Upcycling at the community shed

Whether you call it "upcycling," "repurposing," or "creative reuse," the results are the same: Through hard work and imagination, items that would otherwise head to the landfill are given new life. The men and women at the Community Shed are masters of turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure.

Operating out of the Cayman Catboat Club’s workshop in George Town, the Community Shed was founded by Mark Nicoll and Kevin Ashworth as a way to bring the community together in the spirit of collaboration and craftsmanship.

“Everything we use and create at the shed contains upcycled materials, ranging from pallet wood to driftwood," Nicoll says. "Groups or companies donate materials or we retrieve them from dumpsters. Members either bring in their own projects or pitch in on whatever project we are doing for local charities who need something built or repaired.”

A practicing social worker, Nicoll says the shed movement started in Australia as a way to improve the health and well-being of older men through crafts and social interaction.

“The shed movement has now grown to the point where they are found in communities across Australia, the U.K., Ireland, Canada and beyond. Over time, many of them opened their doors to both men and women and called themselves community sheds,” he says. “When I arrived on island, I wanted to find a workshop, so I started asking others if they were interested in planting a shed here.”

The Cayman Catboat Club stepped in to solve the challenge of finding a work space, and now the local “shedders” can be found there on Wednesdays and Saturdays, working to transform donated or salvaged materials into new products, or to repair items that would otherwise be tossed.

“We recently upcycled a used wooden dog travel crate into a doghouse, and a coffee table storage trunk into a feral cat feeding station,” Nicoll says. “Our water cooler was salvaged from a dumpster and only needed the feed tube tightened in order to work. We salvaged kitchen cupboards to use as bases for work benches and storage. All of these materials were saved from the landfill."

For Nicoll, the benefits of upcycling are three-fold: reducing waste, building community and supporting local charities. 

“If you need inspiration, tools, raw materials or motivation, join us at the shed,” he says. “The more the merrier."



This article appears in print in the March 2020 edition of Camana Bay Times.