Art from upcycled everyday objects by Karen Ryan

Second Hand upcycled everyday objects by Karen Ryan

Unwanted junk is the medium of choice for British designer Karen Ryan, who graduated from the RCA in 2001. She first encountered raw materials such as broken televisions and abandoned furniture in a long alleyway behind her grandmother’s flat. Seeing furniture from her childhood discarded inspired her to subvert the cycle of consumer culture. From abandoned old chairs to vintage plates, Ryan uses a range of techniques to imbue them with new meaning. Particularly evocative, is her body of work called Second Hand. These are ordinary pieces of china which have parts of their decorative designs concealed or stripped away to reveal words that have dark emotional overtones. Troubling stories of domestic life are suggested by words such as ‘Guilty’, ‘Vanity’, ‘Fear’ and ‘Lies’. Pictured above: Second Hand ‘Domestic Love’ (2011)

Furniture and other upcycled everyday objects feature in works such as Whittle no.3 (2010), where she took a pen knife to an old chair bought for £5 from a second hand shop. Portrait Chair (2012) embodies the identity of the artist as a consumer. Pre-owned leather, buttons and wooden sculptural objects that come together to form a strangely anthropomorphic sculpture. Our favourite piece is her Custom Made Chair from 2011. The bespoke chair is comprised of three mass produced chairs which are sprayed in colours influenced by her childhood love of Corgi toy racing cars. Via Design Boom




 Second Hand (2007)



Whittle no.3 (2010)


Body (2011) installation in Portsmouth, UK


Portrait Chair (2012)



Custom Made Chair (2011)

 Images via Karen Ryan and Design Boom

Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).