The Bowerbird Markets are headed back to Adelaide and Michael Hanley from Upswitch, is one of the brilliant designers, creating upcycled lighting to delight you! Based in Brunswick and open for 2 years, Upswitch creates one-of-a-kind lamps by reinventing and reimagining old treasures and turning them into beautiful pieces that inspire and illuminate. Using science and laboratory instruments, photographic equipment, kitchenalia, salvaged timbers, and so on, Upswitch brings neglected objects back to life with an elegant and whimsical twist.
The main body of each lamp Michael creates is made from upcycled and repurposed material. Additionally, each lamp comes with a low wattage LED bulb (4 watts) rated to last for up to 20,000 hours. “We also aim to always use sustainable materials for all packaging, parcels, business cards and market stall displays. Currently I’m using to re-purposed doors as shelving for my market displays!” says Michael.
Whilst growing up, Michael says his dad showed him how to find a bargain and to see the value and usefulness of broken or discarded objects. He has carried on his inspiration for finding treasure in what people deem trash, and still enthusiastically compares his latest op shop finds with his dad, to see what he could turn into a lamp. Along with the lamps, Michael loves collecting and fixing old things, from bikes and record players to guitars and furniture.
“I have a strong passion for preserving our environment and changing our current throw away culture. Creating functional artworks that also help the environment felt like a great way to satisfy my creative and ethical aspirations” he explains.
The idea for the business began when Michael was travelling. “I stayed with an assemblage artist, who makes amazing artwork from found/discarded objects in a tiny village in Germany. I was inspired to get into visual arts or sculpture and realised the potential with all of my vintage stuff that I’d collected over the years”.
After some incubation the idea turned into a business with the help of the government program NEIS (New Enterprise Initiative Scheme), that taught him many of the necessary skills to run a small business. After making his first few lamps/lights, he started getting really excited by the creative potential to use almost any object or material to create them. By that stage he was hooked, and realised he could offer a really unique personalised product to a variety of people.
Like many in our community, Michael is excited by the growing numbers of people who choose to live sustainably, and all of the new ideas and initiatives by people and businesses offering environmentally friendly solutions. “I’d like to think that by seeing our upcycled products people might think differently about how old objects and materials in their own home could be used/re-used” he says. “I don’t own many new things these days. All of our furniture was either found on the side of the road or purchased through Gumtree/eBay. Most of our crockery and appliances were bought from op shops or flea markets.
At first it was because of the cost saving benefits, but now I prefer the aesthetic and believe older things were built better and made to last”.
If you want to create a more sustainable home, Michael suggests you start rummaging and get creative! There are thousands of amazing ideas, tutorials and inspiration online these days. Just do a quick search on Pinterest or Youtube for ‘Upcycled DIY’ or ‘Repurposed DIY’ and see what takes your fancy.
The biggest challenge he has faced like many of us, has been the juggle between the creative and administrative aspects of running a small business. “I love the creative side of my business, and can get engrossed in a new design for hours and forget about book-keeping, emails, ordering parts and so on”. But as the business is expanding, he is looking forward to a time soon when he can focus solely on design and creation. Michaels says he has had some flattering, confusing and interesting comments made over the last few years about his work, including “What is that?”, “What an inventive idea”, “This is almost a work of art”, “How did you come up with that?”, and “Is there anything you can’t turn into a lamp?!!”.
When not collecting or creating, he loves to listen to records, play guitar, take the dog for a walk or sit in their (secondhand of course!) massage chair. A favourite piece of work, he says, would have to be his junk robot “Pollock”, made from an old battery tester, bicycle headlight, door handles and torches. “I still miss that guy after he was re-homed last Christmas, I’d become rather attached!” he told me. I can see why!
You can find Upswitch here
See all the details of the Bowerbird Markets here
BOWERBIRD 5 – 7 May 2017
Fri 4 – 9pm l Sat + Sun 10am -5pm