Upcycling with Maud Barrett
We invited local textile artist, and Poplar Union regular, Maud Barrett to tell us a bit about the practice of upcycling. Maud is a purposeful repurposer, a veritable master of all things textile, and boasts a magic touch that can transform any discarded material into a treasured new possession. She has extensive experience upcycling materials in both her artistic practice, and her personal life. Find Maud on Instagram, or over here on her blog! Photo by Simon Profitt.
Upcycling – What’s it all about?
Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of repurposing any old or disused items into something new, useful, or beautiful. With the increased awareness of environmental responsibility, upcycling has grown in popularity. This innovative spirit and environmental consciousness has led to upcycling permeating nearly all areas of life. If you’re short on cash you can revamp old jeans, if you’re a home owner you can re-salvage building materials, and left over Sunday roast can be turned into tomorrow’s lunch. From green companies to our kitchen, people are looking to save money and the planet; upcycling does both.
Personally I get tonnes of upcycling inspiration from creative bloggers, as well as from my absolute favourite visual platform, Pinterest – see below for examples!
Upcycling in Art
The tradition of reusing found objects (objet trouvé) in mainstream art came of age sporadically through the 20th century, although it has long been a means of production in folk art. For example, Susan Hunter’s work responds to the practice of using reclaimed fabrics in Amish quilts. My own work is also informed by other artists such as Simon Rodia who makes grand-scale scrap metal and pottery structures, as well as the work of finish artist Anu Tuominen who has a thing for collecting mundane objects, and elevating the handmade into art.
Images from left Susan Hunter, Anu Tuominen, and Simon Rodia
Upcycling in my Artistic Practice
I suppose I come from a family of upcyclers. My grandparents always tried to buy the best quality they could afford, they took care of the things they owned, and tried to repurpose them when they became tired. My parents carried on this tradition both in their business (they use to run a creperie) and at home, for example, my mum would turn apple cores into apple jelly for their bed and breakfast, and we would revamp old furniture for our bedrooms or re-use glass bottles as vases.
When I started designing textile jewellery as an art student I naturally gravitated towards reusing materials. While this was influenced by both my personal experiences and my modest income, I also appreciated the aesthetic of used textiles and the randomness that found items lent to my work.
My interest in upcycling found its voice after university when I was offered the opportunity to collaborate with fashion designers for the House of La belle Marine in Paris. I created jewellery and accessories for them using the scrap material left over from the creation of their fashion collections.
When I was 23, I moved to a rural village in north Wales. This was a creatively rich experience for me because the move enabled me to work as a Community Artist. While there, I worked on personal commissions using old clothes and broken jewellery. One of my most fulfilling projects was working with a woman whose mother had passed away. She commissioned me to create jewellery for her two sisters using textiles that had belonged to their mother.
Now that I have piqued your interest, here are two super-simple upcycling ideas to try at home. Option number one, on the left, is an Upcycled Advent calendar DIY from the brilliant Upcycle That website, and on the right are some beautiful toilet roll decorations which we will actually be making at our next Crafty Kids! workshop on Thursday 30 November.
I hope you have a Merry creative upcycled Christmas!
*Join Maud at her Festive Arts & Crafts workshop at Poplar Union on Saturday 2 December, or at her Christmas Gift Making Workshop on Sunday 10 December, where she will guide you as you create stylish upcycled jewellery and accessories to give as gifts, or to keep for yourself!