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9 Mar

Image courtesy of David Schiller's Zen Page-A-Day 2010 Calendar


The most beautiful moment

21 Dec

I have a little confession to make – I’ve been back in Australia for over two weeks now, catching up with family and friends. Which partly explains why I’ve taken so long in between posts (the other part is limited access to internet). And I’m about to spend Christmas at my family farm in Queensland where there’s no internet!

So the team at Conserve India and I have agreed to extend the blog until February next year.

I’m looking forward to showing you the images of our final Commonwealth Games products and some of the fantastic models we found in Delhi on my last night in town. 

There’s also quite a few other things I’d like to post  in order to fully complete the project blog (I’m still wading through all my photos and writing up my final report).

But until then, I wanted to leave you with this short, captivating trailer from a film I can’t wait to see. It’s called Wasteland and it’s doing the festival circuits at the moment, picking up lots of awards.

I came across it earlier this year and, although it’s a South American story, it formed the final inspirational moment behind my decision to quit my job and travel to Delhi.

I keep thinking about the old woman, from one of the scenes, as she cooks her dinner right in the middle of the world’s largest garbage dump. And how she says she feels good there…

So dear readers, as the western calendar year draws to a close, I hope this post finds you feeling good…whereever you may be.

‘The moment one thing turns into another is the most beautiful moment. That moment is really magical.’  Vik Muniz, Wasteland

Does handmade = upcycled?

10 Nov

Yesterday I was researching online and stumbled across a friend’s music video – the props and set are virtually all handmade.

But does something handmade necessarily make it upcycled? I’ve been thinking about this question since I first discovered an impressive book on India’s vast array of handicrafts – Handmade in India.

I started flicking through it while loitering in the Full Circle Bookstore in N Block Market, Greater Kailash, and began wondering how many of the featured handicrafts could be considered upcycling.

Some examples appear to meet our definition (taking disposable or discarded things and repurposing them into valuable, useful, or simply aesthetically pleasing items): papier mache masks and effigies or felted Gabba rugs made from old woollen fabrics mixed with waste cotton are two examples.

But what about Kashta Kari (wood carving) or Varaq Ka Kaam (edible gold and silver foil)? They’re using raw materials aren’t they? Is this necessarily a bad thing? And what about the importance of preserving different forms of cultural and artistic expression? Who knows, they could be as important to human survival as the planet’s biological diversity.

So something made by hand doesn’t automatically mean it’s been upcycled and an upcycled product could always be manufactured by automated machines.

But, arguably, the best kind of upcycling is done by hand. Why?

1. It saves on unnecessary energy use in running machines and factories.

2. There are less virgin materials needed so there is less environmental impact.

3. It challenges us to be highly creative and innovative because we are working with limited resources.

4. There is a direct connection between product and creator, a feeling of joy or satisfaction that comes from making something with your own hands.

Upcycling, for me, is a natural extension of handmade, it’s handicraft done with greater awareness of connections and consequences: it’s about making something with hand, head and heart.

It’s official!

1 Nov


Delhi 2010 Organising Committee head office

Delhi 2010 Organising Committee head office - we know it well...

After numerous visits to the Games head office, we’ve secured permission from representatives of the Delhi 2010 organising committee to collect Games promotional and advertising waste. We were given contact details for the main contractor company responsible for installing Games street banners, like these, across the city:

Commonwealth Games wall wraps in use

An Indian mahout rides on his elephant past the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi on October 1, 2010. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images) via the Boston Globe's Big Picture

Why the banners? Well, there are a couple of reasons:

1. We knew we had a good chance of creating products from the street banners as we’d created samples with similar materials prior to the Games.

2. The banners look great, they’re almost an iconic symbol of these Commonwealth Games (if you look at the Big Picture images they are the backdrop to at least half a dozen photos).

3. We discovered around 25,000 kgs of these banners in a warehouse waiting to be sold as scrap. Yep, that’s 25 tonnes of synthetic plastic banners just from this one aspect of the Games. That’s a significant waste stream in our opinion.

So I (Liz) got on the blower (phone) and asked the contracting company – also responsible for collection and disposal of the banners after the Games – if I could come and check out the waste. And here’s what I found at their warehouse…

Commonwealth Games wall wrap

Commonwealth Games street banners before stripping from metal stands

Commonwealth Games red wall wrap

Commonwealth Games banner after removal from stand

I was about to head back to the Conserve India office when I also spied banners from the 2010 Hockey World Cup held in Delhi last March. How cool is this design? After talking to Conserve’s designers we’ve decided we’ll ask for some of these as well.

2010 Hockey World Cup Banner

2010 Hockey World Cup Banner

So, we’ve identified a Games waste stream and secured permission to use it for making products. Now comes the tricky part of figuring out how much we can use, where we can store it, developing workable product designs and creating samples. Not to mention finding a buyer for the products! Looks like our real work is only just beginning…

But while we’re doing all this, we thought we’d ask for your  ideas: what would you create from this material?

It doesn’t have to be a bag, in fact Conserve India has already made stationery items, footwear and home interiors – like lampshades and rugs – from waste materials. If you’d like to submit a product idea we’d love to hear from you – simply describe it in a comment to this post or email and we’ll get back to you with a response.

More updates soon.



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