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Upcycling then for the war, now for the planet

The Coquitlam Heritage Society has a month-long exhibit at the Poirier library branch about upcycling over the years.
Curator Tannis Koskela, the heritage assistant at Mackin House Museum, looks at the exhibit "Upcycling: Back to Basics" at the Coquitlam Public Library's Poirier branch.

How we did more with less — and are doing more with more — are the themes of a new exhibit at the Coquitlam Public Library this month.

Until April 30, the Coquitlam Heritage Society has two cabinets at the Poirier library branch that showcase upcycling during the Second World War, and today’s efforts.

Upcycling (aka creative reusing) was seen as patriotic during government-sanctioned rationing of the 1940s, and people patched, darned and sewed to be resourceful and not to waste materials.

Curator Tannis Koskela, the heritage manager for exhibits at Mackin House Museum, offers a few examples from the society collection such spinning tops made out of thread spools, a handmade toy truck and a teddy bear body attached with a doll head.

By contract, in the second cabinet, Koskela demonstrates how we are now upcycling to save the planet, with so much excess: There’s a “reimagined” sweater — made exclusively for the show by Kamloops artist Kirsten Atkins of KLA Originals, of which materials were headed for the dump — plus a piece of wood reclaimed from the Fraser Mills sawmill, in Coquitlam, among other things.

Titled Upcycling: Back to Basics, the small exhibit was supposed to be part of last year’s Home Front display but was cancelled because of the pandemic.

• Join the Coquitlam Heritage Society on Earth Day — April 22 — at noon for a 30-minute presentation about upcycling from Denise Corcoran (Thrifty By Design/Crafting With Crap). The free workshop is via the society’s Facebook page; visit to register.



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