How to upcycle secondhand ceramics into gloriously kitsch homeware

Upcycling second hand ceramics is a quick, easy and sustainable way to add a fresh look to your home. Here’s your step-by-step guide from artist Meg Garrod on how to do it properly. 

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Upcycling is booming. More than five billion people have watched videos on TikTok teaching them how to rejuvenate and restore their worn, tired things that were destined for the bin. But, upcycling isn’t just a way to revamp your interiors and breathe new life into old clothes. It’s an art rooted in sustainability, preventing everything from textiles to plastic waste from ending up in landfill.

While upcycling trends tend to focus on fashion and furniture, it’s also possible to give your old ceramics a glow-up. A whopping 68 million tonnes of ceramic waste gets sent to landfill in the UK each year, which means upcycling secondhand ceramics is a boost for your eco-credentials, as well as a quick and easy way to add a fresh look to your home. 

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Artist and illustrator Meg Garrod hunts for secondhand ceramics at car boot sales and flea markets, transforming them into ostentatious creations with pastel paints and metallic details. She centres her work around self-love,feminism and body positivity and runs tutorials on Pinterest teaching people how to do upcycling projects at home.

We all have old ceramics gathering dust somewhere – the budget crockery from our student days, or the hastily bought knick-knack now firmly consigned to the back of a cupboard. To help give your old figurines a new lease of life, Meg has shared a step-by-step tutorial, detailing how to transform secondhand pottery into a work of art, including the best equipment to buy and where to find creative inspiration.  

Meg’s tips on sourcing unique secondhand ceramics

  1. Charity shops and flea markets are good places to find unique and inexpensive ceramics. “You can also look online,” says Meg. “But this requires much more patience as you have to look through so many listings and possibilities.”
  2. Look for pieces with smoother or flatter surfaces. “These are easier to paint on,” says Meg.
  3. Look for things that will work well in your home. Meg suggests looking on Pinterest to see how other people have incorporated upcycled ceramics into their interiors.
  4. “You can upcycle tableware such as plates, jugs and mugs,” says Meg, “but keep in mind they won’t be food-safe afterwards – just beautiful decorative pieces!” 

What you’ll need to upcycle ceramics at home

  • A ceramic piece to upcycle.
  • Paint (acrylic or acrylic gouache – opaque, matte acrylic paint – works the best).
  • Paint brushes: a larger brush for base coats and smaller brushes for details.
  • Paint pens (optional)
  • Protective spray (Meg recommends Rust-Oleum protective gloss coat).  

How to upcycle secondhand ceramics

  • 1. Make sure your ceramic is clean and dry

    Your ceramic should be clean and dry before you start.
  • 2. Paint your base colours first

    Apply base colours to your ceramic.

    It may take a few coats. If you make a mistake, use a damp cloth to wipe away the paint before it dries.

  • 3. Add detail

    Add smaller details to your ceramic.

    You can do this with a smaller brush or fine nib paint pens. Let each layer dry between painting, this will give you a smoother surface. Be gentle when handling your ceramic at this point because the paint can scratch off. 

  • 4. Once you’ve finished painting, let your ceramic dry for a few hours

    Leave you second hand ceramic to dry.
  • 5. Spray the ceramic with a gloss spray

    Your finished ceramic should be glossy and shiny.

    This adds a protective coat so the paint is fixed on and leaves a shiny glossy finish. Leave to dry for 24 to 48 hours before displaying.  

Meg’s expert tips for painting unique ceramics at home

Pick your paint wisely 

Meg suggests staying clear of any water-based paints, like watercolour or gouache. They will smudge easily and wash off, spoiling your design.

Get detailed

Paint pens are useful for adding smaller details to your ceramic. “It’s much easier and faster than painting traditionally,” says Meg.

Colour is your friend

“I love to paint with rainbow pastel colours because it matches my home décor,” says Meg. “Pastel tones are really beautiful, calming colours that remind me of spring.”

Look online for inspiration

“I find some of my favourite design ideas on Pinterest and often get lost in an inspiration hole, scrolling through mood boards and pins,” says Meg.

You can see more of Meg’s work and follow her arts and crafts tutorials on Pinterest, via the site’s Idea’s Pins. You can also read more arts and crafts content at The Curiosity Academy, sign-up to receive emails here.

Images: Meg Garrod 

  • Meg Garrod, artist and illustrator

    Meg Garrod, artist and illustrator

    Meg runs a small business illustrating and upcycling ceramics alongside her university studies. Self-proclaimed “fat illustrator”, Meg’s work centres around self-love,  feminism and celebrates body positivity. Meg posts arts and crafts tutorials on Pinterest’s “Idea Pins”, which you can follow at home. 

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