Upcyclist is an interiors blog reporting on beautiful resourceful design that reports on considered design for homes and interiors. Products, projects and ideas featured here are about being smart with resources, reducing waste, slowing consumption and finding creative and sustainable solutions that bring beauty to our everyday lives and surroundings.
Sachie Muramatsu lives in the Japanese city of Sakura, located in Chiba Prefecture. After graduating from Kuwasawa Design School, she took an apprenticeship at a studio specialising in ‘Kaga Yuzen’, the traditional art of hand painting silk for Kimonos. It was through trial and error that she started making her beautiful lampshades made from Japanese washi paper and in 2003, she had her first solo exhibition.
Why did you start making lampshades?
My mom was making doll’s clothes when I was little, there were many beautiful colourful lace or organdie fabrics at home. I was helping her often.
Since I grew up in such an environment, I always liked drawing pictures or making products, so I joined an ad design agency after studying at a graphic design school.
I was eager however to make something by my hands. I quit that company and learned the kimono dying technique in a kimono workshop. I devoted myself to the traditional kimono patterns which depict the beauty of everyday nature. It was there that I had the epiphany to create handmade lamp shades in this style.
What are your lights made of?
They are made of washi (traditional Japanese paper). There is a wire in each petal, like a leaf vein, which makes it possible to open or close and change the shape of lampshade. The petals are painted in acrylics.
What else can you tell us about the process of creating each lamp?
I tear the Japanese paper by hand and make it into the shape of a petal, then I dye them one by one.
I twist the dried Japanese paper with my hands to make wrinkles and put the weights on top overnight to settle them, just like making pressed flowers.
After that, a wire is put between the two petals to bond them. I combine these petals to complete the lampshade. I can make 1-3 pieces per day.
What types of flowers and plants are your lamps inspired by?
I sometimes get inspiration from flowers such as the rose or lotus, but more often I create my works based on the beautiful colours of the landscape and nature.
What else has influenced your work e.g. traditions, other artists and designers, books?
I’m influenced by the glass craftsman Charles Martin Émile Gallé from the Art Nouveau era and the lamps of the French glassmaking company Daum Frères.
What kind of interior design projects have incorporated your lights?
I have made lamps for the exhibition ‘The Lotus Garden’ at the QAGOMA contemporary art museum located in Brisbane, Australia.
What do you enjoy most about working with paper and light?
The happiest moment for me is how the petals of delicate Japanese paper, which I have dyed one by one, shine when they are lit up.
What projects are you working on right now?
I am preparing a bracket light now and am planning to announce it later this year.
At school Ian Berry was known as the art one. But around aged 18, he didn’t turn up for his art foundation course and listening to those who said art wasn’t a way to make a living (something he now campaigns against when lecturing at schools and universities), went to uni to study graphic design, before working in advertising in London and Sydney. ‘While I’m terrible at advertising, it enabled me to think differently,’ he says.
Berry has now been working as an artist for 12 years, creating works that at first glance, could be mistaken for drawings or paintings, but are actually crafted from recycled jeans. He tells us all about his life in denim.
Describe the moment you decided to use denim as your main medium
It was back at uni when near the end of term, I went back one Easter to my childhood home. My mum had emptied some of my cupboards and among other things was a pile of my own jeans. I saw all the shades contrasting against one another and I remembered all the times I had worn them – they don’t fit now!
I had just created a portrait of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown out of newspaper and thought I could try and do the same with the different shades of denim. l started doing portraits of people who were connected to the history of denim – Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Debbie Harry.
In the context of advertising, I thought it was amazing what these icons did for changing the perception of denim, from workwear to fashion. I loved the way denim followed the history of pop culture and the modern world.
While working with denim I became aware of my own connection to the material, as well as other people’s around the world. Denim has dualities, both good and bad. It has a democratic and universal appeal but I believe when you wear jeans, it becomes individualistic.
There is also the history of sweatshops, with cheap production happening in countries where pollution and work practices are not great. It is a perfect symbol for our modern world, sometimes sadly.
What is it about denim that enables you to best illustrate what you want to say?
In my work, I portray contemporary life, what better medium is there than using the material of our time?
In truth, most don’t realise my work is made of denim. I use the denim like a painter uses paint and try to make them like photo-realistic paintings – light and shade, using washes of indigo on the denim as the direction of the brush. But my work isn’t all about it being in denim. I only feel like an artist when they see the real thing, it is very different from how they are seen online.
I love creating the depths in the layers of denim. The Launderette piece had 15 layers of denim, just on the washing machine door. That gets lost online, as does the texture of the denim.
But I believe there is something inviting in the denim, even if people don’t realise it’s denim to start with – instead thinking they are indigo toned paintings. I create everyday scenes out of a common material, two things people see often, but together become something different.
I often hear the comment, ‘I don’t often like art, but I like this’. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not, but really I want to reach people who usually think art isn’t for them. I recently had this happen and it was the most heartwarming experience.
Is there an environmental side to your work?
When I started, it wasn’t really about recycling denim. But it has of course since been linked to recycling and upcycling. I hope people see what a waste denim can be, but I’m not shouting that at people. When I do educational work, I do point out ‘what else could we not send to landfill and make into other things?’
There are those in the denim industry who are authentic and then there are those who use terms like ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco friendly’ for purely marketing means. It’s the latest buzz word and while that could be celebrated, for many it is about profit and the bottom line.
I love Blackhorse Lane in London and Ateliers de Nîmes in Nimes, France. They are really good people making denim in a more ethical way. I believe in small batch production and offering repair services – even if it means I get less jean donations!
What can you tell us about the process of creating a work of art?
There are three strands to my work – wall art/paintings, portraits and installations.
With the everyday scenes, I take photos. If it’s not a scene I have stumbled upon and photographed, I will set it up with the appropriate lighting.
With the portraits, I also work from a photograph. The better the original photograph, the better the piece, but I will also add more dramatic light. I love the challenge of making a shiny work surface, a metallic subway car or a reflection in a window.
I then work from the photograph, whilst literally sitting in my pallet of jeans that have all been specifically chosen for the piece. I then try and blend each piece and layer them into one another. I work on a stretched denim ‘canvas’ mounted on a board – it stretches if not supported, and with sharp scissors, glue and my hands, I create the pieces out of thousands of cut pieces of jeans.
The installations work rather differently. Sometimes they are made to display my pieces of work. In installations like The Garden, I have used some laser technology. The whole trellis was laser cut, and parts were etched in laser (burned) to create effects and shades. I also work with an Italian company called Tonello that make sustainable washing machines and tools for the denim industry, which has enabled me to fully create my vision.
How do you choose subjects for a piece and where do you find inspiration?
While some may see a varied body of work, most don’t realise my work is about community – or lack of it. It’s an overarching theme about the changing fabric of our urban environment – the areas that are changing, gentrification and the materialistic life we lead. It’s about the lack of what historically were social gathering places, like the pubs that close down, the launderettes and the anti social ways we live.
Behind Closed Doors was the flip side of that, where it showed people alone, but alone in a perfect home – a house, not a home. It looks like an Elle Decoration double page spread, but while the person may have an expensive house, they also have a big mortgage and a partner having to work non stop to pay for it, leaving one alone, with everything, but with nothing. My inspiration comes mainly from London and cities I know across the USA. I love the layers and depth of history in cities. And what was once very rural, denim is now a very urban fabric.
Are there any other artists that have inspired your work?
I think the biggest inspiration to get back in to art was what was going on in the early 2000’s with street art. It was the attitude of ‘I’m just going to do this ‘cos I want to’.
A childhood hero was David Hockney, who came from Bradford, neighbouring my Huddersfield. I remember seeing his work in Saltaire as a 12-year-old and being amazed at his work in Los Angeles, thinking wow this person comes from my area. He still works every day and his ethos is inspiring in today’s art world.
Mark Evans‘ work with leather blows my mind. Max Zorn creates stunning work out of brown packing tape, where he builds up the layers and puts it on a light box. Other friends that work with denim are Holly Brown who prints on to it and Juan Manuel Gomez who worked in a laundry in Columbia and uses dyes and washing techniques on denim.
Where do you source the old jeans from?
First it was my denim, then my friends’ denim, then their friends, then neighbours would leave bags outside. Then it was scouring charity stores, vintage shops, as well as sometimes buying pairs of denim new in a shop if it had a good wash.
Now I get many from denim brands and mills. They are mainly samples – cut or damaged so couldn’t be worn and would only be thrown away. It means I get many of the same pairs, so it’s like working with a big pot of paint rather than a small tube. I have about 2000 pairs of jeans and they are all set out in my East London studio like a big pallet, organised into shades.
What interesting collaborations have you worked on so far?
I prefer working on my own work unless it is a commission that really interests me. Commissions turn into a lot more work than you first think, and in that time I could make several pieces of my own work, instead of just one.
I get many offers but only take about 1% of those jobs. A lot of those come from the denim industry. I want to keep my work as art and many denim companies just see it as a means of advertising. We have to align and it has to be for the right reasons.
I did work with Ray Ban on their Denim Wayfarer a few years ago where I made a portrait of Debbie Harry. I love the CBGB scene and all the bands from that time, many of which played a massive part in the denim story.
I became friends with some of the guys in Blondie and made Tommy Kessler’s jacket (my work cant be washed and five years on he’s still wearing it!) I’ve also done portraits of Giorgio Armani, Lapo Elkann, Ayrton Senna and have been commissioned to do a number of magazine covers.
What was the last thing you worked on?
I have just got back from an artist in residence in Labastide-Rouairoux, France, a town known for its textile history.
I showed a piece called Secret Garden, and the community helped me to install it. It was a brilliant experience that brought a whole town together and I received their rare Medal of Honour. To see what people do to try and keep their town alive (most of the textile industry has left) is inspiring.
I finally got to go to nearby Nimes, where the word ‘denim’ derives (Serge de Nimes). It was an amazing experience culminating in a visit to the textile museum, where I saw a poster for a factory, it was from Huddersfield, to my shock it was my grandad’s factory which made me realise my own textile past.
In the residency I actually put up a second installation in a old factory. It was made to look like nature – denim vines and plants had broken in to take over. Coming from a textile area in Yorkshire and seeing the effect of the decline in textiles, it is quite depressing seeing communities being ripped apart from their history and livelihood. Times do change, but soon this history and authentic heritage will be lost. And for what? A world of throwaway mass produced cheap goods.
What projects are you working on next?
I don’t tell anyone until it’s ready, as I’m always scared I’ll jinx it! Let’s just say my next big thing is connected to the cities of Genoa and Nimes where denim fabric originates. All I want is for people to see my work in real life… the rest will be is easy and will work out.
In 2005, Kresse Wesling and James Henrit launched Elvis & Kresse, their sustainable luxury line of bags and accessories made from genuine de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses that would otherwise be destined for landfill. They have since extended their range to homeware, using other reclaimed materials such as off-cuts from the production of Burberry leather goods, printing blankets, auction banners, tea sacks and parachute silk.
Since 2013, their HQ is now based at Tonge Mill in Kent, a nineteenth-century mill that houses their workshop and home, and which they have renovated head to toe with salvaged materials and upcycled decor. Read our interview with Kresse Wesling and discover how they put their personal stamp on the property.
What do you know about the history of the mill?
The mill was was built in 1837 and is Grade II listed. Several years before we bought it, the previous owner who built both this mill and its predecessor, The Old Mill, commissioned a history of the area and the buildings that their family had built and had run as a successful business for generations. It is a fantastic resource, containing amazing images of the pond, changes to the building over time and how it changed after a fire in the 1950s.
What drew you to the property initially and what state was it in before you moved in?
For several years we searched for this kind of building, where we could have a beautiful home for Elvis & Kresse and also a place to live. After several successive workshops based on industrial estates we wanted a better view, less concrete and to eliminate our commute!
We found the Mill on a Saturday whilst searching online, drove to see it on Sunday and made an offer on Monday. We had never seen the inside. Over the ensuing weeks Elvis went back twice to see it but as it was a three hour drive from us, so I never went.
It was in a terrible state internally, with limited heat and electricity, and we knew that it would be a challenge, but it had everything that two optimists who rescue and reclaim for a living could dream of.
What was your vision for the renovation and did you stick to it?
The challenge was to respect and retain everything that we could. As the building is Grade II listed, we couldn’t move the windows, stairs, or alter the exterior. The vision, in light of this challenge, was to create a luxurious but utilitarian interior that maximised the light and space while using as many reclaimed, salvaged and handmade pieces as possible.
We definitely stuck to this plan, particularly as it made the most of our limited budget, design and manufacturing skills, and resulted in a home that really only the two of us could ever have imagined and constructed. It also means that it really does reflect our style, which is why we love living here so much.
What are some of the most interesting vintage items that you introduced into the scheme?
There are definitely some stand out pieces. We found an ancient steel bathtub on Freecycle that was very rusty, we sanded it back and painted it silver, and now have a very unique, shiny centrepiece in our guest bathroom.
We have also made several chandeliers out of former industrial equipment – rusted out tractor parts that we found in a field, former fire brigade buckets, tea sacks… We often find that modern light fixtures look very manufactured, streamlined and dull. We wanted to create pieces that were clearly crafted, unique and laden with history.
What pieces were handmade or upcycled especially for the interior?
So many pieces, entire rooms even, were both handmade and upcycled – the kitchen was entirely re-imagined by transforming existing units with black paint, an assortment of redundant industrial rivets made into knobs, marble and granite off-cuts for the counter tops and deli style shelving made with failed scaffolding boards. Everything from the beds to the skirting boards, flooring, cupboards and most of the furniture we made, rescued, repaired, refurbished or re-imagined. A lot of love went into bringing the Mill back to life!
Was there anything you bought new?
Yes, all of the materials associated with the heating and electrical system. Due to building regulations these have to meet certain standards, which would be impossible with reclaimed materials of unknown origin.
Which is your favourite part of the house and why?
We have a small rescued table with two chairs that look out across the pond. It is the perfect place to watch the sunset.
What projects/collaborations are you currently working on?
We just finished making a leather wall for a set of a new film that will be released in the fall of 2019 and have almost finished a 2 x 12 meter rescued leather tapestry for a hotel in Nashville, USA. We love working with both home owners and more challenging, bespoke large format pieces for architects, interior designers and set designers.
Which pieces can be bought from Elvis & Kresse?
We have one of our rescued leather doorstops for every door and our leather rugs in many rooms too, plus candle holders made from rare decommissioned fire-hose couplings – these can all be ordered on the Elvis & Kresse website in the Homeware* section. We also have any number of bespoke pieces and are constantly working on commissions for customers from all over the world.
Bottletop have been creating their signature handbags made from recycled aluminium ring pulls since 2002. The brand collaborates with artisans in Brazil, Kenya, Nepal and Indonesia. They also run a number of global initiatives through The Bottletop Foundation, which you can read more about in our previous post.
In 2016, they opened a pop up store on London’s Regent street for three months, the success of which led them to take it on as a permanent store at the end of 2017. The design of the shop exemplifies their future thinking approach to sustainability by being the first shop to have a 3D printed interior made from recycled plastic. We spoke to co-founder Oliver Wayman to find out more.
What was your brief for the design of the store and who did you collaborate with for this project?
We wanted to re-imagine the future of ecologically responsible construction through zero waste design. We created a new ecological design partnership with Krause Architects and AI Build, a global leader in large-scale 3D printing technology.
What is the technology behind the recycled plastic material?
We used Kuka robots to print the store interior using Reflow filament, which is made entirely from plastic waste. The raw material undergoes a process of washing, shredding and extrusion to transform into an upcycled filament. We used the equivalent of 60’000 recycled plastic bottles.
What else in the store in made from recycled materials?
The rubber floor which is made from the equivalent of 69 tyres. The ceiling is made from a canopy of aluminium cans which is embedded into a 3D printed lattice structure.
Where were the materials sourced from?
The plastic is collected from Dar Es Salam and New Delhi via income generation programs. The tyres are recycled in the US.
How have people responded to the interior?
Very well! When Blue Planet 2 aired, everyone was coming in commending us on our efforts to reuse plastic in such a forward thinking way. It’s a very futuristic aesthetic which I think changes peoples perspectives on what sustainability can look like.
In what ways does the interior reflect the aesthetic and philosophy of the Bottletop brand?
The 3D printed store concept, contributes to a broader positive ecosystem, in line with the values upon which the Bottletop brand and collection are based; those of sustainable luxury, ethical design, technical innovation and cross-cultural collaboration.
With the current state of retail, what do you think it means to have a sustainable fashion brand with a physical shop in one of the capital’s most prominent shopping areas?
It’s very important. It is a real statement of intent to prove that sustainable fashion and design is not a fad or niche, it is becoming mainstream. There is a transition in consumer behaviour and people are seeking out environmentally friendly alternatives. It is well overdue as fashion has become one of the most polluting industries in the world – a change is coming.
Do you have plans to open further stores?
Yes, we are currently looking at opening new outlets in the US and Hong Kong – watch this space!
Visit the Bottletop flagship store at 84, Regent Street, London and read more at Bottletop.org
In an age of Netflix, Spotify and iTunes, we continue to leave behind a large trail of redundant CDs and DVDs. Turning those discs made from layers of aluminium and polycarbonate plastic into something useful, let alone beautiful is no easy feat.
In the UK, only a handful of recycling centres will take them – and there are only so many CD clocks this world needs… But the following creatives have managed to elevate CD art to new heights, reusing these shiny little morsels in their thousands. Could spatial and architectural applications be the answer?
Mirror Culture was a community based project in Varna, Bulgaria by Bignatov Studio, inspired by the reflection of light on water. 128 volunteers helped to create a large sparkling tapestry, using 6000 CDs and a custom made fishing net. The installation was hung at the gates to the Seaside Garden.
Bruce Munro is a light artist who has used redundant CDs in a few of his installations. For Water Lilies he upcycled 65,000 CDs into giant water lilies at Longwood Park in Pennsylvania, famous for its homegrown Victoria lilies.
The work was partly inspired by the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, which depicts a sea of white lilies that signify the border between two worlds. It also draws inspiration from a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, Sky Above Clouds IV, that shows a clear blue Arizona sky populated by abstracted clouds receding from the bottom to the top edge of the canvas.
WasteLandscape was a 500 square metre installation by artist Elise Morin and architect Clémence Eliard at the Halle d’Aubervilliers, a former funeral home turned art space in Paris. The artificial hilly landscape is blanketed with 65,000 CDs which were collected, sorted and then sewn together by hand to create an undulating and reflective surface.
In a statement from the artists, they say:
It is well known that CDs are condemned to gradually disappear from our daily life, and to later participate in the construction of immense open-air, floating or buried toxic waste reception centres. Made of petroleum, this reflecting slick of CDs forms a still sea of metallic dunes: the art work’s monumental scale reveals the precious aspect of a small daily object.
At the end of the installation’s tour, all of the CDs were recycled into polycarbonate. (Photos by Yannick Fradin, Martin Eliard, Marc Sirvin).
One of the most exceptional examples of CD reuse was demonstrated at the PIRACY exhibition in Milan. It featured the work of Italian artist Marco Pagano who literally throws the CDs on to the floor and recreates images of music heroes such as Freddy Mercury, James Brown and Bob Marley. Check out the awesome video of Michael Jackson in action here.
Blue Moon on a Platter
In 2012, Bruce Munro installed a carpet of CDs at Waddesdon Gardens in Buckinghamshire, England. Positioned in the centre is a 1.5m moon made of coiled optic fibres. The blue orb is kept alight by a metal halide projector and illuminates the CDs by night. Photos by Mark Pickthall.
Ignacio Canales Aracil is a Spanish sculptor who makes extraordinary delicate structures from real pressed flowers and plants. The flowers are held together without the use of any glue but once dried, sprayed with a matt varnish to protect them from moisture.
His works demonstrate a contemporary interpretation of the ancient tradition of preserving flowers, which dates back to the brightly coloured flowers found in excavated Egyptian tombs. His sculptures can in theory, stay intact for hundreds of years. As well as working with real flowers Ignacio has also worked with porcelain and more recently, wood. We spoke to him about his unique craft and inspiration.
Describe your creative background / education?
I started painting at an early age and wanted to make it my profession ever since I can remember. I studied art at school and then made it into the Fine Arts College at Madrid (Universidad Complutense). I received a couple of scholarships that made it possible to specialise in sculpture at Wimbledon College of Art and to later pursue an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art in London. More recently, I have completed an MA in Landscape Design at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, which has helped me to gain a better understanding of nature.
When and why did you start working with flowers?
Flowers, trees and nature in general has been an endless source of inspiration since the beginning of my career. But when I was studying in London I became aware of the British tradition of gardening which I started to enjoy. I then felt urged to respond to it through my sculptures.
What can you tell us about the processes you employ in your sculptures?
The technique is nothing new, flowers pressed between paper, that’s all I use. But to develop paper moulds with different sizes and shapes has been a constant challenge.
Where do you find inspiration for each piece?
The gardens that I visit, nature at its wildest, traditional pottery, ancient carvings, romantic ruins, instruments, even the marketing and publicity that surround us. There is no one theme that inspires my work and I can see all the things that interest me and move me, are present in each piece.
Can you give an example of the thought processes behind your work?
I made I call you from the deepest (first image) with the idea of a gong in my mind, one that plays a profound sound like a bell that calls to pray or to war. It was also the biggest piece I had ever made at that time and I wanted to exhibit it without barriers. The feeling of having such a big piece, so fragile and at the same time so strong, was empowering. A beautiful fear.
The piece See through (below) both broadens and veils the view. It takes inspiration from the rosette of a cathedral which selects and reflects the light in a way that enables us to have different experiences.
Are all of your sculptures designed to be permanent works of art? How do you preserve them?
For all my works that depends very much on the conservation. Regarding the flower pieces, some of my sculptures are in collections where they are still looking bright and others are in complete decay. For these works, this is a very important part of the life of the piece which defines how we see beauty and how we feel about time. The flowers are not lyophilized (freeze-dried), and are allowed to decay depending on the conservation that we are able to give them.
What is the most interesting commission you’ve worked on?
I very much enjoyed working with the Australian Open. They commissioned 14 pieces and every detail – from the studio work to transporting it, was a big challenge. They have a fantastic team and I learnt to have fun with all of it.