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
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
"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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit her Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/wastenotwantnotjnrs