Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

            It’s a little cliché, I know, but the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” really does a great job summarizing what I feel upcycling is.  In addition, it reminds us that it’s all about perspective and point-of-view; the things in our lives which are constantly (sometimes slowly) shifting based on our experiences.  What we find beautiful one day may, on another day, incite anger or sadness – and that change can be a powerful thing.

            I have experienced my own change of perspective during my lifetime – in some ways very large and others seemingly small, all working together to create a major shift in my attitude, behaviors and lifestyle.  Starting my own business, diving into upcycling and creating Upcycle Hawai‘i has certainly catalyzed these shifts in perspective.  Suffice to say – I am not the person I once was and now understand that I likely have several more changes ahead of me.  What excites me about this is that it gives me hope for helping to incite change in other people’s perspectives and, therefore, hopefully change in the world.

            Believe it or not, I was your basic 90’s child.  I watched MTV, played Nintendo, ate more than my fair share of junk food and spent some time obsessed with both The Rugrats and Hello Kitty (yes, embarrassing but I will admit it).  I was the ideal child consumer, much to the chagrin of my hard-working parents trying to make ends meet in Hawai‘i.  I had VHS tapes, cassette tapes, Nintendo games and an eraser collection. I grew up surrounded by plastic – plastic that would make me cry when my parents took it away from me! (Insert head slap here.)  Honestly, when I think back on all the silly plastic stuff that my parents spent money on, I really feel like I owe them (and the environment).

            In other words, there was at least a decade there that I worshipped plastic – and I’m pretty sure that you know how I feel about it now.  That was a gradual change that is still happening; and always will to some extent.  My work with reclaimed materials has taught me that even the roughest looking flat bicycle innertube still has more miles to give, just maybe not in its original form. Manipulating these materials has taught me patience, resilience and the power of just trying.  Which has, in turn, inspired me to pay-it-forward by catalyzing a change of perspective around me.

            I was once was a very materialistic person who valued myself by my belongings and was seeking validation in all the wrong places.  It was hard to see beauty at that moment in my life – both inside and outside of myself.  Through small shifts and experiences, I was able to change the world around me by changing the way I looked at it and myself.  I am hoping that upcycling can help to activate that change in others. The greatest joy I receive is not when someone buys my products; it’s when they pick an item up, feel it, realize what it is made out of and then say “No Way!”  It’s like I can literally watch a small change of perspective take place in that moment – and I have yet to experience something more rewarding. (Although, it is twice as rewarding when a purchase is made, wink wink.)

            Now, I go on beach cleanups with Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund and literally pick up the things I used to value as they wash ashore in massive quantities and then are picked up and thrown away as “trash”.  Talk about a change… VHS tapes used to make me happy (cue “The Little Mermaid” theme song) but now they make me sad and guilty.  Those emotions, in turn, motivate more change and the evolution continues.  Is there something in your life that you look at differently than you once did, or perhaps something that you would like to see differently?  Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, sometimes it takes looking at things a little differently to see something that perhaps no one else has yet.