Now I do Upcycling as a hobby. What comes across my way is worked with as a resource, I do workshops and I gift my friends with the upcycled goods. But some people have turned it into their job and are professionalizing the field. In the search for a 50th birthday present for my aunt I went to visit some.
El Reinventor for example is upcycling instruments and other antique things into light objects. He also works with bicycle parts, coat hangers and whatever you bring to him. One of his specialties is that he works with people on their old objects and turns them into something really unique.
At the Bright Side Werkstatt, Brunnenstraße 26 in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin you find him. El Reinventor. It’s worth a visit to look at his art, even better if you feel like working on something with him. Its a workshop and gallery in one. He has some great tools, and an even greater humor and creativity.
When I came to visit him he showed me around and shared some backdoor secrets. We then sat in front of his gallery in the sun where he showed me how to turn a coat hanger into an angle holding my toilet paper. Gold!
Just around the corner is the Upcycling Fashion Store. From clothes to accessories and gifts they have a large range of things from different artists in and around Berlin. I found little wallets from leather gloves, handbags from offset printing covers,… They also organize events and report on the latest news in the upcycling scene on www.upcycling-fashion.com. There is now even an upcycling fashion road map for Berlin. Thank you!
When there is not much room for a garden you have to go up. Vertical gardens are great for small spaces. Ideally you choose plants that climb up like beans and peas. But strawberries also work. It depends on the construction. What have you got around?
There are many materials that can be used in upcycling. One example are vertical gardens from plastic bottles like described in this post: Strawberry Tower from Plastic.
Other materials are milk cartons strapped to a fence or wooden pallets like in these pictures taken at urban gardens in Berlin:
Another way to use wood pallets is shown in the below picture, a more professional approach with an irrigation system.
Drink cartons accumulate over time in most households. Turned upside down they work as flower pots. When leaving the cap part open at the bottom it is a perfect drainage system. They can be hung onto a fence or balcony.
Upcycling is the idea of reusing “waste” materials for the creation of new objects of practical use, arts and decoration, contributing to the reduction of energy use, soil, water and air contamination.
We turn milk cartons into herb gardens, plastic bottles into vertical strawberry fields and shoes into flower pots. If you rather green your neighbourhood make some seedballs with us and spread the special Berlin seed mix of colourful plants.
Lu, Steffi and Dia are going to upcycle with you to give your balcony and window board some green vibes. We mix our knowledge on permaculture design, natural resources and upcycling arts to design the eco-corner of serendubity with you. There will be material, bring your ideas and hands for creating with us!
In this series I would like to reflect on nature as a source of inspiration. There is diversity and abundance in nature – daily creation and transformation – in cycles, in motion, in patterns. Nature provides food for the belly but also food for thoughts.
Nature is a magical muse
Observing the ocean your minddrifts away staring at the water.
Reflecting on the past, planing for the future: Was that the right decision? Where should I go next? The sound of the waves brings your attention back to this very moment – The present. The salty smell of the ocean blows away all thoughts and clears the mind. Focusing on the breath, on the moment.
Taking time and focusing on the moment are key to observation. To hear, see, smell and feel a place from different sides. With no rush or to-do-lists pending.
Observation is like a meditation on nature
A meditation requires patience but is rewarding. Especially with nature as a mediator. Sensing the elements has grounding effects letting go of fears and worries. What does really matter?
In meditation mind and body by observing the breath. With this aware, clear and focused mind new combinations of the old can arise – Ideas are born.
For anyone interested in sustainable design of gardens and other human-environmental ecosystems I can recommend this free Permaculture design course www.permaculturedesigntraining.com.
Permaculture offers practical techniques to find sustainable solutions and promotes creation rather than consumption.
PermaWHAT? The word derives from Permanent Agriculture and was coined by Australian Bill Mollison and Japanese Masanobu Fukuoka. A fundamental aspect of Permaculture is observation and designing with nature. Some call it “edible landscaping”. Others include urban structures and housing as well as social aspects of community management (e.g. non violent communication). It is a holistic method – but you can pick and choose also and it is much applied in creating gardens. Well that is how it got me started – It really makes sense and has the tendency to inspire other parts of your life. I started off with a herb spiral in my own garden, took the online course and am now going to participate in a community project for rural food security in Madagascar.
Now back to the course: There are around 40 video lectures with different teachers on designs, patterns, plants, climates, soils and water. These will give you an idea about gardening the Permaculture way. One method presented is e.g. a plant guild which is a form of polyculture with plants of different function, size and needs (rather than monoculture where there is just one plant prone to diseases and soil degradation). Those plants exchange nutrients, attract pollinators, improve the soil and provide food. This is basically a way of imitating nature patterns – just that the plants are edible and at your doorstep. There is a beautiful free ebook on plant guilds e.g. the walnut guild here www.midwestpermaculture.com. Permaculture makes you look at nature in a different way.
Design to harvest sunlight.
Diversity of plants, local focus, resilient systems, perennial species and use of edges are some of the key principles. The other 40 course videos are on greywater system, housing, social permaculture, urban applications and offer some site visits. There is also a forum to ask questions and for those interested can take a test and get an official PDC certificate.
Permaculture sums up indigenous knowledge and many techniques where practiced by former advanced civilizations like the Mayas or Inkas. Nowadays the internet facilitates a global knowledge exchange and network. Be inspired.
Most products are wrapped in plastic. It is hard to avoid in your daily shopping from food items to toilet paper. Plastic bags are easily turned into plastic “wool” for knitting or crocheting. Start reusing plastic bags by making yarn out of them. You can then knit or crochet anything that comes to your mind. I was inspired at Peats Ridge Festival – a New Years festival near Sydney know for it’s sustainability focus. The little workshop tent was full of hand bags and clutches.
In the picture below I have started knitting a curtain for our bathroom window out of the plastic bag that toilet paper is stored in. Preparing the plastic wool is more time consuming than buying wool but it takes rather time than money and then the knitting is much faster as plastic is thicker than wool. The outcome also makes for different purpose than wool. It is more robust and can also turned into e.g. a mat for shoes. You can go colourful. You can knit hand bags and braid the handles. You might want to experiment with different size needles.
Be creative and share your ideas with me!
How to create yarn out of plastic bags:
1. stretch a plastic bag
2. roll it up like dough for cookies with the longer side facing you.
3. cut off the end parts – the bottom rim and the handle
4. cut the long dough piece in 2cm wide pieces
5. unfolded they turn into a large loop.
6. now you connect loop through looping and you will have a string of yarn