Saturday, 28 March 2009

Living tree sculpture

This week we head down under, where Peter Cook (Pook), a sculptor and jeweller, and his partner Becky Northey, also an artist, run Pooktre: a plantation where they grow trees into sculptured furniture. Some trees are harvested and sold as standalone pieces, while others are permanent living creations.

Pook began doing this work on his 162 acre plantation in Queensland, after his find of a valuable piece of ambergris on the beach at Fraser Island alowed him to fund the land purchase.

His first attempt at tree sculpture in 1987 with some willow cuttings, was ruined 8 years later by his livestock. In the last 10 to 12 years however, things have really taken shape (sorry!), with the couple learning lots about shaping the wattle trees from their experiences during drought.

Pook (shown here sitting in a tree chair, planted in 1998) takes 5 commissions each year. He will help people grow their tree in their own garden or will grow it for them at Pooktre. Clients then have the choice of Pooktre harvesting, drying and finishing the completed work or transplanting it to the chosen location as a living tree.

There are lots of photos of the trees (as well as jewellery and other work) on their website

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Making fused plastic from old plastic carrier bags

Lots of you liked the piece we did recently on knitting bags from old plastic carrier bags. Well here is yet another way to use these bags instead of chucking them in the recycling.

It's making fused plastic - a process that requires only an iron, some plastic bags, a couple of sheets of grease-proof paper and a few minutes. You can use the fused plastic fabric to run up a laptop bag or even an attractive 'permanent' shopping bag. Check out this video from Threadbanger (we love this site) - it shows you how to fuse the plastic and then how to make a laptop bag with the fused plastic, some waste fabric scraps or old plastic carriers (for the padding) and an old sweatshirt (for the lining).See the video

Monday, 23 March 2009

New life for old sofas

You flop into the sofa to watch a bit of mindless television but just can’t get comfy. A spring's sticking in your bum, the seat cushions are squashed unplumpably limp and lifeless, the bit the cat got is hanging frayed and tattered or those worn shiny patches on the arms taunt you.

Yes, it’s that time. You need a new sofa!.......But do you? Couldn't you repair it? Couldn't you recover it? New sofas are so expensive. What do you do?

There's a new website to help you to decide. 'Save our Sofas' helps you through the process of deciding if you can fix it yourself. If it's beyond you, they'll help you to recycle it or reuse it by giving it to people who will refurbish it and find it a new home. They also give you advice on buying a sofa that will last as well as tips on fixing it up.

They'll also give you the chance to make your upgly old sofa a star. have launched a competition to find Britain’s ugliest sofa. Go to the site and upload your photo and you could have the chance to win new upholstery to give it a new lease of life.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Help beat breast cancer in a recycled dress

Next month, the award-winning fashion design company Goodone launches an exclusive
black and white dress in support of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

The twist is that the dress is made from recycled 'Fashion Targets Breast Cancer' T-shirts. The dress, previewed at London Fashion Week, has bold black and white panels with overstitched details.

Goodone is an edgy sustainable design company, known for producing creative, one-off clothing from locally-sourced, recycled fabrics.

Each dress will be handmade in the Goodone studios and by social enterprise projects in South Africa and London.

Profits go to the social enterprises as well as a 30% donation to Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the UK’s leading charity for fighting breast cancer. The dress looks fab and very on trend so if you are buying rather than making buy this one!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Knitting with plastic shopping bags

This little bag is knitted from plastic shopping bags - cut into strips, looped together and used as yarn. The bag is knitted on a French loom. Check out this link to see how to do it. Atomic Shrimp

Old man saves bridge and sturgeons

Most 86 year olds are happy with their feet up and their brains in wind-down mode. But this 86 year old fellow, Orville Middleton, goes around with a picture of a bridge in his wallet. Orville bought the Borden Bridge in Saskatchewan in Canada to save it from demolition. He plans to turn his bridge into a dance hall! Now he is campaigning to build a fish hatchery to save the sturgeons of the Saskatchewan River and and repopulate the river with them.

Orville Middleton is a longtime entrepreneur. He has put his skills and talents to opening a roller-skating rink, moving trees, hauling gravel, running the area's first coin-op carwash, building trailer lots, recycling used engine oil, and growing wild rice.

We salute Orville for his big vision and boldness and for the imagination to go from saving fish to protecting and giving new life to old bridges. And most of all that at 86 he is still going strong and bursting with passion and ideas!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sewing for blokes!

Just came across The Top Stitch blog. They run sewing classes and are based in Spokane in Washington USA. Last weekend they ran their first sewing class just for men. The aspirant seamsters were taught how to thread a machine and make a simple hem and judging by the photos they all looked like they were finding it absorbing.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Art from toilet rolls

Staying with the theme of art from throwaway materials, we go now to Japan and artist Yuken Teruya who makes his art from toilet roll tubes, plastic carrier bags, McDonalds paper bags and old pizza cartons. Illustrated here is Corner Forest. He aims not only to make political points but also to create things of beauty from very mundane everyday objects. You can check out his work here

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Art from the floors of China's factories

I've just come across another example of recycled art: this time from China. The artist is Yang Fan who is usually known for her paintings on canvas, often of fashionable women, but here she uses scraps of leftover fabric from the clothing and toy factories of her native Guangdong in South China. She has created a huge carpet of flowers from the many small scraps she culled from the floors and stock rooms of the factories. The works involved weaving and sewing and the artist drew on the help of women friends and family members. She claims her use of unwanted offcuts is symbolic of the massive layoffs that are now taking place in the factories of South China, as a result of the global economic crisis.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Incredible Edible Todmorden

We're inspired by the story of a whole town, Todmorden in West Yorkshire. Incredible Edible Todmorden is a scheme designed to increase the amount of locally grown food consumed in the town, by adopting public spaces and converting them to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables. All over the town planting is happening, on roundabouts, in carparks, around the station and health centre - even in the local graveyard!
The aim is to make Todmorden self-sufficient in vegetables by 2018. The whole town has embraced the scheme wholeheartedly including local schools and other institutions. The townspeople are all the time trying to find new places to grow produce. If you venture onto the platform at the railway station there are planters of herbs and commuters are invited to keep the weeds at bay while they wait for their trains and take a couple of sprigs for their dinner in return! News of the town's efforts has spread far and wide with media coverage in Italy and Canada cited on the town's website. Let's hope this inspires lots of similar schemes everywhere.
For more information on growing vegetables and the upsurge in allotments check out our website

Sunday, 1 March 2009

New life for dead shopping trolleys

British Waterways has launched a hotline to deal with the perennial problem of abandoned shopping trolleys. It has been estimated that over 3,000 trolleys are pulled from its network every year. But what happens to a trolley once it has been rescued? Supermarkets reclaim a few, but the majority end their life in landfill. Because what else can you do with a dead supermarket trolley?

Lucy Mangan of the Guardian Newspaper has come up with a few ideas including using them to cut Olympics costs: "They're strong, they're metal, they look a bit like parts of all those building diagrams you see on the news - surely they must be able to brace something somewhere?". She also suggested hanging baskets for giants.

Meanwhile the magically named Ptolemy Elrington, an artist from Brighton uses them to make sculptures of animals.Here's a picture of Ptolomey with one of his creations.

What would you do with a dead shopping trolley? Let us know your ideas.