I can’t remember the last time I went to a lumber yard to buy wood for a project. Most of the materials that I use in my work are from products or materials that have outlived their intended usefulness or have been cast off as unwanted or unneeded. In recent years, I have gravitated toward gathering wood from trees that have been cut down at friends’ and neighbors’ homes. It’s not unheard of that I pull over on my commute to inspect a woodpile!
For almost the entirety of my years of being a creative maker, I have maintained a full-time job. I have been at my current employer for 14 years, the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity ReStore. For those not familiar, the Habitat ReStores are donation-based resale stores whose proceeds benefit affordable home ownership in our local service areas. My work at the ReStore has fostered and propelled my personal creative repurposing pursuits. Working in a resale environment is a repurposer’s dream job and to work in one situated in a major metropolitan area makes it infinitely more interesting. On a daily basis, I have access to the widest variety of materials and objects.
My forays into reuse began decades ago as a low-cost/no-cost way to gather materials to unleash my creativity. Over these decades, my version of reuse or repurposing has taken various forms and shifted from time to time. But it has been a constant and regular part of my creative work. While I still bring home things from work, I’m focusing more on rescuing wood after a tree service has done its work and before it all goes to the landfill, which is typical.
Generally, I have at least a few ideas bouncing around in my head about things I’d like to make. At the same time, I am always keeping my eyes open for materials and shapes that might lend themselves to some of my ideas. My ideas morph and evolve as I start to apply them to the materials. As constraining factors present themselves, I adjust accordingly as do the proportions and processes until I arrive at a final product. Sometimes I arrive close to my original idea. Sometimes I may work into another idea on the way. Sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be, and I try to take what good came of the experience, catalog lessons learned, and move on.
The form language I work in these days is decidedly retro, mid-century (20th) inspired. That time speaks to me as it embraced crossing the threshold into a brave new, modern world. I feel like we are at a similar threshold as we face a worrisome climate crisis that, ironically, has come about, at least in part, because of our modern world.
I always hold hope on the horizon that I might be able to one day turn my creative making into my primary source of income. I am not going to rush that, though. While my job keeps me from being in my workshop as much as I’d like, it does afford me many creative freedoms and mental space. Right now, one of my primary concerns with my creative work is preserving the absolute creative freedom to explore and wonder.
Keep on recycling, reducing, and, of course, REPURPOSING!