Up-cycled |Recycled |Art &Design

Thrift Design

Lucy Ann Wray, BA hons Designer Maker

I explore and develop unwanted materials to create art from salvaged resources.

My creative practice and Thrift Design

If someone asked me if I’ve always been an up-cycler, I’d say no, but on reflection I suppose I always have. Working as a community artist I regularly visited the local Recycling Resource Centres to source materials for big creative engagement projects but I never saw it as ‘Up-cycling’.

A turning point for me was probably in 2012 when I listened to a TED talk on Up-cycling. The speaker explained what ‘Up-cycling means and why it’s better than Recycling*. This really struck a cord as I had always had a problem with waste and a delight in finding new purposes for things that had come to the end of their ‘first life’.

I trained in 3D Design at the Manchester School of Art where I studied materials. I love experimenting and breaking rules; there is hardly a piece of equipment in my studio that I use for its intended purpose; I have a trouser press, which I use to fuse plastic and a soldering iron I use to cut fabric, amongst other things.

The idea for Thrift Design began to take shape in 2011 when I decided to embark on a personal creative journey to ‘find my style’.

Combining my love of experimenting and braking rules with the purpose of up-cycling gave me my reason to create.

Up-cycling also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless and/or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

Where do my Materials come from?

Sourcing materials is a fundamental part of my creative practice. I’m always on the look out for new things to work with.

I hate to say that I make my pieces with rubbish because I feel it devalues the materials and suggests there is something wrong with them. It’s quite often the case that the materials are just over orders, off cuts, the wrong size or they are in the wrong place and it would cost too much to move them.

Over the years I have developed relationships with local businesses and this is where the majority of my materials come from. My wood pieces are sourced from a local wood workshop and my paper and fabric come from a variety of interior design shops. As well as visiting my local Recycling Resource centre for interesting stuff I also occasionally scour car boots and charity shops. But my favorite materials to work with are generally those provided by a client commission; objects of significance like an old whisky bottle label or Great Grandma’s lace sample are woven into a visual memory to be displayed and remembered. These pieces always feel special to make.


At art fairs and exhibitions I’m often asked where my ideas come from.

My main source of inspiration comes from the colours and textures present in our natural environment. Something that catches my attention repeatedly is the way colours fade away on a misty morning. The light flattens everything so the landscape appears to be a series of cutout layers or stage sets.

My approach to representing what I see in the natural world has been described as formalist. I use scraps of colour and texture like bold brush strokes to create structure and depth. I try to see beyond what a piece of scrap was, to see what it can be. My pieces are very much informed by the materials I collect.


Who am I?

Artist, Sculptor, Crafter, Creative Facilitator, Project Manager, Wife, Mother, Friend – I don’t fit neatly into one category or stereotype. I’m a happy Creative living and working in Lancashire, England.

I’m inspired by the philosophy of Sustainable design which works to design physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

I love to create environmentally conscious art pieces, craft items and occasionally deliver arts & craft classes.

In my spare time I enjoy exploring the outdoors, camping and spending time with my family.