Upcycling queen of the garden

New Zealand Flower and Garden upcycling queen Buffie Mawhinney shares her best tips.

Upcycling is not new – your grandmother was probably an upcycler. Some of the best examples of modern-day upcycling come from the 1930s-40s when families had very little money. They reused almost everything, sacks became dresses or old doors became the new dining room table.

These days there is definitely a resurgence in upcycling, driven not only by financial constraints but also by the awareness that our planet is terribly overloaded with waste. Items destined for the dump are being rescued and passionately remade into something useful. People also enjoy the artistic aesthetic, with lots of upcycled items rivaling expensive designer store items.

West Auckland upcycler Buffie Mawhinney is the queen of upcycling. She won a gold medal in the upcycling category at the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show in 2017 and this year she is back again entering two exhibits, one in recycling and one in the community garden category. The New Zealand Flower and Garden Show is being held at Trusts Arena from November 28 to December 2 (tickets are available at Ticketek).

Mawhinney also has worked as a community sustainability coordinator at Ranui Community Centre, for eight years. She also works in the local community garden and runs classes on upcycling.

Below, Mawhinney passes on her top upcycling tips and shares some of the beautiful creations she has made.

Old kitchen utensils can become great plant pots.

My ideas for upcycling come from lots of places, usually I will be looking online, magazines art gallery and like the look of something. I really like the process of trying to work out how something was done and often I will use something I have seen as a starting point. For example I saw a cute whale made from denim on Pintrest, I brought the pattern and used old jeans and old woollen blankets to it.

Before throwing anything away ask yourself can I make something else from this, even plastic bags can be made into something else.

And before buying something new also ask yourself is there something at home that I could paint/ change some way and make look just as nice. Or, can I make it myself?

Here are my best tips:

Just give it a go, it may take a few tries to get the look you want but that’s half the fun whether it is painting, gluing or building something.

If you don’t know how to do something google it, you can find anything on line. I built a steam chamber for bending wood from watching you tube.

If you want help then find local groups that offer classes in fixing, making etc there is a whole community of up cyclers out their Auckland and NZ wide.

You don’t have to an expert to give it a go, being a bit crafty helps but not essential.

Make things you like and want or want to give as a gift. I made a whole lot of fancy glass platters and bowls by gluing a glass to the bottom of the plate or bowl, I filled them with strawberries and chocolates for Xmas one year. Op shops always have nice glass pieces for good prices and with a bit of glass glue your good to go.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on tools, there is a lot you can do with glue, a hand saw, sandpaper, hammer and a screw driver.

Buffie Mawhinney’s gold winning exhibit at the 2017 New Zealand Flower and Garden Show.

My top Upcycled favourites:

  • Easy – no tools
  • Glass plates and bowls into fancy serving platters
  • Old glass light shades into plant holders
  • Tea shirts into bags
  • Projects need day skills using some tools or a sewing machine
  • Wood into platters
  • Jean pockets into purses
  • Bags from fabric samples
  • Plant holder from old copper pipe
  • Candle holder from reclaimed wood
  • Shelf from an old draw

Find out more about the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show here nzflowergardenshow.co.nz/tickets/

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