Beautiful and useful inspiration

If you’re wondering who is behind the talented hands in our #beautifulanduseful videos, here’s your chance to meet the maker…

Charis Williams – aka the Salvage Sister – is a professional artist, up-cycler and TV expert on Kirstie Allsopp’s Fill Your House for Free. When she’s not running after her five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter at their Brighton home, Charis is managing her own business, raiding skips, painting life-size dinosaurs and bringing vintage glamour to the art of reclaiming junk.

Here, we find out more...

    How did you get involved in up-cycling?

    Charis Williams

    My mum owns a fancy dress shop called 'Revamp' that started off when I was just five years old as one of the first vintage shops in Brighton. We used to go off to places like Amsterdam together in search of 1960s and 70s clothes, platform shoes and things like that. I’ve learnt about bartering and my creativity and style has really been nurtured from following my mum around. But my DIY skills come from my dad. He’s a builder and decorator so he can turn his hand to anything.

    I’ve always been interested in drawing and arts, but really got interested in up-cycling when I started running a reclamation yard in Brighton in 2008. I really love taking someone’s ‘junk’ and changing its purpose so it’s useful but it also looks pretty and cool.

    How did you make the step from junk yards to TV?

    Charis Williams

    I’ve always hated waste but when I started at the reclamation yard, that’s when I realised just how much stuff was getting chucked away, especially construction and textile materials. I started a campaign to raise awareness about it and in 2011 I was asked to present a TV show called 'The New Reclaimers' on UKTVhome.

    From there, I was invited to become an expert on Channel 4’s 'Fill Your House for Free' with Kirstie Allsop. They wanted someone that knew about salvaging and they liked me because I’ve got this glamorous look but I’m also a bit of a tomboy.

    And now the Trust! Tell us about making the videos

    #beautifulanduseful @nationaltrust

    I’ve never worked with stop motion before so that was really interesting for me and I want to do more of it now. To create the bottle LED lamp, we actually had to film it in reverse. So I made it first then took it all apart… then put it all back together again after the filming. It was quite challenging getting all the parts to fit together, but it looked really stunning once it was done.

    I love inspiring people to just have a go at up-cycling, so I hope people will want to get involved after they watch the videos. I see myself as an ambassador for reuse. I want to show people they can have a beautiful and unique interior on a budget and save the environment too, just by making a few simple changes.

    You don’t have to start with something difficult, it can be something small like upholstering a footstool – just have a go and have fun with it.

    Now you've finished our videos - what next?

    Charis Williams

    At the moment, I’m painting life-size dinosaurs made of fibreglass at the Dinosaur Paradise Park in Brighton. They were looking for fun, bright designs for the kids to enjoy, so they won’t look like any dinosaurs you’ve ever seen before.

    I’m also building a workshop at the end of my garden with timbre and paving slabs that I got for free. My whole house has been decorated with free, salvaged, second hand and hand-me-down items that I’ve put my own stamp on to fit with my personality and décor.

    Being environmentally friendly can also be very friendly to your pocket and has saved me tens of thousands of pounds. My kitchen for instance cost me the grand sum of £11.50. That's all the units, cupboard doors, handles and extractor fan. Things like the sink were brand new and given to me for free. It's not a fashion statement, it's a way of life and I'm living it!

Charis runs her own wall art business at Brighton Wall Art and you can find out more about her reclamation projects at Salvage Sister.