Artist opens Harborside Upcycled store in Fairhaven
FAIRHAVEN – Perhaps it’s no surprise that in one of the country’s largest fishing harbors, nearby beaches are littered with bits of fishing nets and ropes. Fortunately, a resident of Fairhaven had an idea: to recycle waste into art.
âI was just doing things for my friends and family,â said Chris Vasconcelos, 43, owner of Harborside Upcycled on Center Street. âNow I’m in 20 gift shops in seven states. “
Upcycling is the process of taking plastic and giving it “new life” in another, but better, product. Unlike recycling, which involves taking plastic and melting it to produce another plastic item, Upcycling creates products that can be stored and enjoyed.
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Vasconcelos said he would take his two sons, now 13 and 16, to the beach to find seashells. The shore, he noticed, would also be littered with bits of ropes and nets.
He started picking up bits of the net that he liked. âThe net was beautiful – beautiful colors, and it was free,â Vasconcelos recalls. “And I said, ‘Well, what can I do with this free stuff? “”
Finally, after picking up some 25 trash cans full of discarded ropes, he decided to start creating. âIt just happened by accident, it wasn’t something I had planned to do, to be honest,â he said.
What you can find inside the store
As of 2016, Harborside Upcycled products have included friendship bracelets, recycled fishing rope art, rope coasters and bowls, climbing rope doormats, bottle openers and decorations. fishing mermaid and lobster rope.
âGift shop owners keep telling me that they’ve never seen anything like this,â Vasconcelos said.
Now his works are available in Ohio souvenir shops on Lake Erie, Texas, Florida, Long Island and, of course, New Bedford at The Landing and The Sea Witch.
“I am thoroughly; seven days a week with ordersâ¦ which is really cool, âVasconcelos said, adding that he also worked full time.
Harborside Upcycle is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment. Vasconcelos says he has limited hours because he didn’t want it to conflict with the time he spends with his children.
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âMy little guy helps me put my story cards together, assemble stamps and he cuts stickers for me likeâ¦ odd jobs,â Vasconcelos said, adding that his sister also helps in the store.
Now, local businesses and two cleaning crews are sharing bits of rope with him. âIt’s really cool,â he said. âI have like an aisle full of ropes that I can use for my products. “
Always near the beach
Born and raised in New Bedford, Vasconcelos lived across the lighthouse street of Butler’s Flat. When he was 13, he helped deliver Standard Time newspapers every day after school. âThe van would drop a giant bundle of newspapers around the corner,â he said.
In 2003, Vasconcelos moved to Fairhaven.
“I was always near the water,” he added. âI never really bothered to do anything with rope. But I’ve always loved doing things.
In 2016, Vasconcelos divorced. âHonestly, it only gave me time,â he said. “And I decided to use that time to get stuff off the beach and that’s kind of what led to it all.”
His work can also be seen in town at places such as the Buttonwood Park Zoo and the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. The 10ft Fishing Rope Wave, featured in PLAY’s rooftop bar on Union Street, was created by Vasconcelos.
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The store has been open on Center Street since September. âI love it when people come off the streets and just like to snoop,â he said.
He says his end goal is to be able to mass-produce his work so that the price is affordable for everyone. He also hopes to teach and inspire others, referring to his profession as a ârope access technicianâ.
âIf you make a good product, I think the customers will follow,â he said. âI hope when people see what I’m doing, their experience is seeing something that they haven’t seen before and that they’re inspired.
âIt’s unique and it’s recycled.
Standard-Times team writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.