I have been searching for a upcycler for quite some time. I really wanted to find someone who did more than slap a new coat of paint on something and call it good. Yes, that does serve a need, is super creative, but this purpose I needed someone who really took time to take the unusable or unwanted and make it functional. Someone who not only showed interest in this project, but also followed through with an interview! I mean this guy is pretty much a miracle!
This past weekend I met with Ryan, owner of Upcycled Lighting in Stillwater. There’s no guessing what this guy does- he upcycles whiskey, wine, and glass pop bottles into lamps.
The picture below is where it all began for Ryan. He entered this into a contest at the state fair and won a blue ribbon. He saw a need for someone to reuse the liquor bottles from all the college students, so adapted his project and things took off from there.
I am not a drinker, unfamiliar with the drinking world, so I was enamored with some of the bottles he showed me. They were beautiful, uniquely made, but people are carelessly throwing them away, especially in this college town.
The thing I loved most about Ryan was he knew WHY he upcycled glass. Not only did he fall in love with the artwork, but he knew that glass was destined to many lifetimes in the landfill.
If I had a nickle for every time I asked someone, even a potential interviewee, why they recycled and they said “I don’t know” or something to the affect of “because it makes me feel good” I could probably have enough money to buy a recycling plant. It is incredibly frustrating on so many levels and it makes me want to scream. To my relief, Ryan had a detailed answer for any question I had.
He explained the difference between the blown glass and formed glass.
Blown bottles have thicker sides and they’re less consistent, so they pose more risk when drilling them but at the same time he thinks they’re easier to drill.
Ryan explained because of the inconsistencies, each bottle has a unique effect and each bottle throws light off in different ways.
He realized the importance of not only repurposing materials, if they were no longer useful in the original form, but also fixing things before deeming them useless. He got the fact that things just don’t go ‘away’ just because it no longer functions or because we don’t want it anymore. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it still isn’t leaching harmful chemicals into our land.
He had quite a lot to say about how college students handle their waste.
One of my favorite quotes from his interview was this:
“Not everything is disposable but we treat it like it is. The world has gone to this disposable thought and Stillwater has gone to this disposable thought at the end of semester with out with the old in with the new and there’s just no reason for it.”
A disposable thought. Everything now is disposable, especially for college students. Instead of planning ahead a little and finding a way to give it away, donation or another friend, they just throw it away. Piles and piles of perfectly usable furniture, decorations, electronics, even books just carelessly tossed.
Ryan was refreshing to talk to. It wasn’t his 9-5 job to care, it was his passion. He didn’t censor his position to be politically correct. He made sense and I appreciated that.
I met with another upcycler last night, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m hoping to have a trailer up soon, so stay tuned!
If you have a bottle you want turned into a lamp or want to learn more about his products, check out his Facebook page for more information. If nothing else, show support by liking his page!