Holy shit, people. I just learned via inhabitat that Iris Industries has created a new “sustainable composite” — a textile created from heat pressed recycled denim and eco-friendly resin. The end result: a lightweight, hard substance that can be used, among other ways, to create furniture, counter tops, wall paneling and jewelry. Did you get that? Counter tops from your old jeans? I want to redo the kitchen immediately.
Posts Tagged ‘upcycle’
I miss my grandmother. This is our second Thanksgiving since she died and though my mother and aunt took over most of the cooking years ago, as the architect of many of our family traditions (and the one who taught us all to cook) her influence on holiday meals endures. We took a few minutes to read through some of her recipe cards yesterday, which include detailed notes to my aunt on how to use every last bit of the bird (use the giblets in soup stock and gravy, but not the liver because it makes the stock bitter, instead the liver should be cooked separately and fed to the baby or made into a delicious spread for the adults). She remains present in every part of the meal from start to the grand finale: it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Grandma’s incredible pumpkin pie full of flavor from freshly ground ginger and a healthy dash of cognac.
As I munch on a slice of that magic for my traditional day-after breakfast, I have been scanning social media and noting alternating updates from friends and family who are either camped out to take advantage of sales or holed up at home abstaining from the consumer madness. Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, whatever you call it, many of us have gifts on the mind. At the end of our family meal yesterday, we discussed what we each would like for Christmas gifts, whether adults should exchange gifts at all, whether there should be a low price limit on gifts, and closed promising to send detailed wishlists to one another. An email chain with hyperlinks to exactly what we want has become our new tradition. And while this eliminates waste in that it cuts out unwanted presents that would be tossed or relegated to the regifting pile, it also eliminates the charm.
I am reminded again of my grandmother, who one year more than a decade ago declared homemade Christmas and insisted that the gifts we gave one another be things we made ourselves. I still have and cherish nearly everything I received that year: a watercolor rendering of the view from my childhood bedroom painted by my mother, a colorful apron made by my youngest cousin (with significant help from Grandma, but whatever), and a sewing kit put together by my grandmother. It is far and away the most useful gift I have ever received. She decorated a lunch pail with magazine cut outs of a thread and needle and stuffed it with basic sewing supplies: a seam ripper, black, brown, navy and white thread, some embroidery thread, miscellaneous buttons, iron-on patches, thimbles, pin cushions bursting with pins, Velcro strips, safety pins and a pair of scissors. These tools, combined with the knowledge of how to use them (an earlier gift from Grandma, dispensed over time) have been put to use constantly since I received the kit. Knowing how to sew a button, open the sewn-shut pockets of a new coat without tearing it, patch a tear in a favorite pair of pants and remove gaudy brand labels from any item of clothing made me a popular dorm and roommate. Over the years I have added the extra buttons from new clothes and the occasional mini sewing kit swiped from a hotel, but the otherwise have never had to restock.
It may be a bit late this year to spring on my family, but I hope at least some years down the road we revive the homemade holiday. DIY may seem intimidating at first, but even the least crafty person can find a fun project. What are the best homemade gifts you ever received?
Like many New Yorkers, I’ve been fighting off a nasty cold for what seems like forever. The other day I ventured out for soup at Born Thai where the food is actually spicy (unlike most places in my neighborhood) and where the menus are adorably upcycled CD ROM cases. Tom yummy in my tummy.
Beirut-based architect Sandra Rishani keeps a blog of her visions of what the city could be. Beirut the Fantastic posts outline proposals for upgrading and greening forgotten and unused spaces or places that have not reached their full potential. Her latest post focuses on the rubble of the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel and how that rubble could be used to create a beautiful seaside memorial.
What I love about the blog is that Rishani writes about what are ostensibly pipe dream projects, but breaks them down step by practical step. In this case, for example, she goes into the history of the rubble, who dumped it where, current legal ownership of the materials and examples from around the world of war rubble upcycled into public parks and memorials.
Thanks for the tip, Lucy!
Deepest apologies for the long gap in posts. I’ve been traveling nonstop for the day job and barely have time to sleep, let alone brave slow internet connections to upload photos and information. That’s not to say I haven’t been collecting trashtastic content. For example, women who take part in income generating activities with the Kisumu Medical Education Trust (KMET) upcycle plastic water bottles as zero waste packaging for the liquid soap they make and sell.
Young women training at KMET’s empowerment center learn marketable skills like tailoring. To practice, they use flour sacks and cardboard for patterns and swaths.
Thanks for your patience, trashies. I’m in Ethiopia this week. Stay tuned for additional updates from East Africa.
This article on upcycling as a design trend in the Ecologist made me lust after several items, chief among them this hot chair reupholstered in coffee sack.
My first thought in seeing this was “I’m going to Peru next week for work. I wonder how hard it is to find cute coffee sacks.” My second: “What was the name of that sweet book I read when I was a kid about a poor family and the daughter gets so excited for a new dress made from a pretty feed sack, then is devastated when the other kids recognize where she got the fabric?”
I’ll let you know if I ever remember. Some Web searching on the subject led to some other charming discoveries, though. This feed sack dress pictured on Meme’s Corner looks exactly like what I imagined when reading the aforementioned young adult fiction and speaks to the resourcefulness of Americans in the 1930′s and 40′s when we shared a common understanding of what it meant to live on limited resources.
People were in the mode of “making do or do without”. Not only did chicken feed come in cloth bags but cattle and horse feed as well … Later burlap type bags were used and came in printed designs. Neighbors would trade feed sacks to have enough for a garment.
Magazines and pattern companies were quick to see a new market and were quick to produce patterns designed to fit efficiently on empty feedsacks.
There’s a lot out there once you start looking. I found this site (and several others) selling vintage feed sack cloth. A lot has been written as well on using feed sacks in quilts, the ultimate in textile upcyling. All these links about cloth feedsacks nearly made me forget the original impetus for my internet searching in the first place: burlap coffee sacks. There are 428 results for coffee sack on Etsy, mostly pillows and bags. They also make great hats.
One could get easily lost in all the neat newly upcycled stuff there is out there made of vintage sacks. At $10-12 a pop, they probably cost less than a lot of designer fabric and add a little story to whatever is made out of them.
This unconsumption post on upcycled flip flops reminded me of a story I read in 2007 about Kenyan women building a giant whale out of the old slippers that washed up in their fishing villages. I recommend watching the BBC video on the project, it’s an amazing example of political art. I especially like the whale because, as I’ve mentioned here before, the flip flop jewelry and key chains I’ve seen are all overpriced and, in my personal opinion, not that cute. I do, however, love the way sun faded bits of flip flop add character to things sculpted out of them. There’s something whimsical about the material, which I think you get from the Studio Schneemann pieces in the unconsumption link; and, of course, evident in the everydaytrash.com official mascot, P.C. the Flip Flop Rhino.
A company called UniquEco made P.C. Or rather, Kenyan women made him and UniquEco put a snazzy label on his belly and made sure he was available for purchase at my favorite women’s collective shop in Kampala. UniquEco are based in Kenya and also have a life-sized whale made from washed up flip flops, which makes me think they may be connected to the original story.
In the U.S. TerraCycle and Old Navy are launching a campaign called Flip Flop Replay whereby you can drop your old flip flops off at Old Navy and TerraCycle will collect them and recycle them into play grounds. At first I thought that meant play ground mats. Then I saw the picture below. I don’t always love TerraCycle’s projects, but this one is just cool.
I just discovered my favorite RSS feed of the summer via Flavorwire: Recycle LACMA. It’s the blog of artist Robert Fontenot who heard the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was getting rid of a bunch of stuff in its costume and textile collection, bought up over 50 of those pieces at auction and is now reimagining each one into an entirely different object.
Checking out the blog each day is like an advent calendar of upcycling. Today, for example, he posted this fab wastepaper basket fashioned from an old piece of Turkish embroidery. Trashtastic.
Sometimes I search YouTube for trash terms. This morning, punching in “upcycle” led me to this amusing chronicle of an craft and design class in Sweden upcycling waste into designer dinner tables. Rock on.
As part of their supercool series on music, uncomsuption posted a link today to the site cassette tape culture, a clearinghouse of upcyling ideas for old tapes. As it happens, I’ve been thinking a lot about cassettes lately—in the context of what is happening now in Iran.
I saw a great documentary once—on TV of course so I have no idea what it was called or how to track it down again—about new technologies and human rights. It ended on this very upbeat note saying that little camcorders were going to put an end to human rights violations because anyone could sneak one into a scuffle or stoning, turning every citizen into a potential reporter.
Behind every modern uprising, the documentary postured, lay a technological advancement. Leading up to the ’79 revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini built his following by recording propaganda speeches on cassettes that were smuggled into Iran and passed around from person to person. Tienanmen Square was the fax revolution. And since then we have seen the text message and cell phone camera equivalents around the world. And here we are, 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, learning the true value of new media.
“So you know what Twitter is, now, right?” I asked my father on the phone this morning. He lives in Tehran.
“Of course,” he said. “Hillary used it to send us a message.”
“And you know how it works?”
“BBC and Voice of America have been telling us how it works.”
So there you have it. Last week, he needed help to open his webmail account. This week, my dad understands the political implications of Twitter. And more importantly, my generation understands how to use it. And how YouTube and Facebook and camera phones and text messages all work.
Like everyone else I know, with or without family on the front lines, I am glued to the internet: hungry for any scrap of information or better yet context to the post-election melee and awed by the bravery of those on the streets.
Browsing these nostalgic reimaginings of cassettes makes me want to channel this nervous energy into an art project: a giant sculpture of the Ayatollah made of old cassettes with tangled strands of tape to represent his imposing eyebrows. It would have a sound element, this multimedia work of mine, a warbly cassette recording of Khomeini’s speech to the women who participated in the revolution (thanking them kindly for their participation and asking them politely to resume their places as subservient members of society). And I would call the piece “Be careful what you wish for.”
The good people of the Berkana Institute, a think tank of sorts, have started what they are calling an Upcycling portal. The aim is to unite a “community of practitioners” who share knowledge and stories related to making stuff out of trash. Eveydaytrash.com is a founding member, which means we—and by extension you—will have some say in how these concepts get fleshed out. Have a look and share your thoughts.
This is a post about upcycling old music into new beats. It is long. Skip to the end if you’re only interested in the sounds. There, you will find a free download. For those curious about how this amazing beat came to be, this is the story:
In October, I spent a week in Jakarta for work. The day job, of course, consumed the majority of my time, but I did manage to make the most of my one afternoon off that week while my colleagues were busy working on presentations and setting up meetings for the following day.
“I want to buy records,” I told our Indonesian consultant who, after some clarification that I meant vinyl and not compact discs, instructed the driver to take me to the antique market.
Looking for records while traveling is a hobby I picked up from my friend Flex Unger, whom you may remember as the Brooklyn musician fond of upcycled drum machines. It is also easier said than done, at least in Africa, where I normally go for work. In Lusaka, the only records I could find were a newly released Whitney Houston album on sale at the mall and the vinyl glued to the door of a local radio station. I was on my way to that radio station on the last day of my trip—thinking I could track down the DJs responsible for the decor and ask them where to find records—when I noticed a huge curl of smoke in the air above the center of downtown. We tuned the radio to the station we were on our way to visit and got nothing but static. The station had caught fire, taking the entire building down in flames.
In Lagos, when my friends and colleagues failed to lead me to the records, I dragged several of them out to Fela Kuti‘s Shrine, the famous nightclub run by his son, Femi Kuti. There, we spent the afternoon drinking beers amidst the schwag fumes of the local Rastas, but got no closer to locating the Lagosian record trade. I tried once again to no avail last month in Kampala, where my Ugandan radio friend insists you can’t even buy a record player (though he has promised to help track down local collectors).
Digging for records in Indonesia was much easier than in Africa. Almost too easy. After a mere half hour in local traffic, the car pulled up to a row of the fanciest outdoor market stalls I have ever seen. In fact, they weren’t outdoor at all, but a pint-sized strip mall of shops selling colonial era furniture and Indonesian knickknacks. They even had doors. One of those shops sold nothing but records. I couldn’t believe it. I passed some time there, limiting my search to Indonesian music since I only had a couple hours to spend at the market. After the mini-shop, I walked through the less built-up side of the market—open-air stalls selling greasy appliance parts and random chotchkies. There, I found two more record sellers, one of whom even had a turntable set up. I asked him to play me the records I had just purchased and bought one more from him, just to be polite. In the end this is what I took home:
Three Indonesian pop albulms from the 1960s and 70s and one two-disc traditional compilation full of old opera and gamelan music. My favorite—both for the cover and what’s actually on the record—is the center album above. It’s called (in Indonesian) Andrianie Beladjar Sepeda, which my Indonesian friend (the one who helped me find the antique market in the first place, THANKS IWU!!!) told me means Learning to Ride a Bike. It’s got a kind of Gainsbourg/Bardot feel, excellent sounds to blog to.
All told, I spent $1.20 on that shopping spree: Twenty cents each for the three pop records, forty cents on the double album of traditional music and twenty cents on a lovely lunch of fritters, samosa and a banana dessert cooked in banana leaves.
Though I mentioned to Flex Unger that I had picked up some records in Indonesia and even sought his advice on the purchase of a portable record player to enjoy them in Brooklyn, I never showed him these albums or brought them to his studio. My great and fruitless musical safari through Zambia, Nigeria and Uganda had carried with it the specific mission of finding African music that he might enjoy or be able to sample. Before I left on each of those trips, Flex specifically asked me look for music for him. But when I went looking for music in Jakarta, it wasn’t as much to run home to impress my DJ friend as it was to seek out personal souvenirs of a fascinating trip.
As it turns out, impressing my DJ friend happened anyway. A couple weeks ago, Flex was over at my apartment and spotted the alluring cover of Learning to Ride a Bike. “What are these??” he cried, sifting through the small stack of Jakarta finds. Since then we have spent some hours at his studio in Sunset Park transferring the records to electronic format, breaking up the fun and strange songs into smaller pieces and feeding them into Flex’ drum machine to mix and match the noises and layer them with new ones. Or rather, he has done all of that while I have looked on, pressing the occasional button on the soundboard when instructed to do so. It feels like I’ve learned something while observing the process—a vague something about timing, Pro Tools, hip hop and Southeast Asia.
More importantly, the end results have been fantastic. Check out the first finished beat. It is entitled “Steamed Bananas” after that tasty Indonesian snack and because Flex is working on a larger, super-market-themed album for which all beats must have food names. Consider this a sneak peak.
Kind of makes you want to dance, doesn’t it? For comparison, here is the original track from Learning to Ride a Bike.
Impressive, non? Check out Flex’ label Black Rhombus for more fun tunes. And send us your stories of upcyled music and musical upcycling. I’m all about musical trash posts this summer, especially since I just figured out how to upload mp3s.
Also, this whole process has renewed my entusiasm for figuring out where they hide the records in Africa. Stay tuned. And speaking of African music, Brooklynites mark your calendars for June 25th and seek me out in Prospect Park!