A few years ago a new verb came on the scene. To upcycle: to reuse a discarded object in such a way that it is of greater value than it was before. Upcyclers are people of vision. Where mere mortals see piles of rubbish, they see the next piece of cutting edge furniture or decoration. Not only do they sprinkle inspiration over ugly objects but they save the world as they do it. If only U-man didn’t sound like drain cleaner, you could almost imagine them as superheroes!
Let me take you through some examples. First, in the back of the garage you might find an old box filled with spanners – rusted maybe, certainly never used. Throw them away? Not our intrepid hero! U-man would carefully clean the rust off (use coca-cola – seriously, it does the trick!) and then bend them in the middle. Our hero of the rubbish bin would then scatter them with haphazard flair on a wall, screwed in place, and call them coat pegs. Genius.
Got yourself some old tyres that have no tread to grip the road? With a whisk of a super-human hand the upcycler would transform them into plant pots, or a garden seat or a coffee table. The texture of the rubber retained but sprayed in vibrant colours or lifted off the floor with carved timber.
The all-time favourite upcycle moment comes when you look at the humble tennis ball. Your fast smash serve has rendered the ball useless – no bounce, fluffy, half chewed maybe by the dog. To upcycle merely takes a pair of scissors and a marker pen. Cut the ball in half, slice a cross into the surface and draw on a smiley face. Glue these little yellow faces to the kitchen wall and they become the perfect storage device for your tea towels!
If you spoke to my Gran, which if you do you will always find entertaining, she will tell you this is all posh nonsense. In her day this was called thrift – you had to reuse items during the war – rationing don’t you know. She finds this idea of charging the earth for a bit of elbow grease and a smidge of imagination a bit of nonsense. But, in all honesty, to really upcycle you do need something of that super human vision that only a special few have.