Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Upcycler's Dilemma

When something is broken or ruined it's easy to rip it apart and use the parts to make something new. After all, it's just trash otherwise. But what about irreversibly changing/damaging an object that's perfectly usable as is?

I'll admit that I don't think twice about making jewelry out of surplus electronic parts. Yes, technically (pardon the pun) they're still usable, but the demand is small compared to the supply, so they end up sitting around in warehouses for years, or written off and dumped. My father-in-law sees it as a waste of good old radio parts, but for me, it's an easy choice.

But recently, I was faced with a couple of tougher choices. The first came in the form of a pretty pair of salt and pepper shakers. They're beautiful and personally I don't understand why anyone would ever buy salt and pepper shakers new. There are many, many perfect used and vintage ones already out antique malls, thrift stores, on ebay and etsy... But, there-in lies the problem. There are so many out there, that this pair wasn't drawing much interest in my etsy shop. I had the idea to upcycle them into Christmas ornaments, but did I dare ruin them in the process? Thankfully, in this case, I was able to get creative without being destructive. With a little wire and some beads, they became gorgeous holiday ornaments and because I chose not to do anything that would permanently alter the shakers, they can be converted back to their original purpose with ease. Whew, problem solved, with amazing results!



But the solution's not always so easy to find... I'd been haunting estate sales for months in search of old bakelite dominoes to incorporate into my jewelry designs. (Yes, I know I can just buy them on etsy or ebay, but sometimes you need to hold something in your hand to know it's right.) Anyway, I finally found these vintage celluloid beauties. Woohoo!

So what's the problem? Well, they're a complete set, in great shape, in the original box. They even came with the original instructions. No matter how hard I try to force myself, I just can't break up a complete, perfectly usable vintage set of dominoes. Every time I look at them, memories flood back of playing dominoes with grandparents when I was kid. What to do? I thought about keeping them, but see that bit in my profile about being an aspiring minimalist? Yeah well, I'm trying anyway.... So I finally decided to just list them in my etsy shop as a set and hopefully pass them along to someone who will love them as they are. I may feel differently in six months if they don't sell. Or, maybe some other crafter who can bear to break them up and drill holes in them will snap them up. I wish them luck.

Even though I've seen endless debates on craft forums about ruining usable items in the name of crafting or upcycling, I don't think it's that hard. I just follow what my heart tells me.


  1. I hear you, those dominoes look soo nice to take away the story out of them. Btw, the shakers came out very cute!

  2. I didn't even realize they were salt and pepper shakers til i read the text! :O Nice transformation~ (they are pretty before the transformation also~ X3) and yeah.. the dominoes set is too perfect to break up~

  3. My only regret is that I didn't think to make the change to the salt & pepper shakers sooner. I think if they had been in my shop in November, they might have had a better chance at selling. Oh well...coulda, shoulda, woulda....

    Thanks BonAndChi! I'm glad some folks actually read my really, really long post. :-)

  4. Yeah... I went through the same dilemma too.. I should've made more Christmas themed items... but then I joined end of Nov... and by the time I finished making stuff... Christmas would be over... D: oh well.. shall be better planned next year! (if my shop is still open next year! X3)

    Your post was easy to read~ :D Also you have lovely pictures (I'm a picture person~ X3)

    Happy New Years! :D