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Shining a light on upcycling

An interview with Sarah Turner, a British eco-designer whose works made from recycled materials are highly praised by lovers of interior design. The sophistication of her lamps and their bright colours make them real "must haves"
Shining a light on upcycling
Shining a light on upcycling

Could you introduce yourself ? What is your background ?

I consider myself an eco-designer. It is a term that I invented and which I think defines me most adequately. I like to think so, at least. Even as a child, I loved creating objects from waste. When I was little, I used to keep cereal boxes, yoghurt pots and others to make new objects. Later on, I went to university to pursue a degree in design. At the time, I was working part-time at a cafe. This is where I started collecting plastic bottles for the purpose of "upcycling" them, turning them into something else, namely into everyday objects such as lamps, for instance. This concept has always been with me since that time.

Why do you favour household waste ?

I only work with household waste and more specifically with PET bottles and soda cans. I chose these materials because I believe that it is problematic that we do not recycle them enough and they too often end up in landfills where they take decades to decompose. And this is everyday waste, it is in no way rare. However, I also like to use video tape reels, plastic bags, etc.




How do you obtain raw materials ?

From cafes, restaurants and other places. I began to gain a reputation and many people in my neighbourhood know about my work. It is quite common for me to find a big bag filled with empty bottles or cans on my doorstep in the morning.



What is your manufacturing process ?

I always start by cleaning the bottles with pressurised sand. This process not only cleans the objects, it also scours their surface. As a result, they take on an opaque aspect which I particularly like. I then cut them according to the various shapes and colours I am looking for. All that remains is for me to create an object! I try to make the most of the structure of the plastics I use and of their original shapes. This material is very conducive to creativity as it can be worked in many ways and its appearance can be altered in surprising ways. Moreover, few people recognise a used bottle of water when they look at my objects.

Do you consider upcycling as a militant act or simply an art form ?

A bit of both, I think! Upcycling only makes sense if it is accompanied by a real creative process. However, it is also a way of getting involved in the protection of our environment. I believe that it is still a young movement, but I like to imagine that it has a bright future ahead of it given the many artists and designers who are experimenting with its possibilities.



You are now a recognised artist. Can you tell us about your exhibitions ?

I have had the opportunity to exhibit my work in various places, and they have been shown in England, of course, as well as France, the USA and Italy. Galleries are not the only ones to be interested in my work. I am often asked to participate in exhibitions on design or on the environment. This is proof enough that my message has not fallen on deaf ears!




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