Just about a month ago, when David and I travelled back to our beloved island of Crete, we met an amazing person who rocked our world. Loredana is a well-travelled, openminded, nature-loving girl who gathers trash such as wasted paper and fabric, to create beautiful, up-cycled objects with a story. We spontaneously took some photos & interviewed her, hoping that her journey will inspire many more people!
So, Loredana, tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from?
I was born in Italy and at 19 years old I moved to London, to study arts and languages. I now live in Crete (21 years) a small gorgeous Greek Island where the sky is blue and the sun always shines.
Have your travels and other cultures inspired you to live life in a certain way, or think creatively?
While I was studying and living in London I worked for few health food shops, where I started experiencing and learning about recycling. I shared accommodations mostly with Brazilian students which were already orientated in sustainable living, learned Brazilian and travelled to Brazil for three months, where I lived at close contact with poverty and disadvantaged children, which where and are, extremely creative with everyday waste and garbage.
How did you get interested in up-cycling?
Living here, on this beautiful clean island, (the sea, the sky, the fields, the nature in general) I could not stand anymore the view of garbage and roadside finds, to name a few. I feel it’s really important to live your values, and my values are about having a really low environmental impact. I have to live like I want that, and so that’s why I decided to change my lifestyle. I got to a point where my garbage gathering was too much and a monster was unleashed. I remembered what the Brazilian kids were able to do with waste, a pinch of fantasy and imagination and also what my teacher taught me at primary school in Italy and there, ….then it all began.
What do you make and what materials do you use or have you used?
I make baskets, bowls, accessories, lamps, coasters, jewellery boxes, memory games. For most of those I up-cycle paper. I gather paper from a variety of sources such as leftover gift wraps, catalogs, magazines, newspapers, brown paper bags, scap-booking paper, books and well you get the idea! Some other items incorporated are: ribbons from Greek weddings and christening favours, beads made from tiny pieces of paper (candy or bonbon wrappings), discharged jewellery, thin metal electrical wires and guitars strings to reinforce baskets handles and whenever possible, items provided by nature. The glue I use, is handmade by me, I cook water flour and a bit of white vinegar, to a consistency I prefer, then I store it in a glass jar.
I also make tote bags using unworn t-shirts belonging to my kids, husband or friends, which were presents or old fashion. The bags have no stitches at all, as I found a simple and easy way from the women of the Sioux Indian tribe.
I love giving new life to waste, transforming it to useful crafts that can add a very special decorative touch to a place. Every bit of waste can be an exciting material and brilliant supply to work with, so gathering a variety of them is like recreating a treasure chest.
What is the philosophy behind your up-cycling activity?
Well, for me recycling, up-cycling, and repurposing are just a few words that describes this simple idea to take something that is no longer needed or wanted and give it a new life as something that is functional, useful, creative and fun! Everything has a soul also objects, and I can’t just not help something that is dying or suffering… art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life!
What are your goals for the future and how do you wish for it to continue?
I like the idea of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality and for better environmental value, and for a ”sustainable lifestyle”. We are all responsible for our own choices and they surround us. Before buying new things, we need to get involved in cleaning the planet from our own waste, learn to re-use it.
What are people’s reactions towards your creations?
Friends and foreigners are supporting and helping me with collecting waste, and they purchase some of my items because they really fall in love with the designs I make and because they believe in sensible living and are aware of recycling; the locals though, are a bit diffident about it and also with the crisis Greece is going through, they don’t see it as an essential need; when it’s really now more then ever that we need to reuse and not to buy.
What is the craziest upcycling project you’ve ever done or are trying of doing?
The craziest upcycling project I have in mind to do is, involving the local kids to go to the nearby beaches, roadsides, fields, collecting trash and make sculpures out of it, to be displayed in their scools yards or local main towns squares.
Do you see yourself creating a business or community out of it?
Yes, why not. I’d like children to get more involved into this, they are the future, they can make a change, we can all make a change. I’d love to teach free seminars at primary local schools, I have already had some good responses to it, we’ll may start with the new school year.
How has upcycling changed your life and how does it complete it?
I feel a sense of freedom every time I collect an unwanted or discarded piece of trash, I always remind myself to ”be the change you want to see in the world”. I saw that I didn’t have to do much to produce little waste, and by composting and buy in bulk, I managed to eliminate 80% of my waste.
In what ways do you live a “greener” lifestyle?
1) I carry empty containers, glass jars, my recycled tote bags, or cardboard boxes to go shopping.
2) I use as less plastic as possible
3) I eat & drink raw, local, organic food as much as possible
4) I plant & harvest from my own garden, swap my own veggies and fruits with friends and neighbors!
5) Of course, I turn junk into fun and useful things!
What do you think about the state of our world today and how do you imagine the future?
We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate.
The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, we need to move from the back end of waste management to the front end of resource management as a key step in the move towards a sustainable society. I am optimistic and I think of a bright future.
Since she really inspired us, we encouraged her to make it go public and she is now active on Facebook, under the name “Paper & Roll“!