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Matthew Holdren built "The Kerlerec Desk" from recycled heart-pine floor boards. The drawer knobs are porcelain insulators from old electrical wiring.
With most woodworkers looking back 100 years or more for inspiration, I often wonder where furniture-making is headed. In an increasingly mass-produced world, will we ever see a definable furniture “period” emerge again, or will the world continue to buy cheaply made products and pitch them into landfills?And what kind of furniture-making will captivate tomorrow’s generations? Somehow I doubt it will be yesterday’s dovetailed, wood-only approach. And maybe that is just fine.
An answer to all of those questions is emerging in a trend toward taking old, discarded materials and reclaiming them to make new pieces of useful art. Look at Make Magazine for lots of examples, and then Google “steampunk” to discover a whole other approach to making something new from the past.
My favorite example of this trend is happening in New Orleans, where an up-and-coming furniture show, called “Salvations,” is up to 50 entries this year, each made from reclaimed and salvaged materials. The winners haven’t been picked yet, but the organizers let me show a few of my favorites. Look for one or two in a future issue of FWW magazine.
Some are just knocked together, with an emphasis on concept over craftsmanship, and some of you won’t like a furniture approach that favors art over utiility, but I find the work thought-provoking. I’d love to have a few of these pieces in my house, and I’m tempted to build some myself. Are you?
Also, do you think this emerging trend (if it is one) could coalesce into something solid and “sustainable”? I look forward to your comments.
William Roberts built "Bone Bench" from plywood salvaged from construction sites.
John Robert Portman built "Lather's Table" from lath boards used in old walls.
David Bergeron built this versatile cabinet, called "Books or Booze?", from beadboard he pulled from a trash pile.
"Four Legends Console" is a collaboration by Benjamin Bullins and Linda Berman. There are found objects in the base, and the top is raku-fired low-relief sculpture with images of jazz legends.
Ross Lunz built this chair, called "Mobile," from discarded street signs.
F. Scott Greenfield started with an old B&W picture of an oil refinery when he built this bench, called "ReFinery." Also in the backrest is flocked wallpaper and balusters from torn-down houses. The rest of the bench is made from red pine from old barges.
John Robert Portman also made this framed, illuminated wall piece, called 2914 Royal Street.
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i see the style that Christiana is going for here when he lists a few of his favorites, but furniture made out of reclaimed often is automatically thought of as shabby chic and kitschy. I myself,(and a few others in this competition) actually use reclaimed as a superior material to make sleek contemporary pieces with an eye for detail and craftsmanship. i think the readers were done a disservice to not be shown the other side of the coin. Anyone interested can check out www.recycledcypressnola.com
I really like seeing the recycled wood projects, hope to see more. I have been doing Green before there was a Green, making me King of Green. For the past 15 + years I have built my art furniture business around recycled woods and vintage material. I not only use this material,I am inspired by it, it has shaped my inter-eye to see the possibilities, but Art should follow function any furniture needs to work. You can see my work and see if I am KING of Green by going to my web sight; intothewoodsstudio.com Working Green and loving it, Larry
I agree with Char50 - in my opinion, re-purposing should be seem more skilled than taking old stuff and a hot glue gun. That being said, I don't want to underestimate the work that went into these pieces, some of which I find pleasing and others look uncomfortable/unpleasant.
We have a green (read re-purposed/reused) building supply store nearby, which has a page of customer creations. Have a look :
A Dutch designer, Piet-Hein Eek, is already making for years furniture from reclaimed scrapwood, now on an industrial scale. But still interesting to get inspired. Go to http://www.pietheineek.nl/en/collection/scrapwood
I've used a very similar technique to great effect, making tables, chairs and coffee tables. Check it out http://andrecarpentry.com/
All the plywood I used was headed for the landfill. For example, A friend of mine had some art shipped cross country, leaving him with empty plywood crates 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide. I "harvested" the ply and made a chair and a nightstand.
It looks like this was made using a C+C machine to great effect. It's structural, architectural, and artistic. Is it comfortable? I wonder. Regardless, I really like this piece.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for re-purposing and re-using wood, but why do a lot of the pieces have to scream "look at me, I'm made from old stuff from a barn or garbage bin!"
I was NEVER big on "shabby chic"...to me it just says, "I'm too lazy to refinish the wood"
It could also mean a danger to children and pets since the "shabby chic" items generally feature peeling and flaking paint which could contain lead (if the wood is really old).
Oak shorts discarded by flooring contractors are a useful source of material. I could afford to use virgin lumber all the time, but I get an added level of satisfaction making something beautiful and useful out of wood that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
A great article, I would love to see more examples of reclaimed or salvaged materals.
I find these inspiring. I'm constantly amazed at what gets discarded that can be re-purposed into useful items. I try to get every last use out of left over wood or old furniture that may be in need of repair or maybe just "updated" with paint.
Thanks for the article.
I've done a few furniture items out of pallet wood, so I'm quite familiar with repurposing old wood, but the items from your small selection blew me away! That metal chair is particularly incredible. Thanks for the heads-up.
Thanks for the correction
Thank you for a great article that features an event that gains in popularity every year. A well deserved shout out goes to The Green Project - a nonprofit recycle store that hosts the "Salvations" event every year. They are a hands-on organization that promotes the creative reuse of salvaged bldg material and recycled paint.
Sorry, Linda. I'll correct the blog. Great work.
This piece is a collaboration by artists Benjamin Bullens and Linda Berman. The top is my work (Linda Berman)It is raku fired low relief sculpture. Images are of John Coltrane playing sax, Miles Davis playing trumpet, Max Roach on drums and Jelly Roll Morton playing piano.
Kezurou-kai Mini, or NYC KEZ for short, is a gathering in which craftsmen and enthusiasts come together to celebrate Japanese style woodworking.
Make something fun while learning new skills
Fast, fun approach to making a comfortable, casual seat
In this video Michael finishes the first of the three boxes. Gluing-up, planing, sanding and finishing bring a new piece of art to the world.
In this video Michael starts work on the second box, a carved and painted Saddle lid box.
Michael begins carving the saddle lid box with his ripple pattern along the top. Then turns to his 5/30 gouge to texture the sides of the box. This isn't work…
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