Upcyclers may work alone in the studio, spend hours out on the streets salvaging materials, have day (or night) jobs: we all do diverse and different things in our lives. We can connect online and share information, knowledge and experiences – but an actual place where we can get together is just as important.
And so, in the spirit of a meeting place, we opened UpShop to the public on a day in December, 2016, and invited the community to come in, have a coffee and chat. We wanted to tell people about UpShop and to hear their thoughts on upcycling; we wanted to know who was ‘out there’ and what they were doing – and what they dreamt of doing. Upcycling is not just the process of recycling; it’s inherently social. Upcycling connects us, create networks, and a sense of community.
A range of locals dropped by: people we knew and others we were meeting for the first time. Whilst we had put a few signs around the neighbourhood (and the trusty UpShop Bike), we were pleasantly surprised to find that quite a few people had travelled from the West. We got to chat to Michelle Fisher, the coordinator of Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) about what Repair Café is doing for the Inner West and how we can collaborate to facilitate a culture of repairing in the north.
This event was an opportunity to show the treasures that have been rescued by UpShop from landfill. We put out a few innerspring mattresses and the Volvo planter boxes. Whilst these items were on sale, we really wanted them to provoke questions and conversations. Interestingly, we only had one discussion about the planter box– we wonder if it might have blended in too well with the garden!
However, there were quite a few questions about the strange objects and apparatuses that Mario has salvaged and refurbished over the years. The vibrator (aka device for the treatment of female hysteria) provoked a few reactions: what was it? where did it come from?
What’s the difference between an UpShop event and a market that sells vintage wares? For us, upcycling is creative, innovative, and its about social connectedness and collaboration. And so our events are designed to collaborate with other creative upcyclers. For Mara, this market was the first for Relovit; an opportunity to not only sell her wares but to talk about sustainability and how it informs her passion for upcycled clothing and bags. Alex has been an upcycler for many years, working with wood and metal, he has produced beautiful functional objects and it was great to see a few “chippies” inspired by his work.
While each of the creatives had works for sale, what we found most exciting about our first event were the social outcomes and the connections that were formed. We look forward to include others and see these events as important groundwork for the online platforms we aim to facilitate that will enable further collaborations and conversations.