Meet a Maker: Agatha Lee
Meet A Maker: Agatha Lee
Please introduce yourself and what you do.
Hi, I’m Agatha Lee. I was working in the environmental sector for over 10 years specialising in policy, environmental disclosure and waste management (my last job was with National Environment Agency). I founded Green Issues by Agy with a friend (who later left the blog) in 2008, and it has now grown into a platform generating awareness of the environmental benefits of upcycling clothes and fabric hacking which involves taking old garments and, through design, transforming them into something new or more wearable. When I’m not reconstructing clothes into something new, I am busy sharing fabric hacking tips on the blog and at workshops.
I really enjoy it when I marry environmental concerns with sewing, and now that I’m venturing into sewable electronics, I see the potential with wearable electronics in not only improving the environment but our lifestyles.
Professional training or self taught?
Upcycling clothing is not something new. In fact, my mum and grandparents were doing it before the shopping malls came along! I was taught to sew by my mother (she made my wedding dress!) and we did a little sewing in secondary school. But I am still discovering and learning new techniques.
Please describe your workspace.
I have no defined workspace. It’s anywhere in my flat, so you can imagine the messy trail I leave behind!
Do you work alone or with others?
In terms of upcycling garments, I have been working alone and most of them have been for family use. Since dabbling with wearable technology, I have collaborated with others, including Sustainable Living Lab. I find that I get a lot more inspiration from talking to others and sharing ideas. It also helps as other makers encourage you to carry on!
How does your DIY approach differs from commercial or industry versions?
You could call what I do “Slow Fashion”, the anti-thesis to “Fast Fashion” which has now taken over our malls. Fast fashion describes the fashion industry that churns out collections every two weeks. They are able to do this due to low cost labour and their logistics. Obviously making so many clothes to entice people to buy them not only creates a burden on our environment, but disconnects people with the garments they wear. I think people who upcycle their own clothes or even make them from scratch have a deeper relationship with their wardrobe!
Have you sold or commercialised your work?
I hold workshops and talks on my passion.
How did your most recent project come about? How was it conceptualized and how long did it take from idea to launch?
My latest is the blinky bike bag. It was made from a broken umbrella and electronics were incorporated into it so that the safety lights would turn on if the environment was dark. I made the bike bag mainly because my husband always forgets his bike reflectors.
The blinky bike bag project was recently featured in the Arduino blog. How do you feel about it?
It felt good to be able to share on Arduino blog. I got a lot of positive feedback and it has encouraged me to further explore integrating fabric hacking and electronics
What did you learn from this project?
To persevere and be patient. The project also taught me that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and learn new things!
How do you use social media to engage your community/network?
Previously the majority of my readers were from overseas. But I have found that engaging the Singapore community requires physically engagement first through collaborations and events such as the Singapore Mini Maker Faire, Handmade Movement and Maker Meetup.
Do you see your creative/maker practice as leisure or work? Why?
I see it is as leisure first and then work. If it was the other way round, I think I would lose passion and just be creating things for the sake of creating them.
Who are some of your heroes/idols/inspiration?
Orsola de Castro. She is an ethical fashion designer and founder of From Somewhere. She uses textile off-cuts to make her fashion collections. I also admire Francesca Rosella, who is the Creative Director of Cute Circuit, a wearable technology fashion house.
What future projects can we expect?
I hope to incorporate more electronics into my upcycled creations. I think they just might be the thing to give upcycled garments that cool factor.
How can we find out more about you online?
Check out my blog at www.greenissuessingapore.blogspot.com
Facebook >> greenissuesbyagy
I was interviewed by Channel News Asia “It Figures: Outliers – How to turn your clothes into new ones” but the video was taken down!
Agatha will be featuring her Arduino Lilypad blinky bike bag at the upcoming Arduino Day on 29 March 2014 at the IDA Labs@National Design Centre Level 2 & 3.
For more information and registration, please check out http://arduinoday.peatix.com