Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From Our Library: Upcycling

Beer Can Chairs by Douglas Deed Associates
Photo Taken From California Design 8, page 46.
Catalogue Photographer Richard Gross

These 1962 beer can chairs by Douglas Deeds Associates totally fit the bill of proto-upcycling. Upcycling is the process of taking waste materials or useless products and creating new, higher-valued products. While the term “upcycling” has become popular over the last couple of years, the word seems to have been floating around since the early 1990’s, and its spirit can definitely be seen through the history of craft. For example, check out this beautiful quilt from Gee’s Bend:

Photo Taken from the Wikipedia page on Gee’s Bend, Alabama

In 1962 Douglas Deeds said this about his chairs:

This design is a utilization of material which our society normally thinks of as waste. It may be that the designer will be called on more and more to use such materials in helping underprivileged areas of the world use waste.

The philosophy of Deeds’ words can be seen in the work of so many designers today, and finding links to the past gives me hope that current trends like upcycling are more design evolution then passing trend. Here are some current examples of innovative and beautiful upcycling:

Light fixture made from vintage Tupperware
by Boot N’Gus
Photo originally found on

Light fixture by French designer Garbage
Photo originally found on

Table made from shipping pallets by Jen Turner Photo by Greg Scheidmann
Photo originally found on
You can learn more about the project, including DIY steps by clicking here:

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