Blogging sensation Penelope Quinn has been upcycling her way into people’s hearts for eight years. She is a huge inspiration of mine, her quirky style mixed with a love of recycled crafts proves that you can look super stylish and save the planet at the same time. Currently an Upcycling Expert for The Body Shop, Penelope talks us through her amazing career starting with her blog and how she ended up with her dream career!
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m a full-time crafter and upcycler living the London dream! I moved over from Sydney to London almost three years ago – since then I’ve been lucky enough to work with a whole bunch of awesome brands producing craft & upcycling content, as well as holding workshops. I’ve had my blog craftygirllifehacks.com for about 8 years now, I like to dabble in all sorts of crafts, but my true passion is upcycling. I love the creative challenge of finding a second use for clothing and packaging that would ordinarily go in the bin.
How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic! I used to wear a lot of colour back home in Australia, but my style in London is very practical and comfortable – so my wardrobe is a mishmash of statement vintage, functional pieces and frothy pin up dresses! One thing I absolutely love about London is the good quality second hand available at car boot sales and markets. East London thrift stores are amazing! I made a pledge to only buy second hand a few years back when I started learning more about human rights and environmental impact of fast fashion. Since then, I’ve never wanted anything because there are so many options to buy good quality pre-loved clothes, shoes and accessories.
What are your favourite accessories to make from up-cycled materials?
I love to make upcycled jewellery – I can always find a use for an earring that’s lost its friend, whether that’s re-beading into a necklace, using it as part of a broach or a hairpiece.
How important is recycling and eco-friendly fashion and beauty to you?
We have enough of what we need, and our insatiable need for fast fashion is having devastating effects on our environment. The fashion industry is one of the dirtiest in the world – only after oil – so while it’s good to see more and more fashion brands make steps towards becoming more sustainable, more needs to be done and fast. Happily, there are lots of things we can all do as consumers to play a part in this change.
What was the process like for setting up your brand?
My brand started 8 years ago as a blog, and from there I started hosting upcycling workshops, writing for publications and working with brands as a craft ambassador, as well as creating editorial and video content. I’ve been freelancing for years so this gives me an opportunity to work on craft full time, then take contracts as a digital producer. This gives me a balance of a structured environment and an office environment and working from home! I’m lucky enough to say I love what I do, so even if I wasn’t getting paid I’d do it anyway!
What has been your proudest moment to date?
My contract with The Body Shop International as their Upcycling Expert has definitely been a career highlight. Over two years we’ve created 58 videos that show you to transform everything from a face mask jar to a body butter into something useful and beautiful. I love when people send me an upcycling project that has been inspired by my videos.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start up-cycling?
The simplest way is to start asking yourself before you throw something in the bin – could I reuse this again? The answer may not be always yes, but if we can just reuse a small portion of the items that end in up landfill then we can make a huge impact. You could also take small steps to reduce buying so much or avoiding products with unnecessary packaging. And say no to single-use plastic like straws, plastic bags and disposable coffee cup lids.
What ambitions do you have for the future of your blog and Instagram?
Instagram is such a wonderful platform for community – I’m inspired every day by my fellow crafters and upcyclers. I would love to release a book and my own range of eco-friendly craft tools, so watch this space!
What worries you most about Global Warming and Climate Change?
I think it’s going to be very hard to ignore it for much longer. I think everyone knows that there is a problem, but many of us feel helpless on a personal level to make any real impact so it’s just easier to walk around in a bubble and ignore it. This is how I discovered upcycling – I felt so frustrated about being powerless, but I realised that by reducing consumption as a consumer and reusing where I could was a way to be part of the change – however small. The more people that make small changes like buying second hand, supporting ethical fashion and beauty brands, and putting pressure on brands to become more sustainable, the faster the big changes happen.
Can you list some of your favourite eco-friendly brands and products?
I’m a huge fan of The Body Shop with their stance on cruelty-free and community trade – their Oils of Life Skincare range is amazing and Bowhanti is one of my favourite scents of all time. I’ve recently discovered Bees Wrap who produce a plastic-free alternative to cling wrap (yay!). As far as fashion and homewares, I’m not a big follower of brands, but I did school myself on how to spot if something is well made and quality materials, so I can always keep a look out!
Find Penelope’s blog here!
And her amazing Instagram page here!
Text: Emily Jordan