Tuesday, 31 August 2010

FreeKEA


Maybes or maybes not you remember last month I announced that I've started writing for Mixtapezine as a regular contributor. Well, with a piece of irony that hasn't escaped me, that was shortly followed by the sad sad news that mixtapezine will in fact fold at the end of this year. The majorly awesome, and indeed zeitgeist-detecting, editor and creator Justine has an expanding family and no-doubt a squillion other commitments. Having achieved more than she ever dreamed of when setting out, she has made the decision to knock the zine on the head, but promises more from the mixtape brand in 2011. I wish her all the best and I'll be waiting (not so) patiently to see what she has up her sleeve for the future.

So...... more reason than ever to get hold of the penultimate printed issue of mixtapezine. Issue 13, the 'All Around The World' issue, plus various back issues are available here. And remember, there will only be one more printed issue released in the future (on October 18th) and the final issue will be available as a PDF only on December 6th. Mixtapezine has made such a significant and vibrant contribution to the international crafting, DIY and eco-minded communities over the last three years, it will be sorely missed.

So with the aim of providing a taster for Issue 13, here's my current contribution to the zine entitled 'FreeKEA', based upon a phenomenon I wrote about on this very blog a squillion years ago:

Moving to another country, particularly a country whose native language is inconveniently not your own, was never going to be a doddle. But language barriers aside, alternative culture and practices that make your day-to-day habitual life turn on its head also contribute to feelings of separation.

However, sometimes the discovery of these differences leads to something very magical. Occasionally, these new alien customs and practices turn out to be BETTER than the ones you have left behind!

I found myself in such a situation last year when I moved from UK to Barcelona with little money and few belongings. I quickly found a room in a flat, and required some furniture and other things to make my life easier and prettier. I couldn’t follow the suggestions from most of the people with whom I discussed my situation, which was to head down to IKEA. I couldn’t shake the image of streets and landfills filled with broken, cheap, unethically-made furniture remnants. When refurnishing a flat in the UK, usually I would head to a charity shop, and hunt down some suitable pre-loved pieces. Having swiftly learnt of the almost total lack of charity shops in Spain, I drew a blank. On the other side of the same coin, what do people in Barcelona do with their unwanted furniture?

In the past in Spain, it was the Catholic Church, with its greater involvement in society, which took on the responsibility for the (re)distribution of unwanted items. And yet, today here in Barcelona (and maybe the rest of Spain) there is a distinct lack, or less involvement in, organisations such as charity shops, EBay and Freecycle projects. These organisations facilitate the recycling and reusing of perfectly good furniture and items in other parts of the globe. However, from the ashes of the decline in influence of the Catholic Church, a new culture of structured sharing and disposal has risen.

Unaware of an official term for this phenomenon, I’ve come to know it as ‘Free Furniture Day’. Every area of the city has a day of the week when you can put out onto the street any unwanted/broken pieces or furniture, or indeed anything else, for the council to come and collect. Naturally the more thrifty individuals choose these days to go ‘stuff-hunting’, before the council trucks sweep away the remnants.

Upon learning of this, the thrifty reusing and recycling fan inside me became very excited. So excited in fact, that when my flatmate told me that it was our barrio’s ‘Free Furniture’ night, I went straight out, literally eight hours too early (10pm is the optimum hour in that hood), on the off-chance that the early bird does indeed catch the worm. It didn’t. But nine months, and three flats later I have definitely learnt to capitalise on these days. A chest of drawers, a decorative birdcage, half-full candles discarded by the cathedral, chairs, a vintage 1950’s Spanish board game: these are but a few of the items I have acquired (quite legally!) with no money and a bit of persistence. Obviously, unlike heading to IKEA, you can’t hit the streets with a shopping list for a wardrobe, sofa, lamp and so on. And although I’m sure, on the whole, ‘Free Furniture Days’ do little to dissuade most of the public from buying new, cheap and ultimately disposable furniture, they do provide something of an alternative for those who are willing to put the hours in to go ‘hunting’. Just remember to hunt in packs, in case that amazing find is too big to take home on your own!

5 comments:

emily said...

I much prefer the idea of second hand over IKEA any day. My dressing table might have a few dents and chips in it but I know I'm not going to see it in anyone else's house and I got it for a song!

And what a shame about Mixtape. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next! x

lenarrd said...

Oh this is an awesome article :) Germany had no shortage in the way of second hand furniture shops, there were plenty of those!

Actually a few friends of mine from Glasgow way said that people there tend to leave furniture out to be picked up, more so than I've seen here in Cardiff anyway. Perhaps the Scots have a free furniture day too?

Minnado said...

Your article is great, did you leave the furniture you had collected behind?My other half loathes Ikea with a vengence and in the past I was banned from buying furniture from there. Now I have no job I cannot afford to buy new furniture and I have to say I prefer our freecycled/charity shop and rescuedfromskip stuff. I have seem furniture left out in bigger cities here in UK and you reminded me of when my flatmate and I found a computer chair by the side of the road in North London. It was a nice adjustable one, we carried it home feeling so proud. The next day we noticed a terrible, rotting smell in the flat. Being a pair of daydreamers it took us a day to realise it came from the chair - it was so stinky we took it back to the side of the road.

Gail said...

One of my favourite pieces of furniture is an old cedar chest at the end of my bed with two large heavy drawers. It began life as a base for a wardrobe that was discarded in the street. My now husband and I restored it. When we had no real furniture it lived in the living room.

Sigrid said...

Sounds addictive! In the U.S. we call it dumpster diving, although most of the time the furniture is just left on the curb. I like the idea of it being a scheduled day!

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