When locks and keys don’t work, they are useless. Empty perfume bottles are discards unless they have unique designs. Empty wine bottles too are throwaways after the last drop of wine is drunk. Well, if people keep throwing unwanted stuff away, the garbage piles up and up.
But former secretary and real estate agent Janet Wong Li Yoong, 52, has a chockful of ideas about what to do with unwanted items. She upcycles them into new materials and better quality products. She believes in doing her bit to save Planet Earth and reduce the mountains of garbage. Besides, she can earn some money and be happy!
Wong uses waste materials to make jewellery and house decor items, when she has time on her hands. She enjoys “the challenge of repurposing items from empty perfume bottles, forks and spoons, sea shells, beach stones, scrap metals, keys, locks, glass tiles, broken ceramic pieces, buttons and other discards that people deem useless” and turns what’s worthless into works of art.
Upcycled items, Wong said, are still not popular yet. However, some Malaysians are working hard to educate people about upcycled products.
Upcycled items, she said, remind us of the need to create a culture of mindfulness towards others and our environment.
She sells her designer items and pre-loved branded items via the website, Carousell, a smartphone- and web-based consumer-to-consumer marketplace for buying and selling new and second-hand goods. She was introduced to this online platform by her daughter who has had positive experiences selling second-hand items here.
Wong finds Carousell to be very user-friendly as it allows her to easily track items that are most viewed and liked by users. This, in turn, enables her to create more artistic items that would attract buyers.
“At Carousell, I did get to sell some pre-loved branded and vintage items,” she said.
“Previously, I sold my items at bazaars but last November, I stopped after I broke my left arm. Until now, I still cannot carry heavy things although my left arm is 90% recovered. However, I’m blessed that I can still use both hands for craftwork,” she said.
When she was a real estate agent, she felt very stressed out even though she could make more money. “In this line, I saw people fighting for buyers. I also disliked the job because of the frequently travelling,” she said.
“At my age, I don’t think I want to work for others.”
Even though selling handcrafted items doesn’t make much money, she said, she felt more comfortable and has more time to take care of her pet dog and three cats which include one recently rescued in the rain. A kind soul, she also feeds five neutered stray cats in her garden.
From ideas to final products
Wong’s design concepts are based on nature, environment and daily living. Her craftwork involves a lot of mix and match.
She makes upcycled jewellery like necklaces and earrings as well as accessories. She also makes house décor items from old keys or unwanted wire racks.
A hotseller seems to be cute robots made with old door knobs and other stuff. She said: “When I uploaded a photo of a robot I just made, it was quickly snapped up.” A memorable robot with “red hair”, Street Dancer, was bought by a friend.
Even scraps of materials such as pieces cut from old jeans can be turned into accessories like fabric cuff bracelets. Her new creations, she said, were inspired by her late maternal grandmother who loved to sew and knit.
“She was still knitting and sewing at the age of 93. She passed away at 103 a few years ago,” Wong said.
Wong is a handyman of sorts using recycled materials. She said: “I learnt mostly from YouTube or tutorial books.”
Lately, she has been creating wire-wrapped jewellery, which are among the most saleable items. In fact, one day she posted an antique coin pendant – and got commissioned work to wire-wrap a collector’s antique coins, which she turned into wearable pendants.
Well, someone’s junk can be Wong’s gems. In her skilful hands, she can magically turn them into dazzling pieces – from cute robots to edgy steampunk jewellery!