The ReMida approach to creative reuse answers the question: if something can't be what it was, what can it be now? More broadly, the idea describes the practice of repurposing discarded or unused materials for artistic and educational activities.
And it does require practice.
Three principles underly our approach to creative reuse:
1. Finding value in the unexpected.
2. Investigating the material's potential,
3. Extending a material life cycle through non-destructive creativity.
Finding value in the unexpected
The first principle reflects a belief that materials have a non-linear life cycle. Just because something breaks, ages, or falls out of fashion doesn't mean it has lost its inherent value. The trick is approaching a discarded material from a what can it be now angle, which takes some practice. But we are not just finding value. The other factor is finding a purpose for the material. Yes, something can have a decorative value, but that is also a purpose, i.e. to be pleasing to look at or engage with. So, our first principle finds value and purpose, which leads us nicely into our next topic.
Investigating the material's potential
So, you've found an item you think is too good for landfill. The next step is investigating possible uses for your discovery. Can it be broken down into different components, or can it be painted? What tools are needed to work with this material, and what safety considerations exist? Some materials can slot easily into several projects; others may require further research before diving in and transforming the item. And yes, practice does help. The more familiar you are with different materials, the more versatile you become with your creative reuse. In most cases, there'll be a video somewhere online that will get you started. But, if you have something you want to keep intact, you can challenge yourself to work non-destructively.
Extending a material's life cycle through non-destructive creativity
Non-destructive creativity is a challenge, and we are passionate about it at ReMida. As materials come through the centre, we often think this will be great for a project. And if it's suitable for one idea or project, it's likely good for others. Non-destructive creativity preserves the material as it is or minimises its transformation to allow for its continued reuse. Each year, as we host our FRINGE show, we make costumes, set pieces, and props from discarded materials, with the express thought of reusing them or making them available for other creatives to enjoy. The centrepiece for this year's FRINGE show consists of wood, fabric and other materials, which we've been using for projects since 2019. It is better to transform a material than send it to a landfill; sometimes, a bit of destructive creativity goes a long way. And we employ both approaches at ReMida. A non-destructive approach has its challenges, and they are challenges worth taking.
Looking around ReMida, you see an active library of materials that have found a new life, or many new lives, through their creative reuse. And yes, we’ve had lots of practice, but you can start anywhere. The next time you’re about to throw something away, ask yourself, does it have a hidden value, how could it be transformed, and how can I keep it out of landfill for as long as possible? Some ideas will work, others may not, and the key is practice. Creative reuse is an idea and a skill you can develop with time, patience and practice. Think of the money you’ll save, the positive impact on the environment, and the people you may inspire just by saying, hey, I think there’s a hidden value here; let’s find it.