Bribie Island

The only way is up(cycling)

GemLife Bribie Island residents in workshop

Artisans make the abandoned beautiful


John Gore from GemLife Bribie Island recalls that the very first materials reused at the resort’s workshop were left over construction material.

“The GemLife construction team very kindly gave us a bit of steel, lots of pallets and other pieces of timber,” he said. “They were quite handy, and we turned them into lots of useful things.”

The workshop members take commissions from residents for a nominal fee to help cover the cost of materials, said John who is one of the workshop’s supervisors.

“One of our recent projects was for a lady who wanted a rustic looking liquor dispenser for her bar,” he said. “She bought all the chrome bits, and we mounted them on boards that we clamped up and glued together, then coated and stained it.”

For Heather Hacker at GemLife Highfields, it was the eyewatering price for a pair of designer jeans that saw her heading for her sewing machine.

“I recently saw a pair of jeans in a boutique. They were distressed, had rips, and featured bluebird appliques and cost $599!” she said.

“I went to the op shop bought a $7 pair of jeans, found fabric with flowers, made them look vintage with Parisian essence and created a pair of my own designer jeans for a fraction of the price.”

Upcycling fabrics to make new, wearable items is just one of Heather’s passions. She uses second-hand fabric to create beautiful quilts using two traditional Indian techniques called Kantha and Kawandi. She’s also made footstools from men’s ties.

“It’s a lot of hard work because you have to unpick all the stitching and remove the interfacing, but the result is worth it,” she said.

But it’s more than simply environmental consciousness that has GemLife residents working with reclaimed materials – it’s about giving new life to old objects that might otherwise be discarded, said John.

“We ended up with our daughter’s Balinese coffee table which was a very dark piece of furniture that didn’t fit with the Hamptons-style of the GemLife homes,” he said. “But it was such a useful piece of furniture because it had eight drawers.

“I took that to the workshop, put wheels on it and painted the body. Then I stripped back the dark stain and discovered the top was a lovely light timber which only required a gloss finish.

Heather encourages people to actively look for opportunities to upcycle.

“We’re too quick to throw out things that still might be useful,” she said. “There are so many objects which deserve a second life.

“You have to keep an open mind and not limit yourself to looking at what an object was, but instead look at how it could be used to make something else.”