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Why upcycling is such an important activity for furniture re-use charities

Friday, 24 June 2016 11:01

Today (Friday 24th June) has been deemed National Upcycling Day by Gumtree who are eager to encourage the sharing, re-use and upcycling of furniture and other items. But for the Furniture Re-use Network members upcycing means so much more than a fun project to embark upon.

Receiving donations of furniture and electrical appliances such as washing machines and cookers not only means that our member organisations can provide those who desperately need these items free of charge or for a very low cost but they create multiple opportunities for learning, training and volunteering at the organisation. Those who often take up these roles have been excluded from society for various reasons - perhaps they were homeless, have mental health issues, are ex-offenders or dealing with long term unemployment and more - and are really in need of some support, confidence in their abilities to achieve and kindness. 

9 Lives Furniture



'Look what we made!' Whilst rummaging through the scrap valued volunteer, Josh (not his real name) from 9 Lives Furniture found a broken wardrobe door and the hardboard from the back of a frame. To most of us, this would just be rubbish, but to Josh, he could see the potential it had and with a lick of paint, chalkboard paint and clear wax to seal it, he created the perfect chalkboard. Previously Josh had been a builder on building sites but had had to stop since learning he had MS. Josh particularly likes to spend his time mending peices of furniture but, lucky for us, will occasionally dabble in upcycling.


Castle Furniture Project

Castle Furniture1-SMALLCastle Furniture3-SMALL

Did you ever think that a disused bicycle could be repruposed into a beautiful garden planter? Well here it is. The photographic evidence. At Castle Furniture Project the volunteers are either current or previous service users in Adult Mental Health. They come to Castle Furniture Project for help and assessment in a recovery based occupational therapy workshop environment. And whilst they are there they put their hand to creating and mending.

Castle Furniture2-SMALLThe bikes ares tipped of all their non necessary parts first and then then volunteer welder gets to work attaching hoops to hold the pots, and makes a rear container out of scrap washing machine parts (nothing is waste here!). The bike is then paint sprayed by a volunteer. The volunteer will mix and prepare the paint, spray, clean the equipment after use all the while reminding themselves of the health and safety elements of the exercise. All the roles in the making of this item are practical workshop experience. 






Dorset Reclaim

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Jimi Sullivan, a volunteer at Dorset Reclaim, made this glorious little beach hut entirely out of donated items, right the way down to the paint! The hut has been made from an old wardrobe and part of a garden shed. It has been made for local schools and to entertain young children over the summer months and has gone down a storm! Jimi runs a small wood workshop with a few other volunteers and his giant greyhound Jake, who accompanies him everywhere!


Emmmaus Colchester

Emmaus Colchester-1Emmaus Colchester-2


At Emmmaus Colchester their fabulous upcycling team consists of four companions, Phil, Jacko, Gavin and Billy who at some stage of their lives have experienced homelessness. Previously, the workshop concentrated on “Shabby Chic” style but in recent months they have started to take a different direction - producing items with a cleaner line and crisper finish. This is because one of the companions, Phil is a carpenter and Billy studied art.

And now there are plans to take the workshop in an even more radical direction. Utilising Phil and Jacko’s skill at joinery, they intend to not only paint items but to dramatically adjust the furniture to change their function. i.e. A pine bed into a garden bench and cut glass decanters into light shades. This is quite an exciting time for them as they have many new ideas for changing everyday items into useful and decorative alternatives.


Refurb (Wyre and Fylde) Project

Refurb Project Planters-SMALLCan you see what this planter is made of? Yep, the inside of a washing machine - the drum in fact! Refurb (Wyre and Fylde) Project, not only create these quirky planters, they also use the washing machine drums to make fire pits and have previously created coffee tables with a light in from these drums. Between the joint efforts of volunteers and staff they have imagined up and then gone on to make some brilliant and very popular pieces using this one item. Apparently the hardest part of the whole process is removing the drum from the washing machine - no easy task we're told.





If you would like to find out what your local furniture re-use charity or social enterprise is up to, visit the FRN donate page and enter your postcode into the postcode finder. 


Read 3279 times Last modified on Thursday, 07 July 2016 16:14

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