5. Upcycle workshop

Julie Paterson, designer and owner of Surry Hills fabric company cloth, takes an old-school approach to the production of her coveted fabrics. Her landscape-inspired designs are screen printed by hand and produced locally. Natural fibres like hemp and organic cotton are used; as are water-based, non-toxic dyes and inks. Waste during production is kept to a minimum and fabric off-cuts are salvaged where possible. Last year, Julie showed us how to transform these scraps into upcyled gems at a number of our Green Village workshops. Luckily for us, she’s back in 2012 to share her tips and tricks.

Tell us about the process that takes place between a moment of inspiration and the launch of a product.
The process takes me a while; I firmly adhere to the ‘slow design’ principle. Good things take time. So an idea will form as I go about my day. I’ll translate the idea in the studio up in the Blue Mountains, where it is quiet, with no distractions, and then I’ll play with it – painting, drawing, printmaking, that kind of thing. It’s equivalent to the making of a good stock – throw in the ingredients, put on a low heat to simmer and wait a while as the ideas reduce and clarify.

Was it hard to find sustainable fabrics and select low- impact manufacturing methods when you first started out in 1995?
No it wasn’t too difficult. The hand-printing process is old-school and there were and are a few local printers doing it still. The hemp and the natural fabrics were available (just) but securing the supply has always been the bane of my life. And it’s quite expensive, too.

As cloth grows, do you feel any pressure to change your ‘old-fashioned’ ways?
No absolutely not. The longer we go on, the more I realise our old-fashioned ways are the best for us.

Will anything from the here and now be upcycled in the future?
Of course; everything has a value and a worth. The trick is uncovering and discovering that value and thinking laterally.



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