Scrap Innovators: Rethinking Functional Furniture

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Did you know that Philippines ranked fourth on World’s Most Threatened Forest Hotspots in 2012?

The Philippines’ furniture industry has been one of the frontrunners for promoting positive growth in our economy. Just last year, reports show that local furniture exporters made a 30 million increase in profits compared to that of 2011. However, while this growth is unarguably positive and should be sustained, one must also realize that there is a downside to this industry. While furniture export booms, the environment suffers a lot because most of the raw materials are taken from forests, which leads to deforestation.

Due to the growing environmental problem, many artisans now are taking a leap and creating not just self-oriented works of art, but art which serves both the community and environment. In particular, artist Mitch Shivers and the Resurrection Found and Objects Gallery are two examples repurposing reclaimed materials in a clever and artistic way.

Noteworthy and unique designs in Garbazh

Mitch Shivers creates furniture that balances aesthetics, sustainability and functionality. Proof is his ingenious bicycle powered washing machine, which provides a smart take on Ergonomics and energy conservation. His recent exhibit at UP College of Fine Arts− aptly called Garbage/Garbazh− redefines the word ‘new,’ and features furniture created using different scrap materials such as mannequins, repurposed G.I pipes, reclaimed Acacia stumps, old suitcases, floppy disks, and industrial container drums.

Though the pieces were not intended as a collection, these are products of his love for the craft, says Shivers.

“As an antithesis to the nature of my profession, I strive to move away from designing for conformity in mass production. I want to preserve the artisanal nature and value of my product. ‘Made by human hands’ is the trademark of my work.”

He adds, “My motivation is to create things that can enhance and enrich daily life by using art not just for art’s sake (i.e., a painting or a sculpture), but rather, functional art (like my pieces).”

Whimsical yet practical furniture

The Resurrection Found and Objects Gallery was founded by three good friends who share a passion for making quirky and functional furniture: Architect Leah Sanchez, Designers Binggoy De Ocampo and Arlene Barbaza. True to the gallery’s name, their aim is to revive disused and abandoned materials by reconstructing them into beautiful, functional pieces. The gallery was established just after the wrathful typhoon Ondoy struck Manila back in 2009─    when tons of garbage enveloped the city. As a result, the trio realized that there was a certain appeal in using these raw, unwanted materials.

What makes the Resurrection Found and Objects Gallery stand-out is the undeniable charm that can be seen in their faux-antique style pieces. A chess set made from discarded computer keys, wall clock made from kitchen cabinet doors, and shelf made from vintage windows are just a few examples of their explorative imagination.

“50s and 60s design has such an appeal for us,” say the gallery founders. “That era achieved such a good balance between simplicity, gracefulness, ornamentation and nostalgia.”

Salvaged but high quality nonetheless

When looking out for materials, both Shivers and the Resurrection Found and Objects Gallery are open to possibility that even aging items─ containing scratches, dents and other signs of decrepitude are worth of upcycling.

“It’s quite hard to explain,” the trio says, “But we know we want to use something when we see it. I guess there is a certain ‘X factor’ to items as well that appeals to us.” And though some may be concerned of the quality of their furniture, these artists ensure that all their pieces are sturdy and long-lasting.

Nowadays, being mindful of reusing, recycling and upcycling our material waste has become not just an option, but a necessity of daily life. We have a responsibility to listen to the environment’s grievances, and create solutions which benefit both Mother Nature and ourselves.

How else can we use our imagination to come up with more creative solutions to living sustainably?

Mitch Shivers Portfolio

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