Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Upcycling and the Environment

 Recently I was contacted by a design student working on a project about upcycling, she ask me about my craft and how I think upcycling can effect the environment and the world. Here's some of my responses.

My inspiration was not initially any concern for the environment, it was actually the fact that I couldn't stand to dump my favorite pair of jeans. I made a very functional bag from them, that I still use from time to time (that was more than a decade ago.) I later became involved in the environmental movement, and I started making bags to offer up an alternative to plastic sacks.

I do feel strongly that the current trends in fashion to make cheap, poorly constructed, very trendy and disposable clothing is a huge waste! Not to mention, I much prefer classic styles and the idea of buying a few very well made items to wear for years to come.

The tragedy of disposable fashion is now more than clogging up thrift stores and landfills, but also the ill effect it has on the third world where our old clothing is dumped as a "charitable" act. This kills any local textile and clothing industry, and pushes out indigenous and locally invented fashions. I love to see difference when I travel, and universal fashion is as ugly as it is unsustainable.
I think that the current craft movement has been a huge boon to upcycling. It's currently quite hip to learn to knit and sew, and once people have those skills it opens a door of creative reuse.

 I'm not sure the best way to encourage people to learn these arts, most newbies I meet are simply inspired by people they know, so organic growth seems the most likely avenue of involving more people.

There is a second challenge however, even after learning to craft many people lack the confidence in their skills to work without specific patterns and instructions. The craft movement will also need to encourage free-form learning instead of simply sticking to pre-made designs; the craft stores and teachers have less possibility of profits if people are making their own patterns and supplying the materials (their own clothes).

What is your reason to upcycle? What inspires you to reuse something?

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