Upcycling? I Call It Homemade Tat, And You Can Stuff It

Even as a child of the Blue Peter generation, I see no worth in the current trend for upcycling waste...
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I am a child of the 70's and early '80's and back in the days when Uncle Dave was just a garrulous, spaghetti-armed tosspot, as opposed to a predatory paedo, I lived for my twice-weekly fix of Blue Peter. I wasn't fussed about watching porno-king Peter Duncan doing a skydive or getting a lecture on pet care from Simon Groom, but was waiting with baited breath for the gentle tones of Janet Ellis, rhapsodising as she got out her magic box of kitchen rolls and sticky-backed plastic. I loved what she did with wire coat-hangers, cardboard and PVA glue and took to constructing the models with all manner of household rubbish. And that's what it was, even after I had snipped, glued, painted and moulded it; a load of old crap.

My brother, ever the critic, often thwarted my plans. As I sat copying down every instruction, transfixed by the Barbie-shaped item being made, he would sneak into the kitchen, lift the bag out of the cornflakes box and quietly rip the cardboard into pieces. Or delve in the bin for a used yoghurt pot which he crushed in his hand. When I did find the pieces which had not been mashed and trashed by the little fucker, I was often over-ambitious and once ruined my bedroom carpet with a swimming pool for my dolls, as my margarine tub hadn't been quite as sound as I'd hoped.

Yet still I crafted all through my teens. I ruined my parent's decor with stencils one summer when they holidayed without me. After 2 weeks in France they returned to find Jocasta Innes' heavy touch on every possible surface. I daubed and decorated whatever furniture I could get my hands on and elicited fake smiles from the many poor sods lumbered with my homemade cards.


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So far so fucking harmless and nothing a pot of magnolia and deep insincerity from my relatives couldn't fix. I didn't ask for hard cash for my efforts, nor did I ever consider a pinking-sheared bag of last year's Xmas cards, sewn into a gift box, to be remotely like a bought one.

Then along came Kirstie Allsopp. Her attempt to transform handmade into covetable is laughable. After showing us just what a pile of shite can look like with some judicious use of washi tape (the Fablon de nos jours) she pontificates from her Lombok, Heals and Liberty-furnished front room, about how no-one will spot the difference. Has she over-done the valium and cake again? I've lived in student hovels, one-bed flats you can't swing a meerkat in and cute, seaside cottages. No matter where you put a used wine crate, or what you fill it with, that's all it is. Sand it, oil it, paint, adapt and chop it, but let's be clear that you won't be getting a visit from World of Interiors.

You salvage and reuse out of necessity. I didn't paint my Docs as a teenager to be unique and creative; I did it because I couldn't even afford the 5 quid train fair to Brum rag market to buy customised ones, let alone the DM's themselves. The acrylic paint eventually faded and peeled off, but that wasn't the 'look' I was going for, it was all I could bloody well afford.  My doll's house was a wee bookcase covered in scraps of wallpaper and carpet because my parents were poor (and tight) not creative and inspired. It's deeply insulting, therefore, when Kirstie (and all the other patronising sorts that present or come on such shows) fusses over some crafting 'expert' then makes her own crackers from bog roll inners and crepe paper and crows about using them on Xmas day. I don't think you are being honest now, do you, Kirstie?

As for the upcyclers and salvagers who find rusty old filing cabinets and pop them on their website as a vintage treasure costing 250 quid, is your artisan beard making your mind overheat? Skip-diving is neither an art nor a talent and just because you can afford a pop-up shop space, you are no more adept at scavenging than my local Freegan.

Indeed, pop-up as a term alone can be enough to make my hackles rise, as it has long since been bastardised to encompass a whole host of charlatans, rather than new businesses dipping a toe in retail. These days there are a fair number whose sole reason for not securing a long lease is so they can scarper fast when the game is up. Like the guys on Hungerford Bridge with their gambling  game, you don't want to be there too long peddling your overpriced and eccentrically-styled tut in case word spreads that you're a rip off merchant. In the town where I live I have noticed that pop-up has become the fallback option for any business that has recently opened and promptly failed as their hindsight reason for closing; how very apt!

True craftsmen spend years honing their skills and take hours to make an object properly with decent materials. How debasing it must be for them when a rag rug is knocked up in an afternoon or a book is bound in a matter of hours and amateurs scoff at their skills. I am in total support of these people and wish the hobbyists would remember that their offerings are no more than an adult version of the pics that kids bring back from school. I recently wandered round my town's monthly craft fair and wanted to hand them gold stars and make one of them milk monitor for the day, so poor was the quality and so bereft of any inspiration. Leave it to the true craftsmen, guys. Feel free to macrame as many pot holders as you like, but they are no more meant to see the light of day than Fritzl's offspring.