It seems to be the next big thing: up-cycling.  It is supposed to make us feel better, that we are not buying new ‘stuff’, we are actually buying what one person thinks of as trash, and another has given a new lease on life by adding flair, function and a new coat of paint? But is this a trend or eco movement? Is it new, or have ‘us kiwi mums & dads’ been doing it for a long time in line with our practical kiwi spirit?

Wikipedia says:  “Up-cycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.
Up-cycling is the opposite of down-cycling, which is the other half of the recycling process. Down-cycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality. Most recycling involves converting or extracting useful materials from a product and creating a different product or material." So there we go!

Designers have jumped on board, such as London based Squint, creating a whole collection presented at ICFF in New York in May 2012. All products and concepts presented were out of re-purposed material, from Designers Guild textiles to baby food jars. “It’s not just an invitation to stretch a tight budget, or a thematic design extender – it’s the thrill of the challenge!”, says designer Lisa Whatmough of Squint. This sofa is a combination of a couch assigned to the trash, then lovingly recovered with scraps of Designers Guild fabric. You end up with a one-off, unique piece just for you. If it is repeated, it is not up-cycled, so don't be fooled.....

Taking a walk around our essenze showroom, we have a few of our local heros who succesfully work in the theme of upcycling. Philippa Bentley enhances the charm of old weatherboards, using them as the basis of her artwork. The warmth people feel when they see the original colours of their house in the stripped weatherboards with bespoke, intricate artwork on the panels, is delightful.

And of course MoAD, who go hunting for old silver or stainless steel objects with character and charm, from all around the country. They revitalize the objects with new colour and sometimes, a new purpose. A new range of lights will be available mid October, we can't wait!

And of course, who can not be overwhelmed by the sensitive and endearing artwork of Leanne Culy. She captures memories, emotion and identity with her fine, delicate artistic language on old oars. "When we row we move forward, looking back", she says. We love that...

What do you do with an old saddle that has seen better days and makes the horse cringe when you saddle up? Well of course, says dersigner Tim Wigmore,  you make an ergonomically successful rocking horse for grown ups to sit at a desk and pretend they are playing, not working.

Phil Cuttance is a genius, we know that. In his design, the Weld Vase, he has demonstrated the vaule up-cycling. Using only waste material from the plastic industry, he welds the pieces into functional, sculptural and award winning vases. Super cool.

Who would think of putting a wine scented candle in an old wine bottle? The candle designers and makers Living Light have cornered that market. The Pinot Gris scent is so authentic, we sometimes feel like drinking the candle and lighting the wine on Friday evenings at essenze!


Dominic Burrell has taken the up-cycling to a new level. He manages to balance his highly technical blown, cut and etched glass pieces with  cut crystal from yesteryear into carefully composed statues. Bizarre and wonderful, it is the kiwi take on something you would find Moooi doing in Europe. His obsession with candles has worked - well done, Dom!

So, all in all, I think we do quite well in the up-cycling department. I think it is in our genes. We are creative, we think outside the box and we add style that is somewhat unexpected and groovy from a country so small and far away from it all. Maybe that is why it works with apparent ease and makes sense. We are a nation of up-cyclers!