Featured seller: Karkt

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’!

KARKT recycled bags medium messenger

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.

KARKT recycled gesr MAN bag 2

KARKT recycled bags messengers

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?

Karkt recycled bags workshop

Karkt recycled bags large messenger

Karkt recycled man bag

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.)

Music Tastes?
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.

KARKT recycled bag large messenger 2

KARKT recycled gear MAN bag

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.

Karkt recycled truck photo

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16 Responses to “Featured seller: Karkt”

  1. Heather says:

    Love the funky, bright designs! I like the recycling philosophy, and also that people would probably be surprised to know they are recycled, because they look to be very high quality. Very inspiring story!

  2. Great product and work philosophy. I love that you have designed the bags to last a really long time, quality not quantity. Well done!

  3. Katie says:

    I love the upcycling to make a stylish product :)

  4. Carmen says:

    Very, very cool. And a great way to reduce waste. :D

  5. penelope says:

    I love everything about this….
    i am trying hard to taper of my consumerism and that of my children’s too.

  6. Knitwitnz says:

    Totally impressed by these bags (and the lady who makes them!) Fantastic idea to use perfectly good bits of material that have done their dash in their first job and turn them into something new. And what would make a better and sturdier bag strap than a seat belt! Love the semi industrial design and functionality and the quirky colours. These bags seem to have everything you’d want for a bag and never get (easy care water proof outside, easy to close, sturdy strap and even a hook to put your key on!!)
    I’ll never look at a truck the same way again! Good luck for your business :)

  7. Naomi says:

    I love Helen’s get up and give it a go philosophy, very inspiring!

  8. Joce says:

    I love that she is onto her 4th ‘career’ and is making such an awesome product – life must never be boring! I have seen this type of bag product in Switzerland and have been waiting to have a kiwi version to buy! :)

  9. Katrina Goodwin says:

    I love a good durable satchel to hold all my Mum stuff, work stuff, and especially all my diabetic gear. I know something as tough as your chosen materials would keep my spikey needles safe out of harms way and still let me run when I need too! Good stuff!

  10. Rebecca Girvan says:

    Love that the old logos/designs aren’t recognisable but they’ve got a unique style in each piece. These bags look fantastic – stylish and durable.

  11. John says:

    I love this dedication to a damn good thing! Repurposing these truck curtains is a massive step in the right direction. It makes me imagine how many tonnes of those cheap as chips disposable bags/whatever from elsewhere have been shielded from the road and weather by this far superior product. Hats off to you for really getting in to it; too many people would have said no when they realised that they had to clean them first. Your creativity and elbow grease has gone in to creating something truly great :) Keep it up!

  12. Deborah Moss says:

    I love Helen’s humour, enthusiasm, innovation and obvious flair for design. Above all, I LOVE that these are made from upcycled objects – proving that design does not have to be at the expense of the environment. KARKT’s philosophy is a great example for businesses and the public in general and a great alternative for people wanting to buy eco-conscious items. I LOVE the vibrant colours too – unisex – very cool.

  13. Cat MacKenzie says:

    Recycling is the way to go, great for people to see it in action. Love the idea of the school bags especially as they will all be unique and waterproof. Hopefully suitable for bike riders. A bit of recycled reflective material would be fantastic addition. Looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

  14. Jillian says:

    Appreciate the recycling aspect of this product and the design which is obvious in each one. Looking forward to more coming in the school bag line!

  15. Vynka says:

    What a wonderful product! My husband and I have recently decided to try and make purchases that are not only sustainable, but gorgeous, functional and wherever possible, locally made. Karkt certainly ticks all these boxes!
    Well done on your exciting products… We’d certainly love to be be a winner of the medium messenger bag (moving to making ethical purchases is awesome in every way, except economically!)
    Will be spreading the news about these bags, too!

  16. Jenni says:

    I love the idea of someone using something that could be considered ‘unusual’ and perhaps even ‘unuseable’ to make such lovely looking bags. Helen and Karkt are doing great work using a material that I suspect would not get recycled so usefully otherwise. Lovely!

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