A few months back I was commissioned to make awards for Soil Association’s 70th anniversary.
The world is full of stuff. There are too many things and yet I really like making things. It’s an issue that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. One of the ways I deal with this is to reuse existing materials when possible. Taking unloved things and turning them into something new is very rewarding.
Here are some tips based on my experiences in reducing, reusing and recycling.
Use every last scrap
A staggering 100,000 million tonnes of clothing is thrown away in the UK each year!
Every scrap is precious. Think before you throw things away. Could the material be re-purposed? Buttons, poppers and zips can be removed and reused.
Make a pattern – If you have a t-shirt or pair of leggings that fit well but are now worn out then unpick the seams and use them to make a sewing pattern for new leggings or t-shirts.
Design to reduce waste
On average, 15% of materials are wasted during the manufacturing of clothing. Using rectangles and triangles in your designs can reduce waste.
Use leftover materials to add pockets and other details.
Etsy and Ebay can be used to buy cheap offcuts of expensive materials like silk or leather.
Community wood recycling projects are a good source of interesting materials.
Small pieces of valuable timber can be used to make jewellery.
I have also used wood from timber samples and off-cuts from a musical instrument maker.
Charity shops. Look for quality materials. Don’t look at the item itself but the materials it’s made from and how they are constructed. Could they become something new and interesting.
Army surplus. Old military kit bags are a great source of sturdy hard wearing materials, great for bag making.
Take inspiration from limitations
Working with pre-owned and waste materials can be more challenging but also more interesting. Pre-owned materials have history. For example, old army kit bags have the names of previous owners written on them. Old fabrics have interesting patinas. New materials are like a blank page. Old materials have lines and shapes you can take inspiration from; fixed points from which to work from.
Good luck and happy making!
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I like instruction manuals. There is something about their clean lines in sharp black and white that appeals to me. Instruction manuals have a rich history. One example is the Ripley Scroll. A wonderful and strange alchemical diagram from the 15th century.
I have been working on art with instruction manuals and diagrams as inspiration for years. It hasn’t really gone anywhere, but I continue.
For the last few months I have been experimenting with woodworking. I started off with some old timber samples from work.
One of the first things I tried making was buttons. Nice buttons are hard to find so I thought I would make some myself. It proved to be quite time consuming but I will definitely try it again.
One of the first pieces of jewellery I made was a wooden pendant. I roughly shaped it with a saw and then filed away for hours. I got the finish with fine grade wet and dry paper and then a coat of wax. The wood is river red gum (eucalyptus camaldulensis).
I have been experimenting with more complex designs with interlocking overlapping segments. The example below is made with beech wood.
I’m not sure what this is going to be yet. I am making another one for a symmetrical necklace perhaps. The wood is probably African rosewood.
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