5 Questions for an Eco-friend - Emma from Jup Upcycle
Updated: Jun 22, 2021
If you remember my post from 31st May, and Keren's from way back on 19th April, you'll know I'm getting more into Upcycling than I ever was before. The list of my projects and my Pinterest boards are getting pretty full!
Today, I'd love to introduce you to Emma from Jup Upcycle. She's the master of upcycling, coming up with some serious projects like making twine from scrap fabrics (she runs courses!), that she then turns into dishes and plant hangers, and period pads from scrap textile waste. Amazing stuff! I'll let her carry on....
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Emma and am currently a nomad! A month ago my husband and I moved into our van, which he has been converting since lockdown 1.0. Before that, I lived in Australia for two years and before that, I was in Loughborough for 8 years. I moved to Loughborough when I was 19 for University and had a fabulous time studying Fine Art. After graduating, I completed an English PGCE to fulfil my desire to make a difference to young people. I taught in 3 different educational establishments, all pretty tough settings, and it was in 2018 that I moved to Australia. I wanted a break from the stressful teaching career and time to solely focus on my art practice, which wasn’t happening alongside teaching.
2. Tell us about your business and what you do.
In March 2020 I launched Jup, my small business, which I currently run alongside being a private English tutor. I was making items for the home, some fashion accessories and reusable products from fabric offcuts and other reclaimed materials. However, since having to downscale due to van life, I now focus on making reusable period pads. I sell these on Etsy and also have 5 stockists who are all zero waste shops. I’m very excited about this recent success selling wholesale as I never thought I’d get to that point; it always seemed like a mystery to me how other small business owners got their products into shops. Turns out a simple friendly message can go a long way.
While the van was being converted, we were staying with my parents which provided a great secure base to work from. As well as upcycling everything and anything I could get my hands on, I was also teaching upcycling workshops online. I’ve stepped back from this for now, to allow a smooth transition into the new lifestyle but I would like to resume it again soon. It would be totally possible to do it from the van and I always got great feedback from people who attended.
Again, due to the recent change, I’ve started to blog more. Since Jup began, it’s had a YouTube Channel where I share some upcycling techniques and low waste living tips like how to make your own dry shampoo. Going forward, I plan to vlog and blog more. My followers are curious about our new lifestyle so I’ve been blogging about that, and I’d also like to share how we continue to live low waste even in a tiny space.
3. What made you start your eco/reusable business - why do you do what you do?
After being immersed in such outstanding nature while living in Australia, I became incredibly passionate about keeping the earth wild and beautiful. I was shocked that some people who lived rurally, had only recently had access to recycling bins and I witnessed one person telling me to just chuck a bottle top into the ocean when out on a boat! I can’t believe that some people are either completely careless or uneducated about the pollution that waste causes. My reaction revealed to me how much I care about wildlife and when I saw causes fighting to end plastic pollution, I kept wishing I could do something too that made a difference. Waste is such a big issue so I decided to focus my efforts on fabric waste. That way, I could hone my sewing skills, continue to make and be creative, while also making an impact on reducing waste.
Jup began with the making of twine from fabric scraps. I saw a friend’s mum in Australia making this and thought it was not only a beautiful object, but so clever how it was made from scraps. I went to a charity shop in Sydney that I knew had a fabric bin and bought a bag of scraps for $5. It was the perfect craft to be doing while travelling since it needed no tools apart from scissors. The following year, my new husband and I travelled the whole coast of Australia. While he drove the long stretches of road that lasted hours, I literally twiddled my thumbs making twine. I made so much that I had to give some away at the end of our trip as it didn’t all fit in our luggage! Once I figured out some items to make with it (baskets and plant hangers to start with), I thought maybe I could start selling them…
Over this past year, Jup has been the perfect compliment to my work as a private English tutor. When I was working full-time as a teacher, I had no capacity to pursue my own creativity. This is what ultimately drove me to take that year in Australia. Now that I’m back though, finding a balance between teaching and being creative was going to be key to my happiness at work. Lockdown provided the perfect opportunity to move to private tutoring online and as a result, I’ve had the luxury of being in charge of my work schedule, deciding how much to teach, and how much to grow Jup. It’s been a challenge balancing them but they both feed into my “why”. I teach young people because I love seeing them learn and long for them to experience fun and creative teaching (hopefully I provide that!); I work on Jup because I am keen to use waste to reduce pollution as a way to not only raise awareness about the problem, but to also inspire others to live in a more planet-friendly manner.
4. What is the best thing about your eco/reusable business - what do you love to sell/make/talk about?
Recently I’ve become more passionate about talking about periods. The more I open up the conversation about it, the more comments and genuine connections I make with people. I really love helping others to talk freely about taboo subjects as it can be so releasing and freeing for people. It is for me anyway! To know that others also experience spotting and regular discharge for example, helps me to not feel alone in the struggle of menstruation, and I hope it does for them too.
I love to make period pads because I’m making something useful! Sure, I can make baskets and bags which are also super useful, but periods are a real source of plastic pollution that isn’t obvious to everyone. Through making them, I get to tell people about the chemicals they might be absorbing by wearing a tampon, or about how much period waste is found on beaches (disgusting; who wants to find that?) Read more in my blog on plastic free periods.
Why do I love this? Maybe because it also feeds into my love for education. When you are educated and informed about an issue, you get to make a change or find a solution to the problem and I can signpost people to that too with my period pads! Which are made out of waste themselves by the way! Now, the word waste is also something I don’t talk loads about but which I’d like to more. Unfortunately it’s got bad connotations. Initially, the idea of something being made out of waste is not appealing; I get it. The word needs to be re-imagined and re-thought about. The waste I use is clean: fabric offcuts from other projects. It’s still usable: the material from a broken umbrella for the waterproof layer… the metal of the umbrella is broken but the fabric is not. So you see, waste doesn’t have to be thought of as yucky, and I wish that more people saw waste as a resource to be re-used and re-imagined.
5. Where can people find and connect with you and learn more about what you do?
To find out more about Jup, the best way is to sign up to my newsletter which I send out weekly with new blogs and videos. Subscribing to my YouTube Channel is another way to support me and encourage me that you think what I’m doing is worthwhile. If you’re on social media then I use Instagram the most and normally post something daily. I also have a website which is a work in progress and also contains my art practice. You’ll see the art I made while in Australia if you go check that out.
If you’re intrigued about our van life, subscribe to our other Channel, The O Team!
Thank you so much Emma for sharing your passion around reducing textile waste. The twine making workshop is worth a try - never something I ever thought I'd do before. I would also recommend a read of Emma's van life journey - it's Nomadland in the UK!
Thank you so much for joining me, have a happy and creative week :)