For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Kelly Ordemann, an architect, crafter and knitter. Creating upcycled accessories from plastic bags under the name Made By Kelly O.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
My name is Kelly and I am a designer/ maker based in Edinburgh where I make upcycled accessories from plastic bags. By fusing together several layers of single use plastic with heat and pressure, a new fabric is created that maintains the lightweight and waterproof qualities, but is far more durable and hard-wearing. I have designed a series of zip pouches, tote bags, wallets, and laptop sleeves using the upcycled plastic material and other sustainably sourced materials (like wool made from recycled plastic bottles).
How or why did you get started?
I trained as an Architect, and when I was studying at University I became interested in re-using waste products in new functional ways. My first experiments involved plastic bottles and using them as thermal massing in architecture, but I began to explore the opportunities of a more domestic scale upcycling (which is the perfect word to describe what I do, but didn't exist when I started!). I began working with plastic bags in 2009 and my work has evolved and grown since then.
What is your favourite thing about the work that you do?
Knowing that I am helping to save animals from our plastic pollution. I have named all of my products after animals harmed by plastic pollution to remind us of the damage our waste causes.
How/has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
I now can't walk down the street without picking up discarded plastic bags. I can't walk by knowing that the bag will end up in the landfill or choking a sea turtle, knowing that I could stop that from happening just by picking it up.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
Reduce waste! The large companies who ultimately dictate how our food is packaged and sold to us are some of the worst in my opinion. There's no reason that onions or potatoes need to be wrapped in plastic bags - except for convenience. If we all went to the shops knowing that we'd need to bring a bag for the tomatoes and potatoes, we would bring them! We've been conditioned to accept packaging and the convenience of having plastic bags available on demand - but we can change our ways and I know so many people are doing so!
What are your plans for the future?
I'm hoping to expand my range of products to include lined clutches and bags. I would also love to have an online database of my plastic bag stash so people can browse it and select them for use on their own made to order products, but this may be a longer term dream!
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
I support two charities with the profits from my work. The first is Surfers Against Sewage who are fighting water pollution on a big scale, but also supporting local beach clean-ups around the UK. The second is Plastic Oceans UK who are working to educate the younger generation about waste and pollution to encourage behavioural change from a young age. Both these organisations are doing amazing work to help stop/ reduce/ and clean-up the pollution that plastic (in particular) causes.
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop or live more ethically?
Doing anything you can (however small) will make a difference. And try to re-use or re-purpose things so that you reduce your amount of waste. Also, take part in schemes like returning your food packaging to the supermarket where you bought it, carry a canvas bag - or those roll up-reusable bags - I have one of those in my bag at all times and it always comes in handy when I wasn't expecting to purchase anything.
Where can we find you on the internet, buy your work, or join in?