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If buying secondhand and reclaimed goods was as easy as buying new ones, which would you choose?

Global marketing and delivery have transformed us. Choice, convenience and price are mainstays of 21st century purchases, despite environmental and human costs.

So how do we shop sustainably without losing quick and easy? Ryan has a vision for a sustainable retail future and chatted to us about his journey.

Tell us about The Reimaginarium.

The Reimaginarium was launched late in 2018 to prove that second hand isn’t second best. My wife and I founded the space as a way to showcase some of the best reclaimed goods from across Australia.

I produce a range of reclaimed goods including furniture and vintage Bluetooth speakers, and it occurred to us that there was no real central location for such items. We firmly believed that secondhand, repaired, restored and reimagined goods can be just as good as new ones (and better) and can be just as appealing to people, but they need to be made just as accessible and convenient.

We wanted a space where we could show reclaimed goods the same amount of respect as new ones, so we created one. With the help of Renew Geelong we set up a retail space in Moorabool Street and began to carefully gather the work of re-creatives from across Australia that met our standards – beautiful functional goods with a minimum of new materials.

From humble beginnings in a corner of a shared space, we now have our own dedicated shop front and support over a dozen Australian re-creatives while proving to the local community just how good reclaimed can be.

You were a product design engineer in your previous career. Why the change to reimagined retail?

The change was an evolution rather than a revolution. Since I was a child I have loved to work with old materials, from picking up bicycles off the hard rubbish and rebuilding them as a teenager, to hand painting suit jackets while I was at uni. I wanted to apply design and engineering principles to the reuse of waste materials in order to make reuse more efficient and predictable, and therefore more accessible. The development of our vintage Bluetooth speaker line came from this idea – identifying an available under-utilised material, and working out how to make it meet modern needs with the minimum of new materials.

With the launch of our Bluetooth speaker range we had real trouble finding outlets where it made sense, and came to realise that spaces with a focus on reclaimed goods were few and far between. We knew that there were some amazing creatives out there making great products, but they lacked a convenient outlet. Launching The Reimaginarium was an attempt to identify these incredible goods that were already being made, and present them in a way that would appeal to the broader public, by making them convenient and accessible.

Vintage Radios

We love the bluetooth speakers from old radios. Are they your creations?

They certainly are, and as mentioned they are really what kicked our space off. I have loved the look of old valve radios for years (and I’m not alone, look at all the imitations from Bush and others), but I’ve never really had an excuse to own many. Their wiring is often beyond economic repair, and if they do work their reliability and safety is highly questionable. I had a Bluetooth speaker at home that I loved the concept of, but not the style, and it occurred to me, why can’t a beautiful old radio do all the same things as a Bluetooth speaker? They certainly have most of the essential parts.

After substantial planning I developed an electronics package that I could integrate into old radios with minimum new parts and maximum reliability. Our amplifier and wiring connects to the radio’s original speaker, we keep a working volume control, instead of manufacturing a new power supply we provide a power cable that will plug into your existing spare phone charger base, and instead of an inbuilt battery that same cable will plug straight into a phone battery bank for hours of listening pleasure. All of the function of a new Bluetooth speaker, but with perhaps 10% of the new parts by weight, and every one built saves a beautiful old radio from becoming landfill.

I’ve been lucky enough to build speakers from radios that are over 90 years old, as well as ones that have had one owner from new. It is always a privilege to be able to build a speaker from a family heirloom that is being passed down through generations.

What has been the most challenging custom piece to come through the Geelong  antique shop?

That’s a tough question. Even some of the simplest projects can throw up unexpected challenges, but as a designer and engineer the challenges are a large part of the fun. I’ve turned lawnmowers into coffee tables, wardrobes and car guards into TV units and chests of drawers into sewing tables.

Some of the most unusual work I do is collaborations with my mother, Michelle Mischkulnig. Once or twice a year we will tackle a chair or daybed together, working her freehand embroidered artwork over a vintage frame to create a truly unique piece of furniture.

One of my favourite pieces to make and use other than my Bluetooth speakers is transforming derelict sideboards into TV units. We have one at home which we love, and I am just about to start on a new one for the shop. Worn out sideboards have no value in their original form, but they are often made from amazing timbers, and with a little care and patience they make fantastic lowline entertainment units.


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