David MacLeod of My Cloud Designs in the United Kingdom, incorporates material from recycled clothes into his bag designs.
Hi, let me introduce myself. My name is David and I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am a research scientist by training, but a lack of jobs in my field means that I am currently work for the Scottish Government and I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. Hobbies include sewing (obviously), model making (mostly boats and planes), painting, cycling, cricket (left arm seam bowler, if you’re interested), football, and the usual mixture of reading, cinema and music. I think I’ll leave it there for the introductions.
How did you get involved in sewing and producing bags?
This may take a while…. So, [wavy lines] back in the mists of time, the 1980’s to be precise, here’s how it all started:
I’ve always done craft stuff including sewing for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still have one of my earliest sewing pieces: a sampler I did at primary school aged about 7 or 8 I think, with different types of stitch on it. Whilst growing up, I progressed from doing cross stitch and making Christmas tree decorations, to making stuffed toy animals from little kits and then started to make little projects of my own. I found that if I could think of something to make I could generally think of a way to make it. I’ve found that planning and patience are key to successfully making your own designs.
Making bags started by accident really. I was given my Mum’s old sewing machine as I had the idea of being able to fix things. Shortly after I got the machine, I ripped a pair of jeans beyond repairing. I started to take the back pockets with the idea of using them in some sort of project and then thought about the material in the actual jeans. I took them to pieces and decided to use the material to make a simple tote bag for my wife.
Once finished, she took it into work and her boss liked it and asked me to make one for his sister. I did, but I wanted to make something a bit different. I ended up using denim and for contrast I used some cream upholstery fabric that had been used to package up our sofas.
Everything spiralled from there: I made another bag for my wife because she really liked the second one that I had made; then I made bags for myself, a couple of friends and my sister. Everyone loved them and suggested that I started making them to sell and that’s where I am now.
The majority of my materials come from cast offs from friends and family. People know that when they ‘kill’ an item of clothing they should see if I would like it before sticking it in the bin. There is a surprising amount of material in a single pair of trousers once you start taking them to pieces!
Most of the material I use for the bag outer carcasses is denim, but I also get thinner materials from shirts or blouses to make linings for the bags. Then some of the smaller details (such as the fish scales on my fish scale bag) have been made from fabric off cuts from other projects.
In addition to this, I do buy some printed material off the roll to add a bit of interest to what would otherwise be a fairly plain bag. I use upholstery fabrics as they are made to be durable and have found that Ikea is a really good source of bright, interesting yet durable and relatively cheap material. Additional details such as zips or buttons come either from my local fabric shop (LFS) or from an online wholesaler. I have found that the LFS near to me puts all of the odd buttons they have left over in a jar and you can usually find some really nice ones in there. I’ve started looking for buttons at flea markets as well.
Why is the use of recycled materials important to you?
The throw away culture that we live in today is unsustainable in terms of the use of resources and in disposing of the old items. I think it is quite worrying that when something that requires very little attention to be fixed or put to another use is merely thrown away and something new bought. You can see that this culture has had an impact on the quality of the items that are available for sale today because they are no longer designed to last. In turn, this has lead to super corporations who can mass produce cheap goods and has pretty much destroyed smaller companies that produce unique and interesting items. The world has become universal and people are starting to lose their individuality.
Your ‘fish scale’ bag in particular is very unique, where do you get your inspiration for your bag designs from
My designs go through two phases: design of the main bag structure; and design of the detailing. In designing the bag structure, I think of the overall bag shape, then the shapes that will be needed to produce the bag and how I will put the bag together. Part of the design process is to try and make the bag practical and useable in every day situations.
In terms of the detailing, inspiration comes from all over the place. Anything and everything that I see in my day to day life can be incorporated into my designs. I have designed bags with a Gaudi influence, in an art deco style, art nouveau style etc. I have been influenced by Bauhaus and the De Stijl movement in particular as a lot of these use simple shapes in order to design a functional object.
With the fish scale bag, the detailing design came to me after I visited a bag museum in Amsterdam. They had an enamel bag which was principally made up from a series of overlapping scales. I sketched this idea down with a view of using it in a future design. The main bag was designed to be put together simply and to be functional once it was finished. You may notice that it is actually the same bag structure as the red and purple art deco inspired bag that I have also made.
Do you replicate your bag designs, or is each one unique?
The designs I have made for people are one offs and all of my commission pieces will remain unique. I may take ideas that I have developed from these bags to use in other projects, but the design as a whole will remain unique. Furthermore, because my bags are handmade from recycled materials each bag will end up being different. That’s one of the joys of using recycled material: it’s next to impossible to find an identical material because of the wear and tear the material has already gone through in it’s previous life. On the whole I like to try different things mainly to keep me interested, so I will try something new over duplicating designs and mass producing (as much as one person can) a product.
I have some ideas for some new designs and I am thinking of branching out into making laptop bags in the future. I would also love to start incorporating leather into my designs, although that idea might take a while as I would have to learn the skills needed to work leather so that I can achieve what I want with it. Other than that, it’s business as usual.
Mr. Kazuma TAKAHASHI creates art from recycled packaging, as seen on Design Blog SPGRA.
Recycled KitKat Wrapper Frogs
images c/o Design Blog SPGRA
Such a simple idea, but it works. Wooden spoons, and a recycled plastic bottle, made into a bird feeder. Seen over at Savvy Housekeeping.
Image c/o Savvy Housekeeping
Many recycle artisans use soda can ring pulls for their work. Sewn together, pop can tabs create a wonderful chain mail effect, as seen on some of the following creative recycle projects sourced from around the net.
Ring Pull Pop Can Lamp and Tutorial
Instructions found here
Can Tab Belt and Bracelet DIY
Can tab jewelryAs seen on Recyclart
Interesting facts about soda cans, pull tabs and recycling found here
New to Recycled Market, we have fair trade gift bags, which are made from recycled newspaper in India.The bags are offered by a Recycled Market Seller that goes by the name of “I’ve No Idea”
These eco recycled newspaper bags are made by an NGO whose main objective is to provide education and shelter to street children. The organisation started in 2004 by street children who wanted to give something back in return for the opportunities which had allowed them to escape desperate circumstances.
These elder children, now married with children of their own, generate an income by making newspaper bags and jute items. This allows them to take care of thirteen street children that they have saved from the streets surrounding Delhi train station. Support for this project means that these children can enjoy going to school and playing, rather than pulling rickshaws, shoe polishing, rag picking and worse. The newspapers are collected by bicycle rickshaw calling at residential homes for any read newspapers.
Buying a set of 5 means (they are sold in a bundle of 5) you can keep in your cupboard, and use as eco-friendly recycled gift wrap for gifts throughout the year.
Some of you may be aware that Recycled Market’s co-founder, Erica, makes her own recycled crafts, which is one of the reasons Recycled Market exists today.
A few weeks ago, Erica participated in Megan Bayliss’ Junk Wave workshop in Melbourne, and was taught a technique of handcrafting bags from food packaging. Here is Erica’s completed bag:
Although Megan can complete a bag within three hours, Erica’s bag took the best part of a week to complete. Once a new technique is mastered, of course the completion time will reduce, but this did leave us with a thought, we have the following upcycled food packaging bags for sale on Recycled Market which are really good value for money, considering the time taken to handcraft them.
A lot of time is spent sourcing and cleaning old and used materials, whether that be food packaging, fabric, vinyl, wood, metal or otherwise. A great deal of time is spent making the end piece, and then there is the additional time-consuming process of presenting the item for sale, which for many artists is the hardest part of all.
Using recycled material may reduce the initial cost of obtaining material, but one must consider the additional factors involved when buying a recycled product. Recycled products have far greater value for our planet’s natural resources than buying a new ‘cheaper’ product, which may also raise questions as to the (un) ethical conditions with which the product has been made.
An interview with recycled crafter Steph from OverIt!
Can you tell us a little about who you are?
I sure can, my name is Steph. I am a hyperactive recycling nut who has an addiction to coloured scraps. I am also artistic director of kids eco label MooBear Designs (Over It!’s big brother you could say) and founder of not for profit organisation The TreeHouse. Throw in my wonderful husband who enables my recycling adventures along with a sprinkling of my 3 children and you pretty much have me!
Can you tell us about your products?
I’ll often buy some of the most obscure mediums to work with like discarded vinyl for instance, and have it sitting on my desk for weeks until an idea finds me and they are turned into earrings, rings and brooches. Sometimes it’s a combination of unrelated materials sitting together while other times it’s just an idea, like my felt eye patches to add to my children’s dress up collection.
I have created denim clutches and baby bibs, zipper headbands, brooches and hair ties. Bed sheet satchels with seat belt straps, men’s tie shoulder bags and my favourite Over It! ever was making a pocket pal from 4 zippers for my son to keep his cars in. There is something for everyone with Over It!
How do you incorporate recycled material into your products?
I work with scraps, off cuts and remnants. Other materials like silk screen paint, cottons, buttons and paper are sourced from treasure shops, garage sales and an extensive collection of friends who off load their bags of excess goods in my direction. I think the first Over It! products were earrings made from ice-cream containers which were a great conversation starter. No one ever believed they use to be ice-cream containers. Since then I have used a variety of ‘unusable’ materials successfully and with a lot of fun.
I see the potential in materials which would other wise go to land fill. Someone asked me why I keep teeny tiny scraps of useless fabric and I pointed out that when building a house you wouldn’t throw away the left over useless bricks. You would keep them and build a BBQ, save them for a friend, sell them or give them away. That’s how I am with the materials I work with. The best part is I have a very dedicated circle of friends who also up cycle, recycle and refashion so If I come across something I know they can use I’ll send it off in their direction and visa versa and so the circle of recycling continues.
Over It! has a mind of it’s own so you never really know what to expect. I can assure you though that it will always be colourful and fun. I do have a few ideas brewing in mind, one of which involve shoes. But I don’t want to give too much away.
We live in a convenience culture, where we are exposed to some form of plastic material every single day.
We can recycle our plastic as much as possible, but the reality is, the majority of it will, at some point, end in the Pacific Ocean, in what is known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
What can we do? We all know we should recycle our own plastic responsibly, we can go one step further in collecting irresponsibly discarded plastic trash and place in the appropriate recycle bin. We can change our plastic toothbrush to a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush, and we can take our own reusable grocery bags to the supermarket.
But really, the best we can do, is refuse plastic from any source; plastic food packaging, plastic shopping bags, disposable plastic lighters, plastic water or soda drink bottles, plastic containers, and new plastic toys. Difficult? For sure! We are surrounded with plastic in every direction. But if we all try to minimise our plastic use, the least we can do is reduce the risk of a much larger mass of plastic ocean soup which horrendously damages our fragile ecosystems. Recycle? Yes. Refuse.. better.
An interview with Divya of Jewels by Sayuri.
My design philosophy is simple – Fashion is for all. So it should be practical, usable and desirable. Both my costume jewelry as well as my accessory range are created by me using a mix of both fine and unconventional materials. I create one off unique pieces without repetition and believe firmly in Hand crafting. I also custom make gifts based on orders. Sayuri products on the whole are contemporary with a distinct Indian touch.
I believe a lot in reducing and reusing. I feel that it is important for a designer to constantly incorporate existing materials into his/her designs and what better way than recycling to do that? Interacting with my blog friends made me see everyday materials like packaging waste, stationary supplies and old jewelry in a whole new light. I thought why I cant use these common things to make something uncommon, something beautiful and something wearable?
If possible I retain the material/object in its original shape, size or material. Sometimes I modify it to suit my design.
When I started, the idea was to keep the whole range, as good and creative budget options. But lately I have started doing statement jewelry and I am moving on to slightly more expensive pieces. In the future I want to expand and grow the brand further to include more designs, diverse materials and of course more retail outlets.
Shop Jewels of Sayuri here
Introducing Natynatyva to Recycled Market
“My birds are unique because I make them all individually. Since I use natural materials for the wings and tail – the bark of eucalyptus, which I just find it under the trees – the shape and position of various birds are always obtained. Making these birds require a lot of time, despite the size . And color – it’s a different story, I have been studying different types of hummingbird to select the colors are similar to the present, as in nature. Making smaller birds can be difficult, as this very fragile creature, is almost like a living thing!”
At the request of the customer, birds will come with a hook and a transparent thread to hang.