January 30, 2013

A Bit of Inspiration

Sometimes it takes a catalyst to reignite our passion for what we do. This morning I faced the fact that I've been neglecting my writing and rarely post consistently anymore. And for someone who spent so much time building the foundation for this mission we have as Upcyclers, that is a waste (and Upcyclers hate waste!) and a shame. But life has a funny way of sending you messages. 

As it happens, I received a convo (Etsy speak for an email) this morning also. It was from a new member who offered her blog posts as material for our blog. I clicked on the link and browsed her articles and found this one. I read it and it flooded me with memories of my own history of family members resourcefully repurposing to save money. And I remembered why I started this blog and our team of Upcyclers on Etsy. 

I hope you are as inspired by her story as I was and that you continue to Love 2 Upcycle...

'My Mom was upcycling before it was a big deal . . . before it was even called upcycling.
My Mom was born during World War II in Holland, and then immigrated to Canada with her family in 1947. Being part of an immigrant family that also knew the desperation of war meant being resourceful and not taking anything for granted. Food, water and money were carefully rationed, and clothes were handed down and reworked from sibling to sibling. This immigrant story is not unique to my Mom, of course. But her experience as an immigrant child has had an indelible impact on the way she has lived her life.
my Mom (the little girl with the white bow in her hair) with her brothers and sisters a couple years after her family immigrated from Holland to Canada
On top of that, my Mom has always had a deep love and sense of responsibility for the earth. It's a love she and my Dad share. My parents see the earth as God's masterful gift that he entrusted to us. Nature has always been a place where they meet God and feel renewed. Most of my childhood vacations and day trips were spent exploring the land, hiking, canoeing, skating or cross country skiing.

Wherever we lived, my Mom usually found a way to have a vegetable garden, and she took great joy (and still does) in caring for it and harvesting its yields. She canned and froze what she grew, and my family ate her harvest late into the winter. What she couldn't grow herself, she picked at local farms to preserve for the rest of the year. I always loved how my Mom's cold storage looked, with its neat rows of colourful jars and baskets of potatoes and apples.

She taught my brothers and I to be grateful for what we had and regularly reminded us not to waste. And she lived what she spoke. Before recycling was commonplace, my Mom tried to recycle in her own way by turning waste into something useful. In our house, bleach bottles were turned into trash cans, tin cans became containers or baking pans, bottles were reused as jars for her homemade jam, and paperboard from packaging was reused for recipe cards and crafts. We always had a kitchen drawer overflowing with every variety of plastic bag so they could be reused. (It made me very cranky to wash all those bags, but my Mom persisted.) She worked hard to make food go as far as possible. (The More with Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre was her culinary bible.)

Little did I know that all my Mom's choices would leave such a mark on me.
my Mom and me setting off for a skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ontario many moons ago (with my awesome Bono circa 1984 hair)
When I started making jewelry out of garbage items a few years ago, it never dawned on me that I was doing something my mother taught me. I knew I wanted to create conversation pieces that would make people think a little more about reducing waste. I knew I wanted to constantly challenge myself (and others) to find a purpose for trash rather than throw it away. Eventually I started to ask 
myself, "Why is this so important to me? Why do I feel such a need to do this?" And I began to realize, it's mostly because of my Mom and her bleach bottle trash cans, vegetable gardens and frequent reminders to be grateful and responsible for what we have.

Now, my Mom helps me at art and craft shows, and she's one of my best "garbage collectors". She always asks me, "Where do you get all these ideas?" I usually say, "I don't know." But really, it pretty much started with her.'

                                  wrote this story and her beautiful "Eco Friendly and Earth Inspired Art and Jewelry can be found on Etsy. 

Repurposed Vinyl and Copper Riveted Earrings
Life has so much to delight in - whether it's our glorious earth or the mundane scraps and ends we often leave behind. ~Jane Koopman

I am proud to have Jane as a member and honored that she and all of our members believe so strongly in upcycling and support our mission to promote it~ And thank you, Jane, for sharing your story with us! We'd love to hear about what inspires any of you to either upcycle or creatively repurpose resources in your life, feel free to share in a comment!


  1. Wonderful story!! I also grew up with upcycling as a way of life. My parents both grew up during the Great Depression. We gardened, canned and found new uses for almost everything.
    My mothers favorite saying was... Use it up, wear it out, or do without!

  2. Very inspiring. I enjoyed this story very much. :D

  3. Great story! It brought back memories of my mother and mother-in-law, who conserved and repurposed just to get by. Once, I complained to my mother-in-law that I couldn't make a pie, as I had no rolling pin. She opened a cabinet, removed a drinking glass, and rolled in under her palms across the table. "This house is full of rolling pins. Just open your eyes," she said. Thanks for sharing stories of your mother and for bringing back to me images of my own mother and of the women who have influenced me. Really nice.

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