Archive for May, 2012

Hammer Like a Girl – a trio of RE Store Rockstars

Heidi, Monica and Mary Jean of are three Seattle girls with backgrounds in graphic design, architecture, construction, and real estate – with a preference for rusty, worn, and modern. Once a week they get together at one of their houses and tackle a project together.  They brainstorm, research, design, create, build – and they “always have lunch”, Mary Jean likes to add.  They submitted a couple of their recent projects created out of material from The RE Store:

In the words of Heidi:
I needed a small bookshelf for a narrow space. I found wire school/swim baskets at The RE Store and a window frame that had been a door side lite, so it was tall and narrow.  I attached the baskets to the wood sidelite frame with wood screws and large washers. A note: verify that your sidelite or alternate frame is the same width or narrower as the baskets you will be attaching.

The wire basket and side-lite bookshelf

My previous RE Store purchase of a 5′ bookcase came with an unfinished end panel. The bookcase is a pretty aged and worn piece so it needed something a little different. Also, thinking that it would either a.) be a really long time before we would make a nice paneled trim piece for it, or b.) it didn’t deserve a nice paneled trim piece,  I decided to clad it in an old sign I found what at first glance was one old funky black and white blocky sign for all of $1. I made a rectangular template to isolate different views of the sign, and cut it into 3 pieces.

I wanted to mock up the design so we measured the panel and made a cropping template with paper.  We marked and cut the sign with a circular saw, with straight edge, clamped to a table.  We then sanded the edges with fine sandpaper to finish off the edges. We pre-drilled the nail holes in the plywood sign, because it was thin and we were nailing so close to the edge. We could have used screws, but liked the look of the nails better. And it is good for now – maybe someday I’ll get around to putting something more refined on there, but then again, probably not! 

The sinage end panel was created to share our experiences in hopes of encouraging others to team up with friends on their projects. We’d love to hear what projects you are tackling. Just remember, when girls band together, anything is possible. Ok, boys can join the band, too. But they have to get a permission slip from their moms! Making progress is kind of addicting so if you and friends dive in, remember to come up for air!

We love seeing this type of collective happening!  Thanks so much to Heidi, Monica and Mary Jean for being such avid customers of The RE Store, and for their creativity.

Do you have a RE Store-inspired project to be proud of?  Please, show off & share your story!

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project

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Build, organize, dig, plant, clean ~ taking action as a RE volunteer

8th Graders with beach trash

Shuksan Middle School 8th Graders with beach trash

“How do people really think it is OK to just leave all their trash on the beach?” This question came from a Shuksan Middle School 8th grade student as we came across yet another pile of cans and bottles left from a beach party. The group of four students and their teacher were spending the last Friday of their five-week Service Learning experience picking up and sorting through trash found along Locust Beach. None of them had been to the beach before and upon arrival exclaimed how beautiful and “cool” it was. Their awe soon mixed with disgust as we filled up over 5 huge bags with mostly bottles and cans in 45 minutes. “What would have happened to all of this if we hadn’t cleaned it up” another student asked before his classmate quickly pointed out toward the water showing exactly where it could all end up.

Each year, Shuksan Middle School 8th grade students have collaborated with organizations in Bellingham on service-learning projects that address real needs in the community. The RE Store was excited to host one of these groups again this year for a five-week period. The students arrived each Friday morning ready to work and learn more about how they can be community leaders in recycling and material reuse. Every week they worked on a new task and explored a different aspect of The RE Store. The students got dirty digging trenches in the RE Patch garden or sorting and stocking reclaimed materials. They also got some tool use training, building Mother’s Day gifts with furniture designer Eberhard Eichner from materials found in the store. Armando Rodriguez “It was fun, we made our own chalkboards”

The last part of the student’s service-learning experience is to create their own “take action” piece by organizing and leading a project of their own, incorporating skills and lessons learned while at The RE Store.  As we walked back from the beach, it was inspiring to hear them get excited about organizing their own beach clean up or hosting an “art from junk” day at school.

Whatcom Community College students mulching the RE Patch community garden and forest garden demonstration site

Whatcom Community College students mulching the RE Patch community garden and forest garden demonstration site

Already this year, volunteers have served over 1,600 hours with The RE Store. In addition to the Shuksan MS group, last Thursday 5 students from a Biology class at Whatcom Community College spent their evening working in the RE Patch garden space, digging trenches, laying down cardboard, mulching, and weeding. During most weekdays, mornings students from Bellingham High School volunteer in the store and receive training on different hard and soft green job skills. Another community member has been assisting the REvision Division in creating furniture.

The RE Store has a place for you, whether you have a knack for seeing the potential in materials, enjoy organizing treasures, need to complete an internship/service-learning requirement, or just have an interest in spending more time with us. There are always a variety of projects to be done and we encourage volunteers to think of their own ways they can partner with us. If you or someone you know would like to get involved please contact Rich Chrappa for Bellingham or Anita Smith in Seattle to find out more.


Posted in: Stories about people, Things you never knew about The RE Store

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Creative reuse and shocking mermaids at 9 Blue Salon

High angle shot of 9 Blue Salon's piano and stylist stations

9 Blue Salon's style comes entirely from reclaimed materials

Barret Lizza bootstrapped the start up of his hair salon in Bellingham, alone, on an extremely small budget, in less than a month.  He signed the lease for “9 Blue Salon” around Christmas of 2011 and spent a crazy month on non-stop remodeling madness, by himself, hauling all of the materials on top of his 1996 Ford Escort. With his limited funds, he had to build the space almost entirely with salvaged materials.

Barret described why, “I wanted to have a salon that was affordable, because I was tired of everyone charging so much. And I wanted something different from the look of all those salons that look like a fashion runway. Being creative is a lot better than buying a bunch of new stuff anyways.”

Style didn’t come without peril, though. Barrett explains, “One of the chandeliers has these great mermaids on it. It was from an old mansion in Seattle.  I was up on the ladder, all alone, using a pulley system I rigged up like an Egyptian or something and I shocked myself on the bronze fixture, trying to keep it suspended while attaching it.”

Low angle shot of 9 Blue Salon with lighting, cabinets and more

Low angle shot of 9 Blue Salon with lighting, cabinets and more

Reclaimed materials were used throughout the space. Old doors were hung with used mirrors for the stylist stations. Rollabouts for the stations were made from salvaged cabinets with drawers that he put wheels put on. Then a fire extinguisher was repurposed into a towel holder and old rusty car jacks were made into a shelf. He gave each station has its own mailbox for communications with the independently contracted stylists, made from old mailboxes from an apartment complex. Shelving, beams, paint, and lighting were all found at The RE Store or pulled out of his house or barn. Barrett picked up a used piano from Big Brothers Big Sisters, who didn’t want it anymore.

Barrett talked about his road blocks, “Money was the biggest challenge. I did the whole thing with $1500.00. Lifting and hanging stuff by myself was a bit tricky. I don’t think a lot of people could see what I was seeing so I had to do a lot of it by myself. I tore out the existing acoustic tile ceiling and the fluorescent lighting, getting some trade credit when I took those in to The RE Store. That helped me buy more materials like the big reclaimed beams. They (the beams) were affordable. It was little parts that were the most expensive. The screws and hangers cost a lot of money.”

Lizza continues to vision on other projects like 9 Blue Laboratories, a music recording studio and arts space for himself. If it proves to be anything like the salon, it will inspire any artist or creative type who enters.

Watch his rather epic commercial here to catch some more glimpses of 9 Blue Salon and its once more decor.

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, You can do it yourself

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Notes from the Field Crew – Aerialist and Tetris-style Salvage Techniques

Greetings and salutations from all of us here on the Seattle field crew. Like you, we have also noticed that glowing, round object in the sky, which must mean that it’s Spring. This time of year brings more Salvage Service jobs and more hours spent crammed in the cab of The RE Store trucks. From the islands to the highlands, and places beyond, we cover a lot of ground to recover all sorts of materials around Puget Sound.

Just last week, we found ourselves in scenic Fall City for an aerial entertainment center removal, in Carnation for a pre-demolition house salvage, and ending with a pick up in Duvall.

Seattle field crew lead, James Taylor up on the ladder with the entertainment center

Good things really do come from high places – when they are pulled from second story windows and shimmied down ladders (safely, of course). What am I talking about? Why, removing a three piece, built-in, cherry entertainment center from the second floor of a house. The only practical way to remove this oversized item was through the master bedroom window.  We never said that salvaging reusable materials was easy. Believe it or not, the process went very quickly. Thank you gravity!

After our aerialist act with ladders, heavy cabinetry, and physics, we headed over to Carnation for a more conventional salvage operation at a King County-owned property. This particular home was being razed to restore the adjacent river. Our licensed and bonded salvage crews regularly collaborate on green projects with both the city of Seattle and King County. These ongoing efforts reduce government waste disposal costs and provide a steady stream of reusable materials for shoppers in our two stores in Ballard and Bellingham.

the truck loaded, tetris-style

Before the County’s demolition work began, we were allowed to salvage out a truck load of reusable materials, including: vinyl windows, kitchen cabinets, an electric fireplace insert, and other finish materials. Loading the truck is often the most difficult part of any salvage job. It can be like a combination of Tetris, Jenga, and Twister. However, the pieces are really heavy, have glass in them, and if they fall over, you lose much more than just the game.

Rest assured, dear reader, that we did load everything safely and securely. We even piled on more at a quick Pick Up Service job in Duvall. The final tying-down used our last rope. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, perhaps it’s that things worth doing are often not easy, whether it’s salvaging reusable materials, saving you money on building supplies, or playing a game of Jenga.

Notes and photos by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew member

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Four galleries of recycled art and a third-grade welder

What happens when you mix an arc welder, an eight-year old boy, and a handy grandfather? You found out if you visited Bellingham’s Allied Arts gallery in April, one of four galleries in The RE Store’s 11th Annual Recycled Arts Show. This year’s multi-city exhibition attracted professional and semi-professional submissions from a talented pool of regional artists, designers, makers along with a unique entry from Culver Bontrager.

2012 Bellingham Recycled Arts Gallery collage

2012 Bellingham Recycled Arts Show Galleries at Allied Arts and The RE Store. Culver (in red) at top center. Click to enlarge.

Culver’s welded piece, Mr. Bones, dangled from an 8-foot high hook, with articulating joints. He would dance if you got the whole thing swaying ([GASP!] PLEASE do not touch or dance the artwork, sir!). Culver started doing metal fabrication with his handy grandfather, Romeo Gonyea when he was seven.  Romeo has been doing metal fabrication for a majority of his life along with “heavy equipment, wood working, cabinetry and pretty much anything else that needs to get done” according to Romeo’s daughter and Culver’s mother, Melana Bontrager. She remembers dumpster diving in industrial areas with her dad when she was young, pulling out things that he would fix and sell “for a few bucks.”

2012 Seattle Recycled Art Gallery Collage

2012 Seattle Recycled Art Gallery

Culver and his grandfather now make the rounds of scrap and junk yards in Everett and Lynnwood, looking for old car and farm equipment parts for Culver’s projects.  Culver is an avid lego fan and technical little guy. “He is very detailed in building things and great at sticking with the details. His attention span is longer than most kids his age,” says his mother, Melana Bontrager, who has shown her own artwork in galleries around the greater Puget Sound region. The young welder was excited about the possibility of selling Mr. Bones. He has other family members besides his mother who have shown in galleries before so he has had exposure to the world of selling art in galleries. Culver unfortunately could not be reached for comments, due to a busy schedule building lego creations with a couple buddies.

Melana mused, “Culver cracks himself up with mishaps like singeing his hair bangs. But he is not my emergency room child. He stands back, observing things carefully, then jumps in and thankfully comes out fairly unscathed.”

See more about the Recycled Arts Show on The RE Store’s page, including reviews, events and years worth of recycled art photo galleries. This year’s galleries included Seattle’s Blowing Sands Glass Studio, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Whatcom Museum and The RE Store in Bellingham. The Blowing Sands exhibit is up until May 9th. If you subscribe to our email newsletter we keep you in the loop about upcoming workshops, recycled arts happenings, calls for art or designs, DIY videos and more.

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, You can do it yourself

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