If you have a lot of stuff laying around that you can’t bear to part with but currently has no use, than Hana would be a god send. The Jordan-based eco designer can turn tins into lanterns, skateboards into necklaces and plastic bags into notebooks. Not only is she a budding designer with great flair but she also has the time to help out on projects working with children in refugee camps, women’s rights and helping the planet. I spoke to the upcycler about all things hand-made, taking a leap into the unknown to do something you love and changing people’s perceptions of trash.
Also, check out Hana’s tin can lantern tutorial which is a great step-by-step guide to making a gorgeous lantern from a tin- but if you don’t have the time to make it yourself, you can always snap up one of Hana’s!
Where in Jordan were you born and raised and have you always wanted to be a designer?
I was born and raised in Amman, I knew since I was a child that I wanted to be an artist but the idea evolved as I grew older and I started to know myself better. Eventually I realised that I want to do something artistic that has a certain function to it and holds meaning.
Upcycling is a new and pretty word of an old concept. How did you get introduced to upcycling?
It was by coincidence that I got introduced to upcycling. I used to make jewellery out of old leather from bags or shoes or even leather seats but I didn’t know that what I was doing is called upcycling until I decided to research jewellery ideas on the internet and only then was I introduced to this term.
What is it about upcycling that you love?
I love the idea of turning something that people see as trash into something beautiful that also has a function. I also love that there are so many ways that you can upcycle something, for example I use the sewing machine to make bags and purses out of old neckties, on the other hand I use the jigsaw to make the skateboard jewellery, so there’s always a new skill to learn. And since I’m a person who doesn’t like routine this job is perfect for me!
I read that you quit your job as a graphic designer to become an upcycler. Was that a difficult decision to make?
It was difficult at first because I had to move out of my comfort zone where I get paid consistently, but I’m the kind of person that if I don’t do what I want I become miserable and depressed. So I had no other choice and in the end it’s the best decision I made.
All of your work involves turning old stuff into fabulous new stuff. Is the ‘green’ aspect of upcycling important to you?
To be honest, at first the concept of green products didn’t occur to me because like I said I didn’t know that what I was doing was called upcycling- it was just something I did to pass the time. But as the project grew bigger I realised that what I was doing could raise awareness about the environment, and being someone who has always loved nature it made sense to do it. I now go to different areas in Jordan where I give workshops on how to reuse certain things that harm the environment like plastic bags and bottles. I started reading more about how those things harm the environment and try to come up with ideas that can help prevent those problems.
What has the reaction to your work been like from your family and the wider community?
The reaction has always been positive, my family is very supportive and they encouraged me all the way- they even helped me build a workshop. People have been bringing me all their “trash” which is something I never thought I would appreciate but I really do, because now people think twice before throwing something away that could have potential to be turned into something beautiful.
And finally, what’s your dream project?
Opening a shop is my dream project. This is actually how it all started, I was sitting with a friend one day and it hit me- I told him I’m going to quit my job and open a shop. I didn’t know anything else back then, I didn’t know it will have to do with upcycling I just knew that this is what I wanted to do.
For more Eco-Designers from the Middle East see: