"One man's junk really is another man's treasure" - An Interview with an Upcycler

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Upcycling - the art of taking something old and making something new. For many of us, that normally means grabbing a pot of white paint and slapping it on an old table. For Katy of Buttonfly Furniture, she takes things to the next level. We caught up with her recently and she shared some tips those of you keen to start an upcycling project may find useful.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in upcycling
My background is as a paediatric nurse - which bizarrely is a million miles away from upcycling! It was a hobby that grew and I'm glad it did. I started off with a little market stall in Greenwich. I got some great feedback so I took my work to shows and started upcycling larger items. People will often come back for more and commissions are especially popular as it allows the furniture to blend (or pop out) from a current colour or design scheme.

I'm not a full blown eco-warrior, but I'm a firm believer in doing my bit to look after the planet. Upcycling encourages re-using in such a creative way that I can really let my ideas flow. Combining that with my long standing love of crafting, allows me to produce quirky one-off statement pieces out of stuff many people would throw away. It's so much fun to play with your imagination!
Has DIY always been a big part of your life?
I've always had a passion for anything interior. As a child I would regularly rearrange my bedroom furniture and stare longingly at roomsets in magazines, flirting with the colour combinations in my mind. The house that I grew up in always seemed to be a work in progress and I would plead with my Dad to take me along to his trips to DIY stores where I'd (even now) happily roam the aisles for hours taking in the possibilities. I'd then watch him make, build or fix the project.

The result is that I'm quite handy. I don't know everything but I'm happy to give it a bash. Being a practical person means that I thrive from using my hands. I've always got a project on the go!

What upcycling project are you the most proud of?
Probably a large sideboard that I saved from a house clearance and gave a complete overhaul. It had that lovely Grandma smell inside and was sadly drab. I overhauled it with decoupage and paint, then replaced the old handles with beautiful vintage spoons. Someone bought it to go in their kitchen.
What are your go-to tools for an upcycling project?
Firstly my imagination! Then my choice of beautiful papers, a paintbrush, glue and varnish.
What are your views on the increasing popularity in upcycling?
It's great if it's done well. Some pieces that people create are really out of this world. I'm talking absolutely fantastic change of use coupled with great skill. The more that dodges the landfill sites, the better.
What is the most difficult project you’ve ever done?
I made a starburst mirror out of old picture frames. One picture frame for the middle and then the sides of different frames coming off the outside of it. My nail gun was so powerful though, it kept shooting off the wood I was trying to nail on! Patience is a virtue they say.
Some people may be interested in upcycling but worry they don’t have the skill, what advice would you offer for beginners?
Give it a go. Who cares if you make a hash of it, it's part of learning. Read up on the skills you need for the job, watch YouTube clips of it being done if you need to. Start off with something small, you never know, you might surprise yourself!
Where do you get your materials from?
I like to use beautiful decorative papers in my upcycling designs and am a bit of a paper fiend, gathering and collecting as I go. I like to think I'm thrifty (my husband calls it hoarding!) and tend to keep things for future projects, even if it's not needed right now so I always have a store of things to use. Bootsales are a great place to start. One man's junk really is another man's treasure.
What inspires your ideas?
I love to find the beauty in ordinary objects. Texture, nature, colour and vintage style.
Other than upcycling, what DIY do you do?
Whatever needs doing. From putting together a flat pack, painting, changing a lock to drilling. I tiled a bathroom wall once which turned out really well and saved me a fortune. However my husband likes to get his hands dirty too so I'm usually left with the jobs he doesn't want to do.
Do you have any future projects lined up?
I'm a new Mummy to my 6 week old son so he is my new project. I'm taking orders for commissions now rather than creating pieces to sell which fits better into my current role.


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