The View from the Studio: Reclaiming Creative Reuse

Sea Kelp Hidden Clasp Bracelet Reclaimed Brass

Coming soon! WIP, inspired by sea kelp - this reclaimed brass was formed on a tool made specifically for this piece.


upcycled, reclaimed, creative reuse, scavenged, assemblage

we use so many words when it comes to making art out of products that were not purchased new. so many, that i felt it was important to make those distinctions in the online shop so that people know where their materials are coming from and what i mean by the words i use.

In Stitches Leather Cuff with lampworked glass beads
In Stitches Leather Cuff is made from repurposed leather that is thick and durable but soft from use in its previous life.

i'm something like a collector who is a little behind on basically, my studio has a lot of stuff in it. 

i'm not sure if it can be genetic, but blaming genetics can be a fun way to pass the time, so lets start there.

my father has always had stuff. organized, easy to find, like-with-like. but stuff. used stuff, salvaged stuff, found stuff. stuff that you thought you had thrown out. if you need something for a project, there is a good chance that my dad will have it, or have something that you can fashion into what you need.

now i have stuff too.

it starts so innocently.

a cool, old brass tap (that still works!) and you know you can use for something...

i'm sure i will need a water feature in the garden...

that first bit of stuff seems to clear your vision letting you see all the other cool stuff laying around. eventually though, the collecting slows.

until you use some of it.



now you have a successfully completed something made of your cool found stuff!

now - you're in real deep.

reclaimed metal scrap used for handmade contemporary jewelryvisit sources for reclaimed items frequently and you'll be rewarded. it might take a bit of elbow grease to get to a final piece but the inspiration that comes from the existing shapes is endless.

with obvious environmental benefits, i find myself wondering why it isn't everyone's go-to. i have always assumed that anyone can look at a pile of reclaimed materials and make something new out of it all.

i realize now that that isn't the case. but i do believe that you can train yourself to do it by keeping these few things in mind. i've made this post about art, but these suggestions can work for anything and i suggest using them for your next project, whether its a chicken coop or a message board for your home.

  • organization is key. if you don't know what you have, you will always decide to buy new rather than sort through what you've got on hand;
  • your systems, your way. if you like stacked boxes, charts and label makers - go for it. if you prefer open shelves, or filing by material, colour, or age - go for it. it has to inspire you to use it. you should want to be in this space. not be afraid of it;
  • cleanliness is next to godliness. a quick clean before it gets put away makes everything easier and safer to store. it also gives you the added benefit looking over the object closely. who knows, a project might come to mind or you may decide it isn't something you can use after all. i promise that if you have wood from a demo project, taking the nails out before it goes into storage makes project time faster and 100% more fun;
  • visit and revisit. often. having stuff for the sake of having stuff can get tired fast. don't be afraid to go through your items every now and then to see if they're still useful and/or inspiring. if i'm really behind on projects i stick little stickers on items marking them with my future plans. revisiting those notes can help you decide if it is a project you are likely going to get to soon, or one that no longer applies;

it is easy to save items from the skip, but they have to a have purpose to you: a stained glass artist - getting rid of their glass; blue glass bottles - begging to be melted down; scraps of leather and fabric - offcuts from other projects.

salvaged glass makes perfect lampworked glass jewelry
Salvaged glass from a retiring stained glass artist that i am processing and repurposing for creating lampwork glass jewellery
  •  train your brain. like everything we do, thinking out a project by starting with used materials gets easier every time we do it. if you are doing everything else on this list then you already know what you have and where to find it so dreaming up projects is the next logical step. start by looking at what you have and then make your cut list and your shopping list;
  • fight or flight. fear can make us do some strange things, so don't be afraid to look over your plans and change your project to suit the materials you have and those you have easy access to. often you can collect a piece knowing exactly what you want to create, but don't be afraid to let that stew for a while. often our best ideas aren't the most obvious ones;

there is a place in my studio for stranger items too. the not-so-obvious ones that hold onto their mystery a little tighter. these are undergoing constant testing as i work through on-going idea and skill development.

old nails as inspiration for up cycled contemporary jewelry
nails we've pulled out and salvaged during renovation
Nails bent and formed for lampworked glass jewelry
there have been many little glass explosions while trying to find stability. with that sorted, it is time to play with both the form of the nail and the marriage of metal and glass for a contemporary jewellery design.


  • don't be too precious. the purpose of having these items is to use them and sometimes it is hard to not get caught up in an object. if you are in love with a piece, perhaps making something that you can use in your home, or making something for someone who you know will appreciate the object is the best way to let it go;

some of the more obvious items in my studio are chains. i have owned some of these things for a long time and some i've found in antique and second hand stores. either they have memories associated with them or their form intrigues and inspires me. i love them all in some way. 

Interesting necklace chains reused for jewelry

Chain can add texture and movement to piece of jewellery and i have a collection of old and unique patterns. it is fun to find ways to use these in my handmade designs.
Boldness & Serenity Bracelet from sterling silver chain
The Boldness & Serenity Bracelet is made from a necklace i owned for many years but rarely wore. the form of the rolled silver is what drew me to the necklace but as a solid necklace i always felt something was missing. now, the silver shape interspaced with lampworked glass beads is better highlighted as a multi-string bracelet. i feel like i've done this beloved necklace justice and it looks, and feels, better in its new incarnation.


  • internet research. if you think that doing a step-by-step project is the easiest way to get started, then sites like could be a good place for you to start. otherwise, you can find plenty of examples and inspiration online.  researching the object itself could also give you a starting place and an added dimension to your design. uproxx gives examples of how the material and its history has affected some artists in their up cycled art. no matter how you get started, don't be afraid to find artists that excite you. but after you've looked around, go for a walk or sleep on it to let the inspiration percolate into a jumping off point for your own creations;
  • there are no rules. don't we always end "what to do lists" by saying there are no rules? but really. there aren't and the artists and the diversity of their work shown in this mentalfloss article are great examples of just that. what you find and how you use and/or display them is up to you.

i think there is a lot of fear surrounding creativity and that fear can stop us in our creative tracks but i am surprised how often people say that they aren't creative. i've always wondered how that person defines creativity because i believe that fundamentally, as humans, we are and have to be creative.

i've never really put much thought to putting a name to it - although, it would be fun to think of myself as a salvager and to develop a strong eclectic chic style. maybe in time i'll get comfortable with that definition, but what i love most about a world that practices creative reuse is how it creates the perfect space for no-fear-creativity.

you don't have to make your first project out of your prize find. if you are cautious or claim to be of the "non-creative", you can build up your skills to get there...having said that, there is nothing wrong with diving right in and getting your hands dirty either! 

reclaimed brass tap perfect for up cycling

Older Post Newer Post

1 comment

  • Beauty Website & really creative jewellry pieces……..

    Barb Mallard

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published