I learned to be resourceful when I was kid. We didn’t have much aside from know-how. My dad built stuff, and then he left a whole bunch of tools behind. Even before I was allowed to use them, I knew how things should come together. Then and now, I see every step in vivid detail. It was never the ideas that hung me up; it was the focusing on them.
These days, the recycled furniture is a reprieve from my original work. It’s cheaper and faster to make—that desk would take about a third of the time an original one would—and it can be a lot more fun. Much of designing original furniture is problem solving. And as much as I pride myself on my ability, when you’re starting almost every day for several months at a time with a dilemma, it can wear you down. Building recycled furniture is a stark contrast to all of that. For me, it can come so naturally, it’s like I’m letting the object dictate the direction.
That said, I still struggle with being known as a guy who makes recycled furniture, as I think most original furniture designers would. Which is why you won’t come across many who do both. Popular as recycling and refurbishing have become, neither’s viewed as a genuine craft. (You can thank reality TV, in large part, for that.) Is it elitist? Sure. But it’s also a natural reaction by a thoroughly-trained field to a largely DIY movement encroaching on its reputation and customer base.
I like to think, though, that I distinguish myself. My recycled furniture is not necessarily what you’re exposed to. The object I start with is barely recognizable in the end. My aim is not to elaborate or accentuate that original design. It’s to build a wholly new, polished design from a few extraordinary elements.
On the days when I’m lost in the middle of a piece of original furniture, too far from the beginning to retreat and too far from the finish to find a second wind, the promise of those recycled tables, and desks, and cabinets is my salvation. They’re what remind me that I’m more than any one piece of furniture, which can be surprisingly easy to forget when I’m creating original work.