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Charis first hit our TV screens in ‘The New Reclaimers’ on UKTVHome where she reclaims excess product from housing developers to transform family homes into havens. More recently you will have seen her on Channel 4’s ‘Kirstie Allsopp’s Fill Your House For Free’ where she reclaims and upcycles fantastic bespoke items turning the discarded into the desirable.
We couldn’t think if a better upcycling expert to give us the low down…
“I’ve always been an artistic and creative person. I’m from a working class background and I grew up in a very waste conscious household. Dad was always tinkering with something or painting and Mum was always sewing and making second-hand clothes look fab, I guess it rubbed off! I much prefer older items that are well made from good quality materials than cheap, new mass-produced items made from poor quality materials that don’t last – it’s a false economy.
Upcycling is a great way of turning something from undesirable to useful again and totally in-tune with your personal style, it goes hand in hand with reclaiming, skip diving and reuse. Plus, it’s great fun working out how you can give something a new purpose and make it beautiful again in a completely unique way.
The UK has certainly embraced upcycling, and for good reason – upcycling saves you money, and you can tailor an item to your taste and decor. It also gives you a great sense of achievement and satisfaction to stand back and say proudly ‘I made that’.
I also think we’ve had enough of poor quality, badly designed new items that are mass-produced, have been shipped half way around the world and aren’t built to last. At least when you upcycle an old item you know it has already lived a little, has a story to tell and, most importantly, has plenty of life left in it!
Each year we see different trends influencing the design of our homes. Growing your own fruit and veg has become ever more popular over the last few years and this year will be no exception, so I expect we’ll see lots of homemade trellises for vertical veg up cycled from pallets and veg planters constructed from reclaimed decking. Garden up cycling will be making a big splash this spring with sky blues, lime greens and rusty reds. Outdoor artwork and sculptures will be catching our eye too. I don’t think there is any getting away from up cycling this year – I see people looking for ever more inventive ways of making discarded items beautiful and useful once again in a whole host of new and exciting ways.
Without a doubt, my most ambitious project to date has been building my workshop. It took me a few months to build on my own and I used only free, unwanted materials I had collected from roadsides, industrial sites, Freegle, Freecycle, The Wood Store’s free pile and building sites in less than a 10 mile radius of my home. It was extremely ambitious considering I’m completely self-taught, and I had never even upcycled anything larger than a dining set before!
I set myself the challenge of building it from unwanted materials to highlight the massive amounts of usable materials entering the waste stream and to inspire others to think about using scrap and leftovers too.
I am most proud of a commission I recently completed for a new retro ice-cream parlour in Brighton. I made a bespoke wooden Art Deco style window frame and an usherette inspired mannequin display unit on wheels, both made entirely from salvaged and reclaimed materials – I handcrafted the window frame with wood which at one time had been cladding on a barn.
I also made the usherette’s tray and the removable shelves from scratch even her metal base is an industrial floor tile, the kind they use in offices under the carpet. I used copper leaf on both and gave them a rustic finish to age them and fit with the theme.
I love coming up with creative ways of designing and fabricating items to be original and eye-catching, yet functional. I love being quirky and original, and using bold colours – creating something contemporary out of a few discarded, beaten up old items is the epitome of upcycling for me. I have a thing for mannequins and I’ve made many items from them including a ‘Clockwork Orange’ lamp which I made on the first series of ‘Kirstie’s Fill Your House for Free’ from an old broken mannequin bust, a vintage bowler hat and the inners of an old shade. I have created wall hung candle holders and floor standing lamps from mannequins too, they’re so versatile and fun to work with.
People often ask me for my top upcycling tips and I always say start by looking around your home for inspiration. I’m sure most people will have an item at home which needs some TLC, something which they have long been meaning to replace but for some reason it hasn’t made it out of the front door yet. This is a great place to start – you don’t like it as it is so what’s the worst that could happen?! Start small, you can always build your confidence by starting with a lick of paint or changing knobs and handles. I’m sure you’ll be bitten by the upcycling bug and before long you’ll be skip diving, have a cupboard dedicated to cans of paint and a well-stocked tool box!”
For more tips and tricks visit Charis’ website: www.salvagesister.co.uk.