Plastic pop bottle floral arrangements. Conference tables made of wood from our city's past. Chairs assembled from old conveyor belts. The upcycling movement, where craftspeople are repurposing materials that are no longer wanted or needed into uber-creative, functional works of art, is gaining momentum throughout Cleveland. Upcycling is not only environmentally responsible but also a meaningful way to preserve the fabric and artifacts of Cleveland's rich history. "Everyone loves the story and life behind the materials," says Jason Radcliffe, a steel furniture designer and owner of 44 Steel. "That's what gives the object a new purpose." Here are three reincarnations we covet.
Drew Walker picks through trash, scours estate sales and knocks on factory doors to salvage materials for his upcycled furniture. Take the Singer sewing machine desk ($575). The base comes from an Akron warehouse, and a restored Geauga County barn floorboard functions as a tabletop. A vintage swivel lamp found in the garbage illuminates the piece. "It's awesome to have this Ohio-based material," says Walker, owner of Storyline Design.
Tap Studio's unisex designer rings ($1,280 each), hand-forged from a Virginia refinery's recycled metals, are the epitome of eternal devotion. Both share a sterling silver core sheathed with 18-karat yellow gold. The fissure and urban garden motif punctured with white diamonds add character and a little grit. "They remind me of the stuff that grows in cracks throughout the city," says jewelry designer Todd Pownell.
Metallic gold scrap leather from a Painesville flea market takes on new life as a journal jacket. Gold charms dangle from a long-stitch binding made of bamboo cord, and a snap closure secures the 70-page watercolor paper-filled journal ($20). Each jacket is unique, contrived from business cards, cigar boxes and other vintage finds, says Angela Medgyesi, founder of Curious Conception. "Searching for materials is just as fun as putting the journals together," she says.