her stall is titled “breadbags”.  The idea is amazing!  She collects plastic bread bags from various brands of bread, cuts them into sheets and fuses them together in four layers to create a durable multi-coloured surfaces.  These are then sewn to make practical and long-lasting carry bags of various sizes.  I’m kicking myself for not taking photos of these.  

 Interestingly, Dael called her crowd-favourite products “recycled”, which I believe completely undermines her design intent.  Recycling is essentially downcycling, in most cases.  It is taking something that had value and fabricating it into something of lesser value, using a lot of energy in the process.  Few materials are infinitely recyclable (the only one that comes to mind is polypropylene).  Recycling implies devaluing.  Breadbags are upcycled products.  That is “breadbags” and not “bread bags”.  
The lifespan of a bread bag is negligible.  It’s a short trip from the bakery to the tip, via the supermarket and your pantry.  I reuse bread bags for carrying lunches, etc, until they get grubby and find themselves in confines of a rubbish bin next to all the fragrant chicken skins, filthy clingwrap and all the other torn up packaging that cannot be recycled.  Ok, so in my house the life of a bread bag is a few weeks instead of a few days. It hardly makes a difference.

Unlike bread bags, Breadbags can serve more than one very limited and ephemeral purpose, and they can do it over and over again.  Breadbags are bread bags with serious added value.  Ok, one day they will still be suffocating seagulls in a landfill somewhere with the same lethal efficiency as the humble once-used bread bag.  …Right next to your pile of iPods and smart phones and couches and Bic pens.   Everything ever made.  Yes.  End.  Of.  The.  World.   Maybe true, but such fatalistic projections though are unlikely to make any contribution to positive progress.

Chromatophobic is very consciously based on the philosophy of upcycling.  It’s trying to challenge the notion of scrap = crap.  Off cuts, scrap, salvaged materials, whatever label you apply, offer creative possibilities that reduce environmental harm.  All the Chromatophobic jewellery and accessories are made from off cuts that would have been otherwise discarded.  In fact, it was indignation at seeing the piles of perfectly usable acrylic scrap in the design school rubbish bins that prompted me to start making.  It seemed incredibly wasteful to discard something with so much product potential, and there was the advantage of making small objects, which could be produced from small, easily found pieces of scrap.  Even the Chromatophobic packaging had a previous life, although with reused packaging there is the challenge of trying to maintain a consistent presentation aesthetic.  I think I’ll leave my packaging rant for another time.

1 comment:

Dael said...

Wow, just discovered your blog post mentioning my bags. Feeling very humbled by your comments. Thanks for reminding me about our conversation about upcycled versus recycled - I'm doing the Frank Kitts again this Saturday and need to get my signs sorted:)
Dael

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