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Waste Not Want Not

24131-Active -March -2016-EDM-Waste -not

Meet Ali - one woman who upcycled her life.

This month Fort Regent's, Emma Turner, Social Media manager and blog writer, sat down with Ali from Waste Not Want Not, one of the Fort's very creative kid's activity providers, and quizzed her on all things about recycling, challenges, motivation and what makes her tick. Take note guys this could be you!

I'm sure we all remember The Wombles (or maybe that's me showing my age) and if you venture into Ali's Waste Not, Want Not workshop you could imagine Tobermory and Orinoco busying away creating some magic, just like they did every week, delighting children where the only limits of what could be achieved are the bounds of their imagination.

Today in the workshop Amy, one of Ali's assistants, and her daughter Jasmine who is also a helper from time to time, are engrossed in creating huge letters for a children's party, there are large amounts of the brightest yellow and glowing silver paint being applied and she looks insanely happy beavering away to Justin Bieber - who wouldn't be!

I'm interested to know where the inspiration came from for this wondrous world, which is the workshop, and Ali recounts a journey of determination, taking chances and following your dreams.

"It kind of started a long long time ago when I fixed things out of necessity but also because that's what I believed in". 

Ali had always enjoyed finding creative solutions to problems so if a chair broke how could it be fixed or if it can't be fixed what else can we make from it?

"Over time friends began noticing the things I was making and began asking me to make items for them; encouraged by this I began making things, with my husband, John, to sell in local markets and Waste Not, Want Not was born.  Over the course of the following few years we got to a point where our home was so full of projects we needed to find another space to work in so we moved into a workshop at Devils Hole."

With no formal training in furniture design or creative arts and from a financial background how did Ali manage to get where she is now?

"It didn't happen overnight but I think one of the most important things to me was creating pieces that made me happy and being realistic about what the outcome might be - not putting pressure on yourself, just make it and if you like it great and if you don't, well you don't."

This letting things go where they go approach paid dividends when last year Ali was made redundant and was at a crossroads, find another job, or, make upscaling a full time job.  Ali chose the latter and has never looked back, but that's not to say it was an easy journey.

"Finding a space was obviously a key part of the process, it needed to be accessible, affordable and appropriate to the work I do - when the opportunity came up at Fort Regent it was a perfect fit - even the Fort has been recycled many times!  The other biggest challenge was getting to understand all the regulations surrounding providing activities for children - it was a steep learning curve - and getting over hurdles needed some juggling but we got there in the end!"

Ali spent some time showing me all the amazing things kids have made at the workshop and it's truly remarkable to see all the love and effort that has gone into these cherished items.  Ali explains that this creativity is the highlight of the venture.

"When the children come in I tell them they can make whatever they want, sometimes they are quite surprised 'Really, anything?', some just get stuck in straight away and for others the idea of grabbing whatever you like and just sticking stuff together, just because you can, takes a little more time.  I wholeheartedly feel that the children are the leaders, I can give them ideas but it's all their own work and their imagination.  I try to step in only if they come across a tricky bit with making their vision and need some help to achieve it."

I wondered what happens with all these crafted items when the kid's go home and Ali is delighted to tell me that very often the children return with the toys or inventions they have made or send in pictures to put on the Facebook page.

"It's a genuinely touching moment when a child returns to the workshop to make something new and brings back something they made previously because they want to share it with you and they are proud of what they have accomplished.  I have children who come back regularly; you can see their skills improving and their projects becoming more advanced as they grow in confidence.  They breeze in the door, roll up their sleeves and just start building; they have become part of the fabric of the space, just like they were creating in their own home - which is fantastic."

As a parent myself the appeal of the workshop is immediate - no mess at home and Ali agrees. 

"If you are a busy parent, perhaps with children of different ages, being able to provide a regular creative outlet is going to be problematic, all the different equipment, materials, safety and mess just before teatime is enough to make all of us think twice, especially if you don't feel you are particularly creative yourself.  At the workshop you don't have to worry about all those things and what we have noticed recently is that children are coming to us to complete creative homework projects for school - it's been really interesting to see how the children have approached these."

It would be easy to think that as Ali has been creative all her life and the ideas just flow out of her when she is looking at future recycling projects for the workshop but surprisingly that's not the case, partly because she believes so passionately on the ethos behind Waste Not, Want Not.

"It would be easy for me to recycle all of the ideas, rotate them, but that's not what the workshop is about, it's about imagination and valuing what you have and encouraging people to think differently.  For example, for our children's parties we ask the birthday child how they want to theme it and some themes are very popular, such as Frozen or Minecraft, and as we bespoke each party, thinking up new ideas can be challenging creatively and we get incredible feedback from the children and parents so it's 100% worth putting that extra effort in so the children all get something unique."

So where will the world of upcycling take Ali to next?  Is there room for more recycling at the Fort or in people's lives?  Ali believes there is, the demand for parties is so high she is now looking at bringing parties to peoples' home or perhaps expanding the workshop space but she also feels that bringing adults into the mix would be a step forward.

"I think as adults we sometimes feel that we can't just do something for fun, there has to be a tangible goal, particularly if you are making something.  I'd like to challenge that thought and ask why, why can't we as adults just play, just make something and see where it takes you - I did and I have no regrets."

Wise words indeed and I will certainly be joining one of Ali's adult workshops so I can have my own special moment of sharing my creation with my family.

Ali's Waste Not Want Not workshop is situated in the Piazza Area at Fort Regent.  There is a mix of both drop in and fixed sessions as well as pre-bookable parties.  For details contact Ali via her email: or visit her Facebook site:


Written by Emma Turner at 09:00



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