Hi, we're Jane and Meryl and welcome to our world of design innovation and creative reinvention. Meet talented designers, artists, makers and inventors. Read their stories and find out about their amazing creations.
As long-time advocates of reusing and recycling, we’re eager to share the fabulous work of vintage and second hand storeowners. In Sydney alone, if we don’t make changes to our current waste removal strategies, the City of Sydney predicts that by 2030, households and businesses will be sending more than 200,000 tonnes to landfill each year. Shockingly, it may have to be deposited more than 250 kilometres away. So the trick is to shop smart, shop local and hone your ethical awareness. Here are four small businesses we track on Instagram, that receive our undying love and devotion…
The ultimate in upcycling and repurposing is turning old military items and war-time materials into functional and wearable peacetime pieces. Who’d have thought Jerry Cans, unexploded bombs, shell casings and disarmed nuclear weapon systems could be anything other than unwanted waste?
Danish Fuel Jerry Can Bar Cabinet
Danish Fuel collects original World War Two Jerry Cans from military surplus stock houses and with a lot of elbow grease breathes new life into them to create Bar Cabinets, First Aid Stations, Bathroom cabinets and Trolley suitcases.
And in case you’re wondering where the name came from, ‘Jerry’ was the slang word used by the British and American armed forces for the Germans during World War II. The can’s original name was ‘Whermacht-Einheitskanister’ , meaning armed forces unit canister and was designed to hold fuel.
Danish Fuel Jerry Can Bathroom Cabinet
Arrow Bangles – the arrows point forwards without forgetting the past.
Article 22 partners with artisans in off-the-beaten-track places to create modern jewellery with provenance. Their first collection, Peacebomb is jewellery handcrafted in Laos from Vietnam War shrapnel.
Each piece gives back to support traditional Laotian artisan livelihoods, village development, community endeavours and contributes to the Mines Advisory Group to safely clear some of the 80 million unexploded bombs contaminating land in Laos.
World War Two shell casing money clip with British coin 1944. The projectile would have been used in a long-range naval or artillery weapon, and the casing was most likely brought back as a souvenir of the war.
Devin Johnson crafts metal, such as shell casings of long-range military weapons from the Vietnam War and World War II-era armed forces brass shell casings, into money clips in his sustainable, repurposing business Makeshift Accessories.
Vietnam War shell casing money clip 1974
From War to Peace
Gold-dipped (using recycled precious metals) Seven Rings of Peace Earrings
From War To Peace recycles copper from disarmed nuclear weapon systems to create an alloy called Peace BronzeTM, from which they cast jewelry and art. Originally the copper was mined in Montana, USA, then used as the cabling that carried launch codes to Minuteman III Nuclear Missiles in the American mid-west. Thanks to disarmament and recycling, that copper now helps launch peace in the 21st Century.
Tree of Life necklace
I’m sure there are many others doing such great, sustainable work with war-time waste. Let us know if you hear of any!
If you’ve ever fancied owning a luxury car – a Porsche or Maserati perhaps – but just can’t quite afford one, jewellery designer Christi Schimpke of CRASH Jewelry has the perfect solution. She designs and makes sustainable cuffs, bangles, earrings, necklaces, rings and cufflinks from the metal of late-model luxury cars such as Maserati, Porsche, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and more. What a great idea!
With a husband who runs an automobile collision repair shop, Christi was in an ideal position to see the amount of cast-off sheet metal and parts being replaced on such luxury cars and work out ways in which to upcycle them. It’s an idea that has taken off since she began four years ago. So much so that her pieces were featured on the runway in the 2016 Style Fashion Week LA with clothes by the designers Fuschia Couture and I-Am-Zoe.
Christi Schimpke of CRASH Jewelry
Please introduce yourself. Tell us about your background and how you’ve got to where you are today.
My professional background is/was in art history. I have my masters in Italian Renaissance art and worked at the Getty Museum and UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). I took a metal fabrication/metal smithing class a few years back and fell madly in love with the entire creative process. I had already left UCLA because I was unhappy and for the first time in my life I felt passionate about something.
Christi in her husband’s automobile collision repair shop where her studio is based
I started a more traditional jewellery business originally (called Minabea after my grandmother) and moved my studio into my husband’s automobile collision repair shop (Beverly Coachcraft) in LA. While working on silver smithing, I hit upon the idea to work with the cast-off sheet metal from the parts that were being replaced on these new, luxury cars. It started as an idea and I had to create a process which has developed into a much better process now (four years later). I stopped doing Minabea and am now focusing solely on CRASH Jewellery.
Bentley Arnage Limousine Cuff
When and why did you begin exploring with old car parts with the idea to upcycle them into jewellery?
There are no ‘old’ parts. These are all late-model (new) cars with original factory paint. This is an important distinction because I cannot work with any metal that has been repainted and I only have access to new cars since that is what we take in.
I began CRASH during a period when metal prices were sky rocketing and wondered if I could make jewellery from car metal and aluminium metal.
What challenges, if any, did you face along the way?
The physicality of the job is difficult in that I am bending car metal all day – cutting it, sanding, drilling, shaping etc. Also, the process and product keeps evolving. In the beginning I had no idea how the paint would behave if I cut or bent the car metal and I had to figure out a way to keep the paint intact. Other challenges have been trying to explain that the jewellery is actually from a car part!
360 Ferrari Modena Stud Earrings
Can you share a bit about the creative process?
I usually just start making things, rarely do I sketch designs out or think them through. I see the car metal and the paint and try to associate it with the car it came from and often designs grow from that. Mostly I observe life around me, mostly industrial and urban life, and that inspires me. I usually make a prototype, wear it, and work out any kinks that may arise before I replicate. I tend to make a lot of one-of-a-kind designs that are often difficult to replicate.
Tell us about the importance of upcycling and sustainability for you in both your work and personal life?
This is very important to me. I try to use as much of the cast off car metal as I can. I save the scraps to use on other projects. I reuse packaging from the parts department and anything else I can think of. I hate that we are such a throw-away society and it sickens me to see the amount of waste that we humans create. I try to also practice sustainability in my personal life but I can do always do better.
Versatile Arc Earrings
Who or what are some of your influences eg other makers and creatives?
Elon Musk (South African-born) billionaire entrepreneur, engineer and inventor), Zaha Hadid (Iraqi-born British architect), Alexandra Mor (New York-based jewellery designer).
What’s one thing other people may not know about you? I believe in justice.
It’s not very cool, but I really like … Playing Yahtzee.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Yes, currently! Who’d have thought I would go from an office environment to an auto body garage. Who’d have thought I would feel more at home in work boots and getting my hands dirty.
Cufflinks made from a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale ‘rosso scuderia’ and a white Ferrari 458
At WHT we love nothing more than artists who can produce sensational bodies of work using naturally occurring materials or even waste products such as plastic bottles, ocean detritus and outmoded CDs as their primary resource.
American stick work artist Patrick Dougherty studied hospital and health administration before returning to North Carolina University to complete a degree in art history and sculpture. Using carpentry skills, he began exploring tree saplings as a sculptural material. Starting with single trees, his work soon evolved to a monumental scale and over the past 30 years, Dougherty has produced more than 250 giant scale artworks and become internationally acclaimed.
Two beached fish on Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were the marketing tool chosen to promote the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at the Rio+20 in 2012. Made entirely from plastic bottles, the enormous installations were backlit at night to create a vivid light display. Scheduled 20 years on from the original Earth summit in 1992, Rio+20 was “a chance to move away from business-as-usual and to act to end poverty, address environmental destruction and build a bridge to the future.”
Byron Bay environmental artist John Dahlsen is well known to most Australians. While collecting driftwood in Victoria to produce furniture, he returned with a pile of plastic which he began to experiment with. A celebration of colour, he saw the potential of these vibrant pieces to be worked into an assemblage. Initially his friends thought him bizarre. He describes his art as twofold – there’s the intense beauty in the way nature smooths off his materials, but this comes with a sadness about what is happening to our environment. Five Totems is made from plastic objects found on Australian beaches and from stainless steel. It is housed at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
Bruce Monroe is an English artist renowned for large scale light installations, including a large scale work at Uluru. In this artwork, CDSea, he used 600,000m used CDs from all around the world and installed them with the help of family and friends in Long Knoll Field, Wiltshire in 2010. The inspiration came while at Nielson Beach in Sydney, when the shimmering silver of the sea transported him to his father’s home in Salcombe, Devon, prompting him to think about connectedness. Beautiful…
Meet Kelly White, who collects everything from vintage handmade to vintage homespun with battery rescue hens in between.
Words by Meryl Hancock, photographs by Ken Brass.
You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a blonde Shirley Temple who answers the front door of a brick cottage in the Sydney suburb of Kyeemagh. Bold ringlets, a vintage print dress with a delicately scalloped neckline, perfectly coordinated clogs and an adorable smile greet Australian Country. Oh, and the exuberance of youth. I’m waiting for the improvised tap dance. Instead Kelly White motions us into her hallway and my eyeballs start to swivel. The show begins with a wall of vintage plates to the left, a vivid shower of retro skirts to the right and two sociable chooks that keep bobbing in and out of the frame. It is captivating and we’ve only seen a snippet.
Growing up surrounded by treasures, such as her great grandfather’s paintings and her mother’s antique and contemporary quilts, Kelly has continued a collecting tradition. The house is brimming with history as it was her father’s childhood home.
There is a cluster of Bambi deer on the mantelpiece, and her workroom is a gallery of framed butterflies, ballerina prints, swan paintings, and plenty of French bulldog portraits. “I definitely like realism, animal prints, anything 1950s with a European influence,” she says. “My partner, Trev, works for a European audio company and has to travel once or twice a year so I tag along and pick up a lot of collectables that I’d never find in Australia.”
We venture from her workspace into a room that Kelly mentions was her father’s bedroom when he was a child. The lurid lime shagpile sets the tone for the psychedelic clothing collection stored here. Vintage hats hung sculpturally, silk and organza scarves waft, clutches of belts every hue of the rainbow dangle, and myriad beaded bags dominate wall space and clamber skywards. Immaculately tailored 1950s dresses jostle for attention in a riot of colour. Amazingly each and every dress fits Kelly and her daily selection is via a process of matching the novelty print to the occasion. “The fifties cut is so flattering and novelty prints are so specific and often themed,” she says. “I have a lot of seaside related prints, a unique print of the Swiss Alps that makes me nostalgic after a trip there, and one featuring the Eifel Tower. They’re so much more interesting than what is produced today. People are afraid to take risks nowadays, they don’t think about the longevity of their wardrobe, but back then fashion was all women had.”
This story was originally published in the February 2016 issue of Australian Country.
You can follow Kelly White on instagram @thestorybookrabbit
What better way to re-use grandma’s old china or upcycle broken crockery than by turning it into wearable ‘modern’ jewellery?
My first interview of the year combines two of my loves: ceramics and jewellery. Searching for a career change and fearing she was becoming a china hoarder, Dutch maker Bregjes Weterings turned her back on teaching to create a new business …
Jewellery maker Bregje Weterings
Can you please introduce yourself – tell us about your background and how you’ve got to where you are today?
I’m Bregje Weterings, 31 years old, a collector and unstoppable creative living in The Netherlands. I am an Amsterdam lover who likes to travel, an up-cyclist, positive thinker, to-do list lover, history freak. For 12 years I taught youngsters to read and write and now I am the founder of BregjesDesign.
Just like my mum, sister, uncle and little sister I became a teacher and it felt really good. I taught for 12 years and had a great time both in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Despite this, I decided to change course. Not because I had to, was forced to or was burned out, but because I wanted more in life than only one job direction. I have always enjoyed creating new things and after a period of searching, I decided to combine my passion for jewellery (statement rings to be exact) and granny’s china.
When and why did you begin exploring with the idea of turning china pieces into jewellery?
I’m a collector trying to stop myself having an overload of stuff. I don’t want to end up like a lunatic with no more space left to live in because of ‘the collection’! For the sake of my relationship and the space in our house, I had to set some boundaries. It started with six beautiful egg cups. Then six cake plates, six cups and saucers; six breakfast plates and six dinner plates followed. All beauties with flowers on them and gold edges, straight from granny’s china. I found them all around me: recycle stores, vintage markets, bric-a-brac fairs and my family’s attics. With the completion of my collection I had to stop looking, no more searching, the end of collecting. That was hard.
In the mean time I was such a proud owner [of the china]. I liked it so much but I missed the search. And then, the inevitable happened. A beautiful plate fell and smashed into many pieces. A personal disaster.
This gave me the opportunity to search for a new item to restore the collection to six plates. Plus, I had a box filled with beautiful shards. What to do with those? I could not throw them away. That’s when I came up with my business plan for ‘BregjesDesign’ – giving these beautiful broken pieces a second life.
In my store you can find jewellery made from these shards – rings, necklaces and brooches. All with beautiful and soft edges. They are sanded, milled and glazed to be perfect wearable items. Some of the jewellery has more than one shard and is glued together with the ‘kintsugi’ technique, which makes it even more beautiful. [‘Kintsugi’ is a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The philosophy behind it is to recognise the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it].
Where do you find the china?
Anywhere that sells old stuff. I even create cycling tours in my area to visit as many recycle stores as possible.
Can you share a bit about the creative process …
Where do your ideas come from?
Brain farts, you know them? Hard to explain, but they come and go. Very unexpectedly. But when it happens, they can keep me awake for hours. Thinking of new ways to do or create. This happened with the pieces of my first broken plate. Hours later the concept of my store was there, settled in my head, in the middle of the night. The only thing left to do was to make it happen and … sleep!
I was a fan of the ‘kintsugi’ technique for many years and wanted to merge this into my concept and it was a great success.
How do you like to work?
I’m blessed with a beautiful workspace. Sitting in my conservatory, full of light with nature all around me. I like to work in silence and secretly talk out loud to myself. Sometimes I have this longing to listen to music and I always turn to the beautiful ‘Ludovico Einaudi’.
What inspires you?
My granny. And all the good feelings left. I had the most amazing childhood spending a lot of weekends at my granny and grandpa’s farmhouse. I loved it and still miss it. It’s a good feeling to wear a little piece to remember them and those days.
What are some of your important tools of trade?
For me it’s very important to pick the right china, beautiful and different. Then there is the ‘kintsugi’ technique that distinguishes ‘BregjesDesign’ from others. I don’t like adjustable rings with painful sliders. ‘BregjesDesign’ only offers good sterling silver rings in four different non-movable sizes. Once you figure out your ring size, you’ll have a perfect and comfortable ring for the rest of your life.
It’s not very cool, but I really like…
Going to church to be filled with the love of God. I believe love makes us creative and gives us new inspiration. Love gives me wings and I find a lot of inspiration on those wings.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
My very first order on Etsy was a real surprise to me and a ‘who’d have thought’ moment. It’s such a good feeling when you discover that people like and want to buy the things you create. I don’t want to get used to that feeling. I love it when that ‘who’d have thought’ moment comes to me.
Thanks so much for giving us an insight into your creative life, Bregjes!
Over the past eight years while freelancing as a journalist for Australian Country Magazine, I have interviewed some fascinating characters while photographer Ken Brass snapped our perspective. I’d love you to meet some of them starting with Mia Penn, who blames everything on her imaginary friend, the Raisin. Words by Meryl Hancock.
Repurposing and reinventing seem only natural to self-confessed opportunist Mia Penn, who has revitalised a tired cottage in Sydney’s Marrickville.
Bubbly chatter and belly laughs greet my arrival at a shiny red front door. It’s ajar so I pop my head into the hallway to a story-book vignette — an artfully arranged succulent, an antique map of Australia hung on vintage wallpaper and a cute cane chair awaiting Goldilocks. It’s tempting to sit down but there’s work to be done. A flash of floral fabric appears and with it a large grin and it’s quickly apparent I’ve found the true source of the feng shui. With a collector mother and a father who is both an abstract artist and a musician, Mia Penn admits to being the product of their creative influence with a dash of her own seasoning thrown into the mix.
“My mum ran a small business selling bric-a-brac and collectables, specialising in Australian pottery, and my father made his own instruments,” she explains. “I learned to be resourceful from a young age and have always enjoyed finding a new outlet for things, such as giving old fabric a new life.” Clusters of trinkets sparked by her father’s travels and cacti assemblages grace each room, the latter an obsession that has waxed and waned since childhood. Raised in Sydney’s inner west, Mia remembers her first succulent was acquired while at primary school. She would potter in amazement in their tiny garden.
“Succulents have incredible resilience and unusual growth habits,” she says. “They propagate easily so they’re ideal for trading with friends. Because of the huge variety in structure and shape, there’s a compulsion to continually look out for something new.” Surviving outdoors in extreme heat makes succulents suited to the Australian climate, but they’re also ideal indoors as they don’t require constant watering. Overhead a wall-to-wall string spans the sun-filled back porch, dropping Rhipsalis into the scene like sculptural pendants. If she gets the chance Mia’s favourite spot is lazing on the old cane couch with the sun tickling her feet.
Her major delight is spending time in her workroom situated at the front of the house. Similarly light-filled, she enjoys the breeze wafting through the huge windows, the neatly stacked piles of vintage fabric, the hand-cut patterns lining a wall and the opportunity to imagine. At her sewing machine she produces garments for her clothing label, named The Raisin Did It after her long-time imaginary friend and alibi.
She elaborates, “Of course it was never me, the raisin did it.” Citing her daughters, nature, florals and animals as inspiration for her designs, Australiana and vintage-style storybooks also influence her production line. “I love to start the day sitting here among all my treasures and fabrics,” she says. “It’s a room filled with all my favourite things and being surrounded by them keeps me inspired.” She sells her clothing online through a local business called Made 590 and at the Finders Keepers Markets, and believes she attracts customers who are interested in unusual and handmade items not available off the rack. She says her strengths are colour, pattern and shape, and she makes every attempt to let the fabric speak for itself rather than force it into a complicated design…