It isn’t shiny and new, it has been around for decades… so why is up cycling so on trend right now?

Upcycling is my hobby, I rescue pre-loved and abandoned furniture from the street and turn it into something better. It is like rescuing a dog or cat. I like the process of building, cleaning, painting. For me, it exercises my imagination, even though it is challenging to turn waste into beauty.

The movement originated in Germany in the early 1990s, when families had very little money or resources during an economic downturn and had to use and reuse everything. It has continued and been adopted by fashion designers, interior designers and creatives around the globe as a great way to refresh, cleverly rebrand and breathe life into old clothes and furniture while being environmentally conscious. The materials aren’t broken down as they are in recycling, just refashioned.

Just like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind when she has lost almost everything in the American Civil war but had to look her best to try to get a loan, she used an old green velvet curtain to make a dress to go into the city. That’s upcycling!

So Why do You Care?

The greatest aspect of upcycling is the ability to move with the times; you can rework something to emulate any style from shabby chic to industrial design or even urban cool.  Apart from the environmental benefits of reusing existing materials, the licence to create anything you like is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. Think big. It could be a desk made out of a Boeing 737 door or a bookcase from a baby grand piano, the list and possibilities are endless!.

The Beetle Sphere, Ichwan Noor

Upcycling is also often used as a form of art. For instance, the automobile-based Beetle Sphere sculpture of Indonesian artist Ichwan Noor, used five 1953 Volkswagen Beetles, combined with polyester and aluminium shaped into an almost perfect globe.  It is a visually striking object that’s yet simple in its form. The original idea behind it was to express the artist’s personal perspective on ‘transportation culture’.  Although the conceptualisation and execution are artistic and abstract, the basic idea was to use an existing object rather than raw materials, which again fits the concept of upcycling. In May 2016 at Christie’s Day Sale in Hong Kong, the artwork sold for a staggering HKD 687,500 (approximately 88,000 USD). Who would dare to say that it was just pieces of old cars now!

Isn’t it Easier to Just Buy New Things?

We are all creative and able to transform something considered low in value because it’s old, into a thing that matters to us. Just one look around your living room and you’ll find something that no longer aesthetically appeals to you and probably your first instinct is to throw the ugly thing away and replace it. But, stop. How about using some fabric scraps and paint and a bit of your imagination to bring new life into something old?

Upcycling requires spending your time and a little of your budget but the reward is the joy of accomplishment and you get to keep a truly unique piece in your home with an interesting before and after story to tell your friends on Instagram or over dinner. Now, take a look around you and find a new upcycling. Let’s get creative in 2018!


Jana Dambekalne, Founder of Back2Nature

For more information on Jana, click the author profile link above or connect with her on LinkedIn.  To read more of our articles, click here

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Written by Jana Dambekalne
Jana is an experienced leader in creative direction and design education in Europe and Asia for brands such as Vodafone, L’Oreal, LG, Schwarzkopf and Unilever.  In 2017 Jana established her own brand, Back2Nature with a mission to bring together health, wealth and sustainability, focusing on raising awareness of innovative sustainability projects.