We are the Upcyclers Interview No. 2- Karl Topee, Half Pint Salvage

Artist Name, Location:
Karl Topee, Seattle, WA

Half Pint Salvage
Half Pint Salvage on Etsy
Half Pint Review (Blog)
Half Pint on Facebook

What is your craft?
I create one-of-a-kind, stylistic and functional home décor items using salvaged and vintage materials.

Do you have a favorite medium or item to make?

I love making all my items! But my personal favorite is the vintage window chalkboard. The craftsmanship that went in to making these old windows is something you don’t see today. And it’s incredibly satisfying to take something with such rich history and recycle it in to something useful and visually appealing.

Tell us how you got your start upcycling and creating.

I always envisioned my space looking a certain way, but could never really find creative items that matched my design aesthetic. So out of necessity, I started creating those items myself (using salvaged materials, of course). At first, my recycling pastime was merely a hobby. But slowly, I began to realize that many people struggle with decorating their space. From experience, I know that it’s hard to find that perfect look—a look that represents not only the functionality you need from home décor, but also the uniqueness of your personality. So helping people achieve this balance (through my creations) became my goal.

What brings you inspiration?

Vintage materials are my greatest inspiration: old windows, metallic hardware, rusty hooks and all types of wood are the building blocks in my imagination. I’m also inspired by bold, bright color combination. Recycling, especially in regards to home décor, can take on a drab look. So I think it’s important to add a little “pop” of color every now and then.

What’s your #1 tip for finding upcyclables?

Go to craft shows or farmer’s markets (as often as possible) and support local artists. There are so many creative people out there; and lots of them are now recycling and reusing all sorts of materials. You’ll find amazing, handmade, one-of-a-kind goods—and you’ll be supporting a small business too.

Half Pint Salvage at the Fremont Market in Seattle, WA

What things do you do to market your business?

Currently, I’m a member of “The Artisans Collective” (http://www.theartisanscollective.com/), a group of Etsy sellers promoting each other through treasuries, blogs and social media/advertising. I also blog about my favorite Etsy sellers and the items they create (http://www.halfpintreview.blogspot.com/).

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) is a given these days. But online galleries, such as PoppyTalk and IndieFixx have also brought customers in to my Etsy shop.

Any advice for newbie artists/crafters/upcyclers?

Just keep making stuff. The mistake I made was thinking I had to have confidence before I started creating things. I couldn’t have been more wrong because my confidence eventually came from creating and failing over and over—and then continuing to create despite those setbacks.

And don’t be afraid to say “Hey, this may not be a full-time gig…yet”. It’s reality. You need money to make money. So getting a part-time job to supplement your income doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it just means you’re smart.

Topee's home studio

If you could jump into a Delorean (in Back to the Future style) and find yourself in the year 2020, how would your business have changed? How would it be the same?

I think my products would be smaller, and in general, a bit easier to re-create. Producing one-of-a-kind items sets me apart from a lot of my competition—but because certain materials are in short supply, some of my best-selling items are hard to reproduce.

By 2020, I hope to have some advanced carpentry skills. That way I could build more from scratch. I think it would give me so much more flexibility, in terms of using salvaged and vintage materials in new, more creative ways.

For the most part, I think I’ll still be creating chalkboards. They’re timeless…I hope!

On Sundays, Karl can be found at the Fremont Market in Seattle, WA. Half Pint Salvage was recently featured by Apartment Therapy/Re-Nest's "Handmade Home" feature. This past May, Half Pint Salvage was a vendor at the Renegade Craft Fair in Ausitn, Tx.

Interested in becoming a featured Upcycler on Mostaza Seed? Email inquiries to sbradac@mostazaseed.com

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