A passionate upcycler, Gill Scheuer of um-bags etc talks about her interest in creating new items from old and why she loves living in Lambeth.
Where does your interest in upcycling come from?
I’ve always hated waste, and I’ve always liked making things from something else. When I was young I made things like clothes, props and furniture for my teddies. When I left school I made a belt from my old school satchel – so I was well ahead of the current upcycling trend!
And how did you get the idea for making bags from old umbrellas?
For years I’d see amazing patterned umbrellas discarded by the roadside. The fabric was fine but the mechanism was broken, and I thought there must be something you can do with that.
One November day it was really squally and I saw about six umbrellas near my house. So I got on my bike and collected them, unpicked the fabric (the official term is “filleting”) and played around with fitting the triangular pieces of fabric together.
I got excited about combining different colours and patterns. And it’s a double whammy – I’m not just reusing the fabric but also encouraging people to stop using plastic bags, as these are very light to slip into a pocket and carry around.
Is this the first time you’ve sold things you’ve made?
No. I used to make silver and resin jewellery, based on designs of old tattoos. But it’s been a few years since I put my work out in the open for sale. I took a stall at West Norwood Feast and invited loads of friends, who bought lots and were really positive about the idea.
I love the excitement of doing markets and talking to people and getting feedback. And with these bags I’m not having to outlay lots of money on materials!
How creative is your day job?
I’m a design and technology textiles teacher, so I spend my time devising projects for kids to make, like weaving with plastic bags or inventing slogans to screen-print onto organic cotton bags to encourage people not to use plastic bags. But I am giving up teaching in December, so I hope to spend more time making my own things then.
Why did you join Makerhood?
I heard about Makerhood through a friend and thought it was exactly what I needed – help with setting up a website, marketing and promotion, all the things I’m not very good at.
One of the big benefits was doing Lambeth Country Show. I’ve always wanted to do it but I’d never be able to outlay all that money on my own. And sharing the stall with others was great – not doing it all in isolation.
Meeting other creative people who live nearby is also great – it will be particularly important when I give up work!
Finally, what do you like about living in Lambeth?
I’m originally from Birmingham, but since moving to London I’ve always lived in Lambeth. I used to live in Herne Hill but moved to West Norwood 15 years ago. I love the mix of people – the mix of ages, class, race – and the liberal attitudes: anything goes. And Brockwell Park – it’s the jewel in the crown of south London!
You can see Gill’s um-bags and bike seat covers on the Makerhood website.