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I love that records are coming back into style. Besides the fact that their sound is just so full and amazing and the cover and insert art is often so elaborate (and the larger format makes it much easier to appreciate it), I just love anything retro. Plus my husband and I have loads of them to use from our parents.
Of course, though, it’s pretty easy for records to get scratched so badly that it’s painful to listen to them. And of course, there are some pretty awful records out there that nobody will ever want to listen to ever again. Like these ones, which belonged to my older brother and sister. Some are not actually that bad, but I really don’t know who is going to listen to dorky children songs where sound quality is not at all important on a record that needs to be handled carefully and flipped constantly when you could listen to them in a much easier way on CD or digital formats. Others are just plain bad. And others still are ruined.
I’ve heard a lot of people write against upcycling records into other objects because the records are still perfectly functional as they are and it’s a shame to destroy them. I agree with them for the most part. I’ve seen some tutorials on upcycling records use “useless” old records that I would love to have in my collection, so it breaks my heart to think of them getting chopped up, bent or melted. But on the other hand, if you have a record that is most likely never going to get listened to and will just sit in somebody’s basement for the next 50 years or in a landfill/incinerator, I say it may as well get put to some other use, right?
A year and a half ago (hence my old watermark) I decided to use some of our totally useless records for something cool looking and useful: record bowls. There are tutorials for this type of upcycling project all over the web (just google it) so I will not get into the how-to. Basically you need two largish heat safe bowls, an oven, oven mitts, tongs and just a few minutes per record. You stick a bowl in the pre-heated oven upside-down with a record placed on top, so that the label rests on the bottom of the bowl. After two or three minutes, the record will start to droop, at which point you need to grab it out of the oven and quickly stuff it inside a second bowl while molding the sides to make that ribbon effect. You have to work speedily because the record cools and hardens right away.
A lot of people are against this type of thing because heating the plastic most likely releases fumes into the air, which can be breathed in or absorbed by your oven, where you probably will at some point bake something you intend to eat. The best thing to do would be to have a separate oven that you use for non-food items (which is in theory what you should do when using Fimo clay, too), but I doubt many of us are able to do that. I was sure to have all my windows open and aired out the room and oven very well, but after making these bowls, I rethought it and decided not to make any more for these reasons.
*Update* I confirm that heating records *will* give off toxic fumes. Arianna (who you will read about further down) has a separate oven for working with this material and is very care to air out the space and wear a mask.
That said, these bowls are pretty dang cool looking, right? And they make fantastic gifts, especially if you give them with something inside. If you want to fill them up with something edible, I really recommend that it be something wrapped so that people aren’t eating something that has come in contact with previously-heated plastic. I gave mine away with individually wrapped candies inside. One friend of mine decided to put a cloth napkin inside and serve bread inside it. Whatever choice you make, it makes a unique gift that most anyone will appreciate!
But what if you don’t have any records to make such upcycled goodies? There are plenty of artisans online who do! Take Arianna from Il filo di Arianna, for example, who creates various objects for the home and accessories from recuperated materials, such as puzzles, buttons and records. She recently contacted me about my cloth pads and we decided to exchange pads for a set of record jewelry.
One day my boyfriend decided to dust off and organize his parents’ collection of records and he became more and more fascinated by this fascinating vintage world. I started going with him around to flea markets to add to his collection and we were amazed at the number of records that people tried to sell. So we began to think about all the ways we could give them back some life, obviously just those which were already ruined through time and use and were therefore unusable.