Why I do what I do: Upcycled Creative
Lee Richards of Upcycled Creative is a man on a mission. He’s busy turning discarded objects into distinctive, stunning lighting and furniture – picking up awards from TV Dragon Theo Paphitis along the way. Upcycled Creative design and produce hand-made eco-friendly pieces with an authentic ‘wow factor’. Lee won’t rest until his passionate ‘don’t bin it, transform it’ message is writ large in the nation’s psyche.
What I do:
I get people talking – whether it’s taking a champagne bottle from a favourite celebration to create a unique lamp as a precious memento, or crafting a table from unused lawnmower blades. I love to discover old stuff that people no longer want and breathe new life into it so it can become a real centre piece. It frustrates me that as a society we throw away so much – sometimes it can be challenging to fine tune such unwanted items – but that drives me on more and I’ve been blown away by how much people love what I do and how sought-after it is. Everything I make is funky and functional. It may have been preloved but thanks to its striking new form, it can be loved for a long time yet! I’m delighted to say that these days my work also has a place of pride in some brilliant commercial establishments – from Derby bars and restaurants to a Budapest bistro – where beautiful Upcycled Creative lighting enhances the atmosphere and is adored by loyal customers.
Where I do it:
I’m lucky to be based in a fantastic and tight-knit community at Markeaton Park Craft Village in Derby. It’s a great place to work – in a converted stable yard at the centre of a popular park! All my neighbours also sell handmade goods and gifts and hold loads of crafty, fun activities and events. There’s a great synergy between having a workshop in a former stable and what I’m doing now – love it!
What drives me on:
Upcycling may be a relatively new phenomenon but I am passionate about spreading the word that most discarded items can become something wonderful with some imagination, design flair and skill.
What I’m working on:
I’ve mentioned the lawnmower becoming a table and the beer barrels that are at the start of their upcycling journey – turning them into stylish furniture – that’s going to be wonderful. Now, I’m also increasingly working on forging links with commercial customers – I want to see my work sold through major upmarket stores and gracing more high end eateries and bars.
It disappoints me that we throw so much away – why don’t we hear more about this? The possibilities are endless – upcycling means creating a thing of beauty from something that could have been thrown away – not simply recycling it to be used again but massively improved. My message? Don’t throw it away – look at what can become of an old bottle, beer barrel or even car engine or tin of beans – then take a photo, bring it to me and make it happen! What we do may be stylish, quirky and fun – but it’s a very serious matter when you think about all the concerns we have about the sheer scale of waste and where we’re headed if we continue to simply discard stuff we grow tired of.