Representatives of the arts, craftsmen, designers, companies, and interested residents involved in the field of remaking and upcycling can now join the community called “Gift(ed).” The main goal of this new platform is to bring together people who are actively involved in the upcycling process and those interested in the circular economy, with special attention to last year’s art specialties students.
The Gift(ed) platform aims to help deal with the growing problem of consumption and waste generation, and its co-creators believe that upcycling and reusing can be an attractive and promising profession that should be promoted throughout the education system. This platform was created to bring together experts and educators to present the need and opportunities for reducing waste by reworking, upcycling, and repairing old materials or items that are no longer fit for their original purpose. The new platform is based on educational principles and currently offers four free modules on crafts and sustainable design, proficiency courses, instructional visual materials, and more. After completing interactive courses and assignments, participants can obtain a certification.
The Gift(ed) platform is the result of the hard and systematic work of four partners from three different countries: Public Institution “Darnaus vystymo projektai” (Lithuania), Public Institution “Kolpingo kolegija” (Lithuania), Daugavpils School of Design and Art “Saules skola” (Latvia), and CPK (Italy). All partners worked together harmoniously throughout the project, creating a platform aimed at educating the public in the areas of recycling and the circular economy. They ultimately created a significant tool for recycling and the circular economy in education. After completing this work, three platform presentation events were held in all three partner countries.
Successful Start of the Gift(ed) Platform
In Lithuania, the dissemination event for the Gift(ed) platform took place on October 19th in Vilnius, attended by a group of people supporting sustainable consumption ideas, including university lecturers, final year students of art and design programs, Jolita Šalkauskienė, a representative of the Vilnius County Waste Management Center, and established artists who have already begun this creative journey, among others.
The presentation event for Gift(ed) was opened by the project leader, Žydrūnas Šipka, the director of Public Institution “Darnaus vystymo projektai.” After introducing the platform’s goals, advantages, and benefits, he invited all event participants to “make the platform come to life.”
As Žydrūnas Šipka stated, the original idea was conceived by Rasa Visockienė, a Lithuanian living in Ireland, who communicated with event participants in a slightly different way, through a pre-recorded but sincere and inspiring video. In this video, Rasa shared a very simple yet meaningful example of how the transformation of used items has been or still is a part of people’s daily lives and encouraged a return to this behavior, thus conserving the environment and promoting a culture of recycling. Rasa said, “My mother used to upcycle old, unusable clothes and other fabrics into rugs, so I, by cutting up clothes that were no longer suitable for wearing, made a beautiful rug for myself, which I have been using for many years.”
After Rasa’s welcome speech, three artists had the opportunity to present themselves and their work.
The first was Simona Jonikienė, known in the creative world as “Ponia Virvė,” who introduced the upcycling of cotton into knitted ribbons and decoupage techniques, showcasing the wonderful items she creates: gloves and handbags from knitted ribbons, boxes, pillow covers, table runners, single drawers made from old, unused wooden boxes, and pencil holders made from discarded items such as coffee tins, and more. As the artist herself stated, “Creating knitted ribbons from your beloved but no longer wearable clothing and giving them a second life is very simple and beneficial in many ways: emotionally, for self-realization, financially.” She shared her nearly 8-year experience and encouraged Gift(ed) event participants to reuse items and give them a completely new purpose, thus conserving the environment. At the end of her presentation, Ponia Virvė said, “I look for, buy, and sell knitted ribbons and threads to quilters, and I even send handmade products to customers in packaging that is not brand new. I believe that my example can inspire at least some of them to behave the same way.”
The second artist was Asta Gegužė, who goes by the name Geguže. She creates hammocks and other products from used people’s jeans, which she collects from residents across Lithuania. As the artist herself stated, she started her journey in the field of textile recycling at an early age when her family members, while sewing old, unused clothes, showed her that she also wanted to pursue this activity. Thus, as a mother herself, after a purchased hammock tore and needed repair, Asta decided that this would become her main occupation – making hammocks, as well as bean bags and other products from denim. During her work, Asta transforms old jeans into useful and practical items that an increasing number of Lithuanians are interested in.
The third artist, Agnė Kišonaitė, also known as AgneArt, presented herself and her work. She holds three Lithuanian records and one Guinness World Record for her creations and can be considered a prime example of the wide variety of products that can be made from different used items. During her presentation, Agnė demonstrated the sculpture “Lipstick Giant,” which was upcycled from 2,500 used lipstick tubes, and her largest lipstick sculpture, which set a Guinness World Record, was created from 18,000 used lipstick tubes. The renowned artist also showcased other impressive sculptures made from glass, used insulin syringes, metal shavings, and more. Her work clearly demonstrates that any item can be given a second life.
Introduction to the Culture of Recycling and the Circular Economy
At the event, the importance and significance of the Gift(ed) platform were celebrated by all project partners, including representatives from Saules Skola (Latvia) and Kolpingo Kolegija (Lithuania), as well as the surprise video call to Italy, where a similar dissemination event for the Gift(ed) platform was taking place simultaneously at CPK Lecce, the project’s partners.
After all speakers had their say, a panel discussion took place on the topic “Upcycling: Fashion or Necessity for Modern Society?” moderated by Juozas Meldžiukas. The discussion involved Jolita Šalkauskienė, a representative from the Vilnius County Waste Management Center, Milda Jankuvienė, a lecturer in art and design programs, student Akvilė Bernotaitė, Agnese Leikuse, a partner from Saules Skola, and one of the artists, Simona Joniekienė, known as “Ponia Virvė.” Throughout the discussion, many suggestions, ideas, and visions were expressed, which Gift(ed) partners hope to use to continue developing and improving this product for the best possible results in the field of upcycling and the circular economy. The panel discussion was summed up by Jolita Šalkauskienė, a representative of the Vilnius County Waste Management Center: “It’s heartening to see an increasing number of initiatives for reusing items, and the creation of the Gift(ed) platform is very welcome. We believe that Gift(ed) will not only share information about the importance of proper waste management and item reuse but also promote creativity, bringing people and communities together who care about the environment. We hope that the collaboration between UAB VAATC’s item sharing stations and Gift(ed) will be successful.”
At the end of the Gift(ed) platform presentation event, two practical activities were held. The first was an 11-question virtual quiz. During this quiz, the event organizers tested whether the participants had paid attention to the presentations by the speakers. Immediately after the quiz, two artists, Simona Jonikienė and Asta Gegužė, held creative “workshops” where each Gift(ed) event participant could try their hand at upcycling items in practice.
Participants not only listened to presentations about recycling and the circular economy, delved into the practical work of the artists, but also shared ideas on how to further promote these practices in Lithuania. The entire event was perfectly summarized by Regina Navickienė from Kauno kolegija in her response to one of the discussion questions, “How do you imagine the Gift(ed) platform in 10 years?” She said, “I hope that in 10 years, such a platform will not be needed because in 10 years, all Lithuanian people will be on this upcycling path.”
You can join the free platform at https://platformgifted.eu. Test groups from Lithuania, Latvia, and Italy contributed to the improvement of the platform. In Lithuania, the platform was tested by students from the Kaunas Technology Training Center.
You can find the free platform at https://platformgifted.eu. The project “Gift(ed) is funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ program. Project number 2021-1-LT01-KA220-VET-000029739.