The Conscious Crafter
Penelope Quinn is an Aussie creative who is crafting and up-cycling her way through London. I’ve watched her in the last couple of years, as she followed her crafty girl dream and chased it to the other side of the world with resounding success. She is passionate about applying creativity to the problem of worldwide waste through up-cycling. Crafters and conscious consumers, follow this woman’s lead.
Hey Penelope, I know you have a passion for both travel and craft, and you have managed to do both while supporting yourself through your creative skills. Can you introduce yourself and where you are?
Hi! My name is Penelope Quinn and I’ an up-cycler, hacker and crafter. I run my blog crafty girllifehacks.com, I’m the up-cycling expert for The Body Shop international and also run workshops with London Craft Club.
I’m Aussie born, but I’m currently London based and it’s such an exciting city for connecting with other creatives and crafters. The creative industry here is booming and there are so many opportunities here to make a living from doing something creative! There’s no lack of inspiration when it comes to craft fairs and expos.
How did you first get into upcycling?
My mum was an art teacher so I’d always been encouraged to be crafty growing up, but it wasn’t until I left home that upcycling became a necessity.
When I first started out I loved fashion but didn’t have a lot of money so I started buying clothes from thrift shops to rework into something new. A few years down the track when I bought my first apartment I had no money left to furnish it with so I found pieces of furniture on the side of the road that I spruced up with a quick sand down and a lick of paint. I also started hand-making gifts that were met with much more appreciation than anything hand bought, so I started my blogs and since then, upcycling has become a way of life.
I think it’s so important to use what we already have and not send more single use plastic to landfill. I love upcycling for the fact it helps the environment but it also allows us to re-ignite our creativity by reimagining every day things.
Whether it’s a jar, a pair of jeans or packaging you were about to throw in the bin, it can all be transformed into something useful and beautiful.
How do you integrate up-cycling into your every day life?
I live and breathe upcycling — in fact, for the last two years I’ve been committed to eradicating as much single use plastic from my life as possible. No mean feat when almost everything comes in a plastic wrapper!
I get around this by buying in bulk, carrying a reusable bag and drink bottle where ever I go, and saying no to straws and coffee cups. When I still have to use single use packaging, I like to wash it and put it aside to be upcycled — there are so many uses for something like a plastic bottle!
When it comes to fashion and home wares, I try and buy second hand from thrift stores and car boot sales. When I can’t do that, my ethos is to buy it right the first time and buy quality so I can use it for many years to come!
I love love love hacks and ingenious solutions. Nothing lights my fire quite like a challenge from one of my clients of how to creatively upcycle an every day object destined for the bin — it keeps me up at night in the best possible way . I usually have an Ah-ha! Moment in the shower or out on a run.
What are your favourite things to upcycle?
There are so many things you can do with the humble jar. It’s only limited by your imagination! I love to make jar toppers, snow globes, wool wrap bottles, LED tea light holders and terrariums
How did you become the Global Upcycling Expert for The Body Shop?
Two years ago when I moved to the UK I was contracting at The Body Shop as a digital content producer. I pitched in an upcycling idea for our Instagram page, which the brand manager loved, and asked me if I could produce 28 more ideas, of course I said yes! Now we release a video every 2 weeks and to date we’ve produced over 50 ideas.
How do you come up with your ideas?
There are a few ways — sometimes I’ll start with the product and ask myself what else it could be used for, or I’ll look at what is trending on Pinterest. For example I was challenged to upcycle The Body Shop’s Almond Milk and Honey Bath Milk — I ended up making a art deco inspired Pineapple money box which is one of my favourite upcyling ideas of all time! I try and think of what someone can achieve in under an hour who may or may not be crafty or creative, and what they can use what they already have.
So do you craft full time?
I’m lucky enough to say that I do work full time as a crafter!
My time is divided between holding workshops here in London, writing how tos for a variety of media outlets and my blog, as well as working with a number of brands producing content.
To shake things up every now and then I’ll do a short contract as a digital content producer, which is my background.
What’s a typical work day for you?
Happily, there is no typical day (I hate routine!). I may be in at The Body Shop filming a video, creating prototypes, costing out or holding a workshop, writing a post for my blog or another media outlet. Sometimes I just need some inspiration so I also go to a lot of craft and trends fairs.
What do you love most about your work?
Other than the fact I get to craft for a living?! I love being creative, working my own hours, working with a variety of people and brands and being challenged in the most creative way possible.
And the challenges?
As anyone who runs their own business knows, constantly chasing leads for new business can be disheartening, but it’s so important to remember that things happen in peaks and troughs.
If I’m having a quiet week I use this time to catch up on admin, update my blog and social media, and connect with other creatives. Working from home can be a lonely business, so I always make sure I make time to keep in touch with my network.
What keeps you motivated?
I remind myself that even if crafting wasn’t my full time job, I’d be doing it anyway. Working nine to five in an office is my personal idea of hell, so if ever I have a ‘poor me’ moment I remind myself of that.
Share with us a proud moment…
Anytime I go online to see one of my ideas published!
Is there something about you, your life or work that might surprise my readers?
I’m really looking forward to moving away from the big smoke! In a few years I hope to be living in New Zealand with my boyfriend on a self-sufficient farm, growing organic veges and giving chickens, dogs, cats, goats and anything else with four legs and a heartbeat a happy home.
Where can people see your work?
About the Author |Yen Taylor is an Aussie freelance writer & illustrator living in the UK, with work in publications including Houzz, Medium & more. I cover topics including accessibility, disability, equality & mental health. I have a particular interest in issues faced by those of us who are LGBT+ & the experiences of my East/South-East Asian community in European & Western society. I like to focus on where culture, identity, creativity, activism & the potential for change, intersects with the above topics. I create spot illustrations and photography for my work as needed. | Instagram| Twitter