From museum-worthy pieces to crafts sold on sites like, upcycling is one of the art world’s hottest new trends. Upcycling happens when discarded items are repurposed; it’s different from recycling because the objects aren’t changed into a different form. Craftsmen and artists have been using the concept for years- we’ve all seen handbags made from license plates and lampshades made of can tabs. Pieces from the artists listed below are a bit different, though; they’re more about form and function than anything else. Here are some of the most creative examples of upcycling we could find.

Margaux Lange’s Barbie Jewelry

No, it’s not what you might think. This artist has given a second life to old, broken and discarded Barbie dolls; her pieces have a quality that’s sardonic and nostalgic at the same time. They’re also elegant and well crafted; a piece from Margaux Lange will definitely be the centerpiece of your collection.

Giving New Meaning to the “Bicycle Seat”

Bicycle Design Furniture founder Andy Gregg has been using welding rotators  on castoff bicycle parts such as rims, frames and handlebars, building stylish contemporary seating. His collection also includes coat racks, end and coffee tables; they’re of course very well-received among cyclists, but they’re stylish enough to appeal to everyone.

Gregg’s upcycled designs are often included in exhibitions and sold in galleries, and they’ve appeared in art publications around the world. Bike furniture is available online; on the company’s website, you can even get a discount on your next order in exchange for the donation of old bicycle parts.

From Trash to Treasure

Artist Aurora Robeson has kept over 30,000 plastic bottles out of landfills over the past year by turning them into beautiful works of art. Robeson uses the bottles, junk mail and other trash to create her pieces, many of which are internally lit by solar LEDs.  Her work has been featured in group and solo gallery exhibitions, and she’s received many awards and grants.

Robots, Built from Electronic Components

Upcycler Ann P. Smith uses welding equipment to build cute little robots from broken machines and electronics, which are then sold in galleries, shops and in her store on Etsy. Each sculpture is unique, and all are adorable; Smith’s work is gathering recognition from sources such as PBS, Architectural Digest, Wired Magazine, and the Discovery Channel.

Kitty Cat Overstuffed Pillows

Upcycling is popular among craft hobbyists, too. Small-time sellers and home crafters are making nice secondary incomes by turning old fabric, lace and ribbon scraps into home décor. For instance: cat-shaped pillows made of 100% recycled silk and felted wool. They’re trimmed in lace and ribbons, with hand-embroidered accents.

The upcycling trend in art is just part of the green movement; it signals the decline of the consumer culture that has overtaken society during the last fifty years. Being green isn’t just about recycling cans and newspapers; it’s a trend that encompasses home décor and art. With items that would otherwise end up in landfills, upcycling artists are making our world just a little more colorful.

This article was written by James Harper on behalf of Westermans, retailers of welding rotators and other welding equipment. Follow this link to their website to see their welding equipment or see more on welding rotators.