The right word: Upcycle, Recycle or Restore?

When I bought this Dooney & Bourke bag, it didn’t look like this…

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It was a very scuffed up, abused, tan/camel leather that, when I saw it, my heart sank when I could see and feel how well it’s made. It’s a very strong and sturdy bag.  Certainly there must be something I can do to salvage it, right?

When I got the bag home the first thing I did before bringing it into my apartment was to wash down the leather with saddle soap, and bleach the inner lining. Such a pretty, supple leather.

As luck would have it, one of the first people I met in my new, rural, farming town was a leather worker whose job is to keep his employers’ saddles and leather goods in top shape. I gave him a call, he invited me to bring the bag to him, and with a smile he handed me everything I need to “practice a new trade”. I’m very thankful. It was a fun project and I’d like to do it again. The question is, what was I doing? Was I Upcycling? Recycling? Restoring?

Upcycle: Reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.

Recycle: Convert (waste) into reusable material. Return (material) to a previous stage in a cyclic process. Use again.

Restore: Bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); reinstate.

Well I guess I didn’t restore it because my Dooney & Bourke bag used to be a tan/camel colored pebbled leather.  I removed some of the pebbling and created new texture in place of it, and also significantly changed the color.  It’s actually much prettier now than it was in it’s previous state, even when it was new.

I’m pretty sure I recycled my Dooney & Bourke bag.  I converted an old, abused bag and returned it to a state where it can be used again.

I’m positive I upcycled it!  To me, this bags appearance is far more attractive than the original.  If I were shopping at Dooney & Bourke, I would place a higher value on the custom red-brown leather bag.

Anyway, with a little guidance from my new friend, I stripped the bag, reconditioned it, treated it, gave it a marbled blend with leather paint and polish, antiqued it, then polished it.  It took about 3 days between drying times and sleep.  Since it was the weekend, I didn’t do much else so it took about 30 hours of actual hands on (manual labor) time.

What do you think?  Is it upcycled, recycled, restored or maybe a little of all of the above?

  •  Side note – whoever programs spellcheck for the world needs to update his dictionary.  “upcycle” does not need to be corrected.  It is correct, in every sense of the word.

 

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