Do it yourself industry grows as upcycling gains popularity

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COLUMBIA - "Do it yourself" - DIY - is now more than a trend or a slogan to influence consumer independence, it has become an industry. The popularity of apps and websites like Pinterest , Etsy, and Instagram has caused a spike in businesses that thrive off materials that are recycled, or upcycled - which means old or discarded items transformed into something useful or artistic.

Kelly Gilion, decided to make a business out of the growing upcycling movement. In 2013, she opened a shop, called Plume, for local artists and upcyclers to sell their items.

"Plume as a noun means a feather or a decoration. Plume as a verb means to decorate or adorn, but to me its more of a energy, its local, its creativity. It is upcycling," Gilion said.

Plume is not only a business, she said, but also a safe place for artists, women, and Christians. She says the business surfaced from the need for women and artists to have a safe place to gather and grow, and also the need for sustainability.

Gilion said anyone can sell at her shop as long as the items are upcycled or reused.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart, who wrote the book The Upcycle, describe upcycling as a way of "reinventing life" as we know it. The book challenges the design and use of products, citing upcycling as the key to sustainable living.

"We want you to think of every component of your design as being borrowed," their website says. "It will be returned one day to the biosphere or techno sphere. It is your role to return it in as good a condition as you found it."

Suzanne VanSickle, the owner of Mamapotluck Boutique in Columbia, creates and designs new clothes or items out of old fabrics and clothing. For instance, she was given several brand new canvas bags with a business logo on them. She made patches to cover the logo and now resells the items for use.

"It started when I was college aged, looking for a job, and my family needing clothes, " VanSickle said."

The remnants of major store closings and marketing material are great sources and older fabrics are often of better quality and last longer than newer ones, she said.

"There is enough fabric on our earth to supply everyone with adequate clothing without producing anything new," she said.

VanSickle sells her items in local shops like Muse, and Artlandish Gallery - both places for the artists to sell their art. These shops exclusively sell upcycled items and artwork.

Companies like Hobby Lobby and Michael's have always prospered from teachers, crafters and "home makers," but many crafters and artists are shifting away from buying goods and materials to make things. Instead, are combining technology, creativity and entrepreneurism and taking used materials or items and creating items that are more functional or look better.

Companies are now trying to capitalize on the $29 billion industry and incorporate consumer participation and customization in the production process.

According to a study by Millennial Marketing, young adults under the age of 35 dominate the crafting industry, which is expected to keep growing.

VanSickle said anyone can upcycle and create.

Mobile and online sites are helping. Pinterest allows users to post their ideas and successes for others to try. Etsy provides a marketplace for upcyclers and other artists. Instagram allows crafters to show off their work.

"We're sharing thoughts and ideas with one another and we could inspire someone to upcycle and create or to start a business," VanSickle said. "If it means that people can express themselves and also help to conserve the environment. I don't think the ‘trend' is a bad thing."