Helen of KARKT Recycled Bags describes her family as nomadic and simple-living. Having spent almost two decades backpacking around the world, she says they know they don’t need much to live with, materially and financially. KARKT Recycled Bags aligns with their values: re-using, recycling and fixing as much as they can. They’ve come a long way from the day they first called a trucking company to ask if they had any unwanted truck tarps, only to be told they’re actually called ‘truck curtains’!
What do you make?
We make funky, durable messenger and sports/gear bags from recycled truck curtains, seat belts and inner tubes.
How did you get into your craft?
In Europe, they have been making recycled bags out of truck curtains for 20 years. When we were living there I was guessing that no one in New Zealand was recycling our truck curtains. And I was right. Soon after moving back to New Zealand, I launched into designing six bags to start with and the rest is history. It is such a waste to see this extremely durable material sent to the landfill, probably never breaking down. We are feeling good about diverting something so useful and repurposing it into our awesome bags.
What do people love most about what you make?
The quality and uniqueness of our bags has been very well received from such a diverse range of people, with the bonus of them being recycled. People are being educated daily on Facebook, the internet and other media about being Conscious Consumers, knowing where your purchases come from, who made them, how much they were paid, and more people are getting sick of buying cheap imported products which don’t last and need regular re-purchasing, pushing consumerism and resource use. We are being sustainable not only by diverting landfill waste but making high quality items which will last a lifetime, but also with the professional craftsmanship of the industrial machining to craft them to last.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No formal training but I consider myself reasonably creative. This is my fourth “career”: from TV/film production accountant, to massage therapist, to full time mum, to recycled bag artist!
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Let’s start with the least favourite – cleaning the truck curtains! Years of road grime to clean off before my favourite part of cutting the bag’s front pattern piece from the truck curtains’ graphics – what essentially will be that individual bag’s unique design.
What inspires you?
My two children, Miss Four and Master Three. They keep me going always. Literally and soulfully. Craft wise – I only have to drive out on the number one highway and see a beautiful truck curtain swish past and I get a burst of inspiration. Usually along with exclaiming the words “Ooh, that’s a good one!”
Describe your workspace:
Plural – workspaces! Most of the garage and back room stores the finished bags, half of my office is in the lounge, the massage room has also turned office… I’m well spread out. Very untidy most of the time with the priority being cleaning up after two littlies and a husband!
Five words that describe your mind:
What task gets priority next?
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I’m sick of buying cheap crap bags from China you have to replace all the time…” This gentleman’s well justified reason for buying our high quality gear bag, made in New Zealand. He was a very happy man.
What are you currently listening to?
Some old timer’s station my mother has found on the radio! (She lives with us.)
OCNO or PIA on the meditative days, Lauryn Hill on the ‘hard relationship’ days to Eminem for a good fast workout walk played loud in the head phones and Simon and Garfunkel on the sunny ‘days off’ at home relaxing.
What are you reading now? A nice easy Jodi Picoult.
Who is your hero/heroine? The Dalai Lama for sure.
A favourite quote: “Keep it stupid, simple.”
Do you have any pets? 5 chooks.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Just start, you will learn a lot – and enjoy it!
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A handmade toy from a market. It was wooden, not painted, and durable. We can fix it ourselves.
What’s in store for this year?
A funky new durable school bag design to be released, and working together with 3M Group to see what other materials we can recycle into our bags. Joining lots of fun markets again next summer.
To see more of Helen and family’s upcycled, gutsy and functional bags visit their Felt shop.
Helen has generously offered a great prize for one lucky Felt blog reader: one medium messenger bag of the winner’s choice from the KARKT Felt shop, worth $135 (examples pictured below). To win this great prize, leave a comment telling us what you like about Helen’s story, philosophy and products. The draw will be made on Friday 3 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.