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“A world where there are no measurements and no standards, where the ugly meets the beautiful, and where lost and unnecessary items get a new meaning. All these things make my project different and alive” – that’s the creator Mariya and her brand Upcycling Freaks. Get a closer look at her dynamic, vibrant, and colorful thoughts.

Mariya, tell us about yourself. How was the Upcycling Freaks brand name born, and is there a story behind it? 

My name is Mariya, and I am 39 yo. Till the 24th of February 2022, I lived in Kyiv with my family (my beloved husband and our two daughters). Now I live in Lithuania and appreciate all the support we receive from Lithuanians.

My Upcycling project was born four years ago when I was eight months pregnant and had some free time. At that time, I started looking into ecological topics, all the recycling and upcycling issues, and global pollution problems. Thus, one day, when I was collecting my eldest daughter’s toys around the house, I came up with the idea of making a Hello Kitty necklace. I had 100% support from my husband, who helped me to buy the necessary tools and to this day helps me to make the holes in the toys. So it all started… The brand name was born at the same time – it just came into my head as a perfect explanation of the concept of what I was planning to do.

Where do you get inspiration for your work? Do thoughts and ideas come from outside or inside?

Both, I would say. Any part of my day can inspire my next piece of jewelry. My kids especially bring a lot of this kind of inspiration ☺. By the way, quite often, new creation comes from a personal experience that helps me to digest it and let go.

How would you describe your relationship with jewelry?

I have always loved and still love jewelry as a statement in an outfit. For some time, I adored COS jewelry. But now my favorite jewelry brand is Upcycling Freaks (lol).

Your creativity seems to have its own rules and principles, and it seems to lift you into another world. How would you describe your world as a creator and the world of the Upcycling Freaks brand? What makes it alive and unique?

A world where there are no measurements and no standards, where the ugly meets the beautiful, and where lost and unnecessary items get a new meaning. I guess all these things make my project different and alive.

How do you choose the materials you use to create your jewelry?

The critical criteria are that the item must be used or pre-loved, as this is an essential part of the concept. Here I have to bring you back to the meaning of upcycling, which means the creative reuse or transformation of waste into something new. I usually find my treasures in flea markets, online resale platforms, and second-hand shops.

And do you think about the person who will wear your jewelry? Tell us about him. 

First of all, my customer is an intelligent person with a fantastic sense of humor. They like to express their opinion, and wearing a unique piece of jewelry is a very appropriate way to say it. And indeed, my customer is an eco-conscious person who is keen on waste sorting and upcycling.

Now your work lives between two countries: Ukraine and Lithuania? What differences or perhaps only similarities do you see between these countries?

I see some differences. For example, here in Lithuania, people are more into Scandinavian minimalistic style, and my freaky style here seems a bit too much. But anyway, I have managed to find new customers here, and I appreciate their support and attention to my creative work. Here I would like to thank popup.lt for inviting me to the platform and for your cool events ☺.

And how do the other creators and designers you know from Ukraine live now? What cities do they work in?

I can tell you that such turbulent times are tough for creative people with tender minds. Some creators I knew and worked with before the war have moved and are still in Europe, and some of them have returned to Ukraine. From my personal experience, I can say that during the first months after the war started, it was difficult to create anything because there was no elementary feeling of personal security. 

It would be interesting to hear what the design community looked like in Ukraine before the war.

The design community in Ukraine is vibrant and very diverse! And I must say that most of them are now united by one goal – the victory of Ukraine in this bloody russian-initiated war. In recent months, several examples of creative forces have come together and collaborated to raise funds for the Ukrainian army, people from occupied territories, or active war zones.

What role do you think the design community plays or should play in the face of war? Or perhaps we should draw a line between art, design, and politics?

I believe that art is another way of spreading a message particularly relevant in times of war. Therefore, every artist should creatively use their media to tell the public about what is happening in Ukraine. Speaking about Ukraine, unfortunately, the war is not over. russia is still killing Ukrainian people (children, civilians, soldiers) and destroying Ukrainian cities. Many Ukrainians are doing their bit to bring us closer to our victory (donating, raising charity funds, volunteering, etc.). 

What are your plans for the time ahead, or do you focus more on the present moment and leave the future to the future?

Since the 24th of February, I have found it challenging to plan for the future. I live here and now, planning no more than one additional month ahead. And you know, this skill has a high value…