Have you caught the upcycling bug?

If you have then no doubt, like me, you will also have a little (or large) stash of ‘to do’ projects waiting for your attention and little bit of tlc.

Upcycling, is the process of transforming useless or unwanted products into something useful and desirable. Rather than braking things down to their raw materials and recycling them, It’s about reusing and adding value to them. Upcycling is a great way to reuse materials, It reduces waste so is good for the environment too.

One of my favourite things to upcycle is mirrors and picture frames. They are something that can be so easily transformed and once painted can have a real impact. I love picking them up at car boot sales and charity shops. Even if they are broken I have lots of inventive ways to reuse them.

My mirror collection however, was becoming a bit of a problem. It had started to take over my utility room and I was running out of space to actually upcycle anything. A spring clean was definitely needed so I photographed all my collection and had a flash sale on my facebook page.

Some mirrors were already upcycled and some were still waiting to be renovated. One of the mirrors I was selling had a beautiful carved wooden frame with shutters. I was really looking forward to upcycling it but inspiration hadn’t yet struck. I photographed it and posted it online and instantly it was snapped up. The lady that wanted it said that she would like it painted and was thinking along the lines of Mexican Day of the Dead. Hallelujah! What a fantastic brief I love it when I can get creative. As it happened she was also visiting Bristol the next day so I jumped straight in. I started with a thin watered down coat of olive green all over and then a second coat of a brighter green. The frame had carved flowers and beaded detailing so I chose to highlight these with burgundy and a brighter red. I wanted to achieve an artisan, rough weathered finish so worked quickly, not worrying too much if I didn’t get complete coverage. When it was dry I waxed the mirror with a clear wax and then distressed it using a rough piece of sandpaper for further texture. I left the insides of the shutters, as I wanted these to look as if they had not weathered and when you open them you get a blast of the original colour. After another quick coat of wax over the areas where I sanded, it was finished, and just in time for collection. It’s always nice to get feedback from your customers and this time I think I managed to impress. I received a lovely message on my facebook page. She was amazed that she had given me an idea and in just 24 hours she was able to collect the finished article, just as she had imagined. I don’t always have such a quick turnaround but this upcycle just seemed to click into place, it’s nice when that happens.


One of my favourite ways to re-use the frames from canvasses or picture frames with broken glass is to turn them into chalkboards. Simply cut a piece of hardboard to fit the frame and cover with a few layers of chalkboard paint. The frame can then be painted and ‘voila’ a very stylish chalkboard for all your ‘to do’ lists (my children like adding a few items to mine!).


When painting frames you can achieve an aged look by using dark wax. If you are working with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint you should apply a layer of clear wax first and let this dry. This will prevent the dark wax from staining your paint colour and you will have better control over your antiquing effect. When applying, work quickly and make sure you get the dark wax in all cracks and recesses, then wipe off with a clean piece of lint free cloth. If you have used too much dark wax, rubbing a cloth with some clear wax over it will lift it.


I have also got quite a collection of vintage dominos. I had seen an image of a wooden domino clock and wanted to have a go myself. Again I thought I could make use of some of my broken picture frames and I bought some different coloured clock mechanisms on ebay. For the backgrounds I have used wallpaper, wrapping paper, vintage newspaper and even had a commission for one using a Minecraft poster! They are individual and make great gifts.


I love selling at fairs and craft events. Meeting your customers and getting feedback on what you have produced is an important part of the creative process. There are also so many other talented people working for themselves and selling their handmade goods, especially in Bristol. It’s very inspiring to be a part of.

Hopefully I have inspired you to get creative and start upcycling and re-using things yourself. If you would like to get in touch you can email me at angela@harperandharper.co.uk or follow my page on facebook (search for harperandharper)