Upcycling – Time to start
In present day times, it is important that we start Upcycling stuff to give it a new avatar, to enhance the beauty of a space, to give in to our creative urge and most importantly, become earth‐sensitive. Meet Ms.Raji Mohan who talks about her Upcycling art work in this interview.
1. What prompts you to change a product and give it a different look?
Inherently I am a low clutter person. I also have dust allergy being as I am from Bangalore. So I never like to keep too many things in storage for sentimental reasons. However, the few items that I do like to preserve as a keepsake I try to “do it up” with art‐work and try to find a new purpose for it. For example, my great grandmother’s steel trunk wasn’t something I could use for its originally intended purpose but I figured I could get some art work on it and use it as a coffee table. Same with pickle jars, I decided to turn them into table lamps ‐ keeping form intact but with a renewed function. A lot of these items have oodles of character and it would be criminal to not repurpose them. My favorite yet has been the “painted” aluminium tea kettle and balti that has become ubiquitous in the upcycle market these days and if you live in Bangalore you see around you a lot of such creative ventures on how to re purpose and reuse everyday items around the house to make them functional as well as visually appealing.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has to become our daily mantra in order to preserve the environment as well as to move towards a healthy lifestyle. I also think a lot of my sensibilities to constantly declutter come from my mother and that a lot of one’s leanings develop from the environment at home.
So the simple rule really is, if an item has to be retained at home, it has to be visually appealing or have a definitive purpose or both. If it isn’t doing either then it should be at the second‐to‐none flea market :‐).
2. How can a ‘non‐artist’ start Upcycling?
This is something I have learnt over time that everyone has an artistic streak in them. Anyone can pick up paints and a brush and create useful and beautiful items out of things which have been languishing in attics and storage rooms for years. There are no rules and there are no boundaries, really. All it takes is some amount of “out of the box” thinking which only a boundary‐less state of mind can bring about.
We are our own limitation most of the time. Once we get past that line, even the sky stops being the limit.
3. What resources can a beginner use to become an up cycle artist? Any suggestions that you can share about Upcycling.
Best place and best tool to start upcycling with is a rag cloth and a pail of soapy water. Everything deserves a good, thorough wash to get rid of years’ worth of dirt and grime. The next step would be the material in question. Metal surfaces might have rust and hence need sand paper and an alcohol based cleaning liquid to get rid of the mould and rust.
I always recommend working in an open air space specially when using strong chemicals and wearing gloves. Once the cleaning and scrubbing process is over, it is recommended to leave the item out in the sun to dry for at least 24 hours. Only then is the surface ready to be primed and painted upon.
Based on the surface, a metal or wood primer can be used to prep the surface for the paint work. Leave to dry for 24 hours.
I use oil based emulsion paints (commonly used for painting walls) as a base coat for all upcycled painting projects. I find they give a good sheen and are also robust and long lasting.
Any art work goes onto this base coat only after it has been left to dry for at least 24 hours if not more. I spend nearly 3‐4 days in just cleaning and prepping the surface before starting on the actual art work. I have found it gives long lasting results. For the art work, I use a variety of media like acrylic, oil paint as well as permanent markers.
4. Is it possible to use eco‐friendly colors to paint on used tins, pots, vessels, glass and fabric? This has been my eternal internal struggle while working on these upcycling projects. We are yet to find eco friendly paint products to use with such projects. The ones that are currently available are either not robust or don’t work too well on these surfaces. Either way, at this point in time, I continue to be conscious of the ingredients I use while constantly on the lookout for more eco‐friendly products and processes.
5. How do you manage time between a regular job and your passion?
My regular job is what I do for a living, painting is what I do to live :‐). Which is why I don’t think I want to switch to doing this full time. This is the only outlet I have, it is therapeutic and cathartic and I take my own time to get things done.
It is the ‘no rush, no deadline’ aspect that makes me keep going back to indulging in it every chance I can get. I fear once that is taken away, I might not enjoy it as much.
6. Would you like to share any interesting experience with the readers?
My experience so far has been that children are best at ‘out of box’ thinking. I had one student who walked up to me after one of these sessions and wondered if she should consider upcycling their old boiler into a planter with a good lick of paint and art work. This is a perfect example for an upcycling project. Boilers aren’t being used any more and what better way than to repurpose these into planters while also adding in some art work?
I take on a lot of request orders from friends and family who are looking into their attics and finding items they want to upcycle as keepsakes. Recently a friend of ours dropped off lovely stones that he had collected for use in landscape gardening and has requested me to paint over them to enhance the look and add artistic value. Like I said, anything can be upcycled with art work and some creative thinking. Just about anything!