Christmas wreaths from old stuff – we took the Emmaus UK Second Hand Santa challenge!

We have a few favourite places in Brighton and Hove, but one of our favourites has to be Emmaus. Many a day has found us rummaging around in the various areas in their shops, finding materials for our projects and having a chat and a cuppa with the wonderful companions who call Emmaus Brighton and Hove their home. So, we were delighted when we were invited to take part in the nationwide Emmaus UK ‘Second Hand Santa’ challenge – representing the Brighton and Hove community.

Image result for emmaus brighton and hove

Armed with a budget of £30, we headed up to the main Brighton and Hove Emmaus in Portslade to find materials to create something for our challenge: a Christmas wreath.

As typical designers, we started with a couple of questions for shop manager, Andy. ‘What do you have a lot of? What can be a problem to sell…?’ We were taken out to the front of the store, where two large boxes of picture frames were sitting. Even at a bargain 50p each, there were masses – and more waiting to come out from the warehouse… we decided these were going to be our main material for our Christmas wreath. We gathered an armful and started looking the next bits…

Heading down into the sorting areas, we found a load of damaged metal items that were on their way to the recycling skip, including a wire fruit bowl. We liked it, so it went in the basket along with the frames.

But we needed some colour, some sparkle and a base for our wreath. A trip to the fabric area bagged us some faux shot silk in red and silver and some gold upholders fabric, and a rummage through the costume jewellery resulted in some brilliant silver bangles. But we still needed a wreath base…

Sometimes the best thing about designing is the abstract thinking. Chatting to the guys on the loading door about what we needed for the base made us describe our elusive object as ‘like an old bike wheel or something?’ Two minutes later, two old 26inch diameter wheels were fished out the skip. Blinking marvellous.

Once we’d got it all back to the studio, we started playing and constructing (ie, the fun bit!) The timber picture frames were de-glassed and with a bit of bashing, each one was split down into the four sides, with their metal pins removed with the help of some pliers. The spikes of the bike wheel were cut out with some bolt cutters and the rim was cleaned up.

We started laying the now random pieces of timber from the frames on the rim, tying them in place with strips of the material, gradually building up the construction inwards. The wreath soon took form. But no wreath is complete without a bow, so we took the rest of the gold fabric and fashioned a nice fat bow for the top. Wreath one – the Rustic One, was complete.

But we still had stuff left, including the busted fruit bowl, various bits of silver things and the silver bangles. After bending the arms of the fruit bowl down a bit, a modern ‘starburst’ started to form. We threaded some of the bangles over the arms, pinching them in place at various heights and closed off the centre with a sparkling snap close bracelet.

A couple of bits of wire secured a beautiful old swan handle to the centre bangle, and some long strips of the remaining silver fabric tied at the top and left to cascade behind the bowl completed Wreath two – the Modern One.

So – what do you get when you cross two excitable designers, a wonderful Emmaus community, a Second Hand Santa Challenge and £30? Two brilliant Christmas wreaths – one for inside and one for outside, made from bits of stuff that needed new homes.

And what would our advice be for creating your own Emmaus Christmas wreath for your own Emmaus Second Hand Santa challenge? Find a solid base (like our wheel and fruit bowl), find something that you can get multiples of (like our picture frames and bangles) and get busy with building up layers

A HUGE thank you to all the guys and girls at our brilliant Emmaus Brighton and Hove for helping us find stuff for our challenge. See what you can find in your local Emmaus!

*** Emmaus Brighton and Hove is open Monday to Saturday, 10 – 5 ***

SPOTTED – reclaimed vinyl banner products by Vaho…

Last weekend, when the UK was imploding from the shock of Brexit, we were very pleased to be elsewhere – watching the events unfold from the sunny climes of Barcelona. And whilst we were there, we found a stack of innovative companies who are channelling the cities waste into new products. First up is Vaho, who use reclaimed vinyl banners as their base material.

In a similar way to Swiss company Freitag, who convert truck tarps into new accessories, Barcelona based Vaho take the advertising banners that proliferate through the vast city and convert them into bags, wallets, belts and cases – with each one being unique. Their tag line of ‘Trashion Bags handmade in Barcelona’ says it all.

Of course, the key factors of the vinyl banners are durability (strength and waterproofness) with the ability to print good images on the material, but despite their ephemeral nature when used for advertising a date specific event, they are notoriously hard to recycle. With metal eyelets and other co-mingled materials, the banners are often consigned to landfill.

But the bright colours they have, combined with their durability make them perfect for use in every day accessories. You don’t want your stuff getting wet, after all.

So it was with delight that we spotted a Vaho outlet store tucked away in the gothic quarter of Barcelona.

Vaho wallet 1

The first dilemma was to choose the shape we fancied – with a number of different configurations, zips, pockets and sizes available, the large array of accessories was mind boggling. And once you had chosen your model, you then had to choose your colour combination…

Some were quite plain, some had text, some referenced Barcelona landmarks and events, some were completely abstract. It took ages.

vaho wallet 2

But really, this is part of the charm. It was great to find a product that we could take home as a memento of our visit that was not only useful, but was made by hand in the city directly from the waste material generated advertising things to tourists like us. A sort of self fulfilling product purchase, but hey. We know this wallet will last for a very, very long time.

(images by claire potter and Vaho)

Zero Waste Week starts here…

Welcome to Zero Waste Week – the annual drive both in the UK and further afield to get us all – individuals, businesses and local authorities alike to consider the stuff we chuck ‘away’. But we know that the magic place is actually not ‘away’ at all, but our creaking landfills or worse, out to sea where it degrades and is eaten by fish and other mammals. 

Plus, this year, the focus is on Reuse – a subject very close to our hearts, so for the rest of this week, we will be looking at great projects that can help you to reuse stuff, or are even made of waste themselves…

And there are plenty of ways to get involved with Zero Waste Week – why not try a few of these challenges:

  • only buy secondhand for the week (apart from food, obviously)
  • completely delete new plastic use for a day (harder than you think…)
  • purchase one thing that is made from a ‘waste’ material, for yourself, or for someone’s Christmas present.
  • don’t buy any bottled water, but use a refillable water bottle instead (make this a permanent habit if you can)
  • sign up to Freegle.

Plus, if you are looking for another way to reuse or recycle your stuff, you can also sign up to the first UK Garage Sale Trail later this month as a seller, or take a wander around and buy stuff you need that other people do not. It’s that simple.

(we are having a sale at Studio Loo too – loads of design journals, salvage, books and cake – see details here)

Reuse – it’s our only way forward.