Mara Chambers (Relovit)


I see the potential in unwanted fabric, clothing and material, destined for landfill. I look carefully at everything that comes my way: a strip of old ribbon, a pillowcase or a pair of torn, paint splattered overalls. I consider the weight and texture of the material and the features of a particular piece of clothing. I try to keep what was unique in the original material  but, also transform it into an item that is useful, beautiful – and affordable.  I love that, through this process, one thing (a pillowcase, a pair of jeans or a shirt) is transformed into another (a bag or a smock).

Every relovit item I make is unique. Even when I make lots of the same item, they still retain something special about the original material. For example, I have made hundreds of what I call “useful bags” from salvaged curtains. These are all just simple drawstring bags. What makes them special is that, now, a discarded curtain can be used for new and various purposes.

Another bag I created really kept the features of the original, down to the cigarette burns that meant these pants could no longer be worn.

The bike bags were the outcome of a particular find: boxes filled with all the components for safety vests, but they hadn’t actually been constructed. What could I make out of this salvaged supply? As I love to make bags because they are useful, I considered all the various features of these vests – the webbing, the fluoro material, and the reflective details – and I thought that they would make a perfect lightweight, highly visible bag for biking.

I followed the same design process that I use when making all my items – a process that I am developing and crafting further as I discover different supplies and work with various kinds of found materials. I developed a design suited to this material and the purpose of carrying just the essential things you would need when biking.. I made final decisions about the depth of the bag (so that it could safely hold essential items like one’s wallet) and where the webbing should go for a drink bottle. I then turned to aesthetic factors such as deciding where best to put the reflective strips and which labels to use and where to place them.

I love adding labels to every item because they make each unique. if you read the slogan and it resonates, you’ll feel like the bag has been made especially for you. Each of the labels are printed on old pillowcases and sheets.

I want all of relovit items to start conversations. I think the things that I have upcycled encourage a sort of curiosity and invite questions. I like it when people look closely at them and wonder: what is this made from? Where did it come from? If you look closely at the art smocks, you can see parts of an old shirt; explore a backpack and you will find the zip or the pockets from the pair of jeans from which it is made. In this way, i hope that relovit inspires all of us to look around, see what is abundant and make something useful.