What does an interior designer with a passion for craft do to combine her need to help others and save the planet? For Winnie McHenry, the answer lay in junk.
Winnie’s journey began when she founded Crafty Corner, a web initiative to inspire and empower crafters. While this fulfilled part of her vision, she knew that many of those she wished to help, being unemployed and even destitute, had access to neither the internet nor even basic materials. It was in her efforts to recycle that she found her inspiration, and Upcycle was born. The effects of her vision are both far reaching and inspiring.
Besides allowing her home to be used as a workshop, showroom, shop, and as a receiving point for anything from the tiniest unwanted beads to the bulkiest electronic waste, Winnie freely shares her knowledge, expertise, creativity and stunning, unique designs, allowing what are now 47 entrepreneurs – two of whom run lucrative, full time mosaic businesses – to create and sell their own creations. It is also to these people that Winnie turns when she has orders of her own to fill, which further assists them and stimulates local economy.
Environmentally conscious companies like Cell C, Nedbank and ARUP have ordered Winnie’s upcycled creations – for use as corporate gifts or to commemorate fun events such as Valentine’s Day. Others assist with donations; the local Booysens’ Hotel provides glass bottles and Mirrordoor all its mirror offcuts, saving themselves the cost of having it removed and dumped at landfill sites (mirror is not recyclable), while SA Blood Services in Gauteng has launched a pilot project where members of the public can drop off small recyclables such us buttons, bows, ribbons and more. A fun initiative allows children to learn about and actively participate in recycling; take them along to drop off your junk and they receive a free Upcycle craft kit. These gorgeous kits also make fantastic gifts for children of all ages.
By its very nature, Upcycle is a local, largely community-based project, but Winnie would love to help others set up similar initiatives countrywide. Also planned is an upgrade to her websites, with each crafter having a dedicated page highlighting their creations. But her vision doesn’t stop there. She dreams of one day having a dedicated space incorporating a workshop, a shop and a gallery to help market the work of local entrepreneurs, proving junk talk can make a difference.
Find Winnie at the monthly Green Market in Pretoria, visit www.upcycle.co.za, or call 011 782 0351