Oftentimes with upcycling, the best executions haven’t always been in repurposing wasted objects in their current physical state but rather, using the base material to create a new material to work with. We’ve seen this with ‘useless’ bike tubes that have been sliced and sewn together to create a rubber sheet for bags—or even something similar with discarded sails that before being converted into an iPad case, were sailing off the shores of Maine.
Such is the case with designer Eli Chissick and his furniture designs that are each made from a base material of combined wood waste found in dumpsters around his city.
Bordering somewhere between sculpture, design and social statement, the material choices in each unique piece almost look as if they were used intentionally…if you didn’t care to know that each piece has its own back story. We caught up with Eli to give us a rundown on his process and a little more insight into why he does it:
Using material waste to develop a a that doesn’t look like it was made from waste is no easy beast to tackle. We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill upcycling here, either. Creating an entirely new material to work with.
I have been trying to live my life with the least impact on the environment for many years now and I have always wanted to be able to define my work as such.
I find that being a designer creates a conflict with sustainable thinking since our biggest problem as a society is our tendency for over consumption and being a designer that contributes to the making of more and more stuff for us to purchase made me feel very uncomfortable.
There are, of course many ways to solve this problem and I decided to choose the one closest to me. I have been working with wood for many years and enjoy creating furniture with my own hands. I decided to combine my passion for furniture design with my passion for the environment.
Every week I pass through carpentries around the city and collect off-cuts intended for the waste bin, from MDF with veneer to Formica and wood, these raw materials are the baseline for all of my designs. Ultimately, I take all of the scrap pieces and press them together to create a unique new sheet of wood. Each sheet I create is defined by the materials gathered and creates a unique sheet of material that is near-impossible to replicate since I have no control of what will be collected next time. The sheets are the starting point for all of my designs.
The challenge is to find a way to reuse as much material as possible; even the plainest piece of MDF can stick out if you press it together with the right material. Since my upcycling process provides me with raw material to work with, it allows me to design the furniture in any way I choose.
One of my main goals is to design furniture of the highest grade: it should last for many years and its quality should not be compromised by the fact it is made from pieces intended for waste. Although the story behind the furniture is important, the person looking at the design should first like the design and only then realize the story told behind…that is the goal.
Head over to Chissick’s site to check out his entire collection.