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Find: Free stuff, cheap stuff, stuff for life

a building in a woodland area, with a sign attached to the outside which reads 'forest fringe'
  • Written byGary Campbell
  • Published date 25 November 2018
a building in a woodland area, with a sign attached to the outside which reads 'forest fringe'
Performance designers often need to think on their toes when sourcing materials.

Here’s some top tips from Gary that will help you get creative whatever subject you are studying.

Making art can be expensive; the cost of materials and tools can limit your creativity. But there is potential in everyday materials and products outside of their intended use and there is no shortage of ‘stuff’ in the world. Increasingly, people are looking to find new homes for their un-wanted stuff. This is where you come in.

Free stuff- reclaimed materials

two images, one displaying a motorbike tyre, the other a cylinder with an abstract red pattern painted on
Students at the International Festival of Illustration, Hartlepool reclaimed materials from the beach to illustrate the heritage of the area. Photograph: UAL Insights

Websites like Freecycle, Gumtree and Freegle post free stuff every day but you need to be quick on the mark to find some of the best stuff. Please note – you should be sensible when arranging to pick stuff up. Plan your route carefully, don’t go alone and make sure you have appropriately-sized transport and storage.

You can always find free packaging materials on any high street, retail or industrial complex. Fridge boxes from Curry’s, cardboard tubes from carpet stores, coffee stirrers and straws from coffee shops etc… You only have to ask!

TIP: Ask nicely and always drop in the line “it’s for an art project” as this suggests you aren’t planning to make a profit from the free stuff people are giving to you and helps explain why you want a 100 shoeboxes in the first place.

Cheap stuff

a screenshot of google maps with an image of a person holding shells with text that reads 'mudlarking on the thames'
Check the RE-search map for some ideas and add any sites for sourcing sustainable, cheap materials that you know. Image: RE-search

If you can’t find things for free there are still lots of options for sourcing materials cheaply.

Pound stores on almost every high street might be the obvious choice but generally the quality is poor. Genuinely useful and surprising things can be found on eBay, Friday ad, Gumtree, charity shops, car boot sales, markets and auctions.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to haggle. Decide how much you want to pay for something. Ask how much it is, and offer a little less than you want to pay. The stall-holder may offer a counter offer but it will generally be at least 10% less than the original price.

Share stuff

a screenshot from a website advertising 'free wellys for art projects'
Screen shot from Lewes Freegle website. Gary used these welly boots for a festival installation, you can see the results in the feature image to this article. Image: Freegle

Your existing networks, both online and local are also a good source of free stuff. Ask your parents/grandparents what they have stored away. Check at your school or college too, there is always a secret cupboard full of stuff people have forgotten was there.

Try offering something you no longer need and see if this leads to your friends offering their stuff too.

Check out @REsearchbooty for some ideas

Search by postcode to find your own Freegle site online

Stuff for Life

a photo of a mass amount of broken old computer equipment dumped in a metal container
Technology waste piles

‘Built-in obsolescence’ is the term for when companies deliberately design a short life span for their products, to ensure you need to replace them. Apple computers are well known for this practice. You can counter this by purchasing products that are designed and built for a lifetime or have replaceable components, which allow the product to be updated rather than replaced. In the long run this could save you money.

So remember, there is free stuff everywhere and it all has potential. Found some free and interesting materials? If you can’t use it someone else might be able to.

Share your findings on RE-search Tumblr

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