Like most things, Revision Division started with a vision. “The materials that we see come into The RE Store — old growth wood, vintage hardware, rare tropical woods — you can’t buy these things new anymore,” says Kurt Gisclair, Director of The RE Store. “I had this idea: If we could use these materials to build functional furnishings, people would see and understand the value in salvaging raw materials.” The only problem? Gisclair didn’t have anyone on staff that could manifest his dream. As with anything at The RE Store, all he had to do is picture what he wanted, and wait for it to show up.
In 2010, furniture-maker and creative painter Eberhard Eichner began installing window displays at The RE Store. Gisclair quickly noticed his creative nature and carpentry skill, and it wasn’t long before Revision Division was born. Eichner was hired to design and build furnishings from the reclaimed materials available at The RE Store. The philosophy was simple: provide reasonably priced furniture built from reclaimed materials and inspire shoppers to Do-It-Yourself with simple designs they could replicate. Eichner taught basic carpentry skills at in-house workshops, and explored creative uses for raw materials. His designs were sold in The RE Store showroom and custom works made their way to The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, The Whale Museum on San Juan Island and Bellingham City Hall.
In early 2015, Eichner retired, leaving the shop in the hands of today’s talented designer/builder team, Matt Vaughn and David Spangler. “For me, Revision Division is a physical manifestation of our best intentions,” says Vaughn. “We are helping to create a world in which people place value in sustainably-built goods. This is our way of helping to reduce the need for raw material extraction.”
Exchanging raw materials for reused materials — that would otherwise overflow in our landfills — is not only helping to maintain the availability of our natural resources, it’s also introducing a sustainable cutting edge to the furniture building industry. Valuing the uniqueness and utility of scrap is a win for consumers, because they get to buy one-of-a-kind pieces with depth of character that is hard to find these days. It’s a win for builders, because they get to explore the endless creativity and thrift of reused materials. And in a world where construction and demolition waste makes up 25%-45% of landfill waste, using salvaged materials is a win for the planet, because rock, minerals, and wood aren’t being harvested only to later be discarded.
“The materials we used weren’t harvested yesterday. At some point, someone used this wood for something. And then, someone else salvaged it and brought it to us,” says Spangler. This story of materials that are harvested, used, salvaged and sometimes used again is what Vaughn and Spangler enjoy highlighting. “I think about every single piece of wood, metal or glass that comes through the shop, and how each has a story that is so different than the next,” says Spangler. “Maybe, on its own, that piece is ugly. But if you rethink it, that piece can be part of something larger, something beautiful.”
Vaughn uses this metaphor to describe his work: Just like a chef relies on the farmer to grow delicious food, so does Revision Division rely on our community members to keep reusable materials out of the landfill. “I hope the community knows that Revision Division is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to every donor — past, present or future,” says Spangler.
And five years later, how does Gisclair feel about his original dream? “I’m amazed at the creativity of our staff and their ability to pull of this dream. They rank up there with the best of the best of the functional designers in our area,” says Gisclair. “ And of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our community and staff for their relentless pursuit to keep usable materials out of our landfills. I’m proud to be part of this movement to show the world that new is overrated.”
For sale: Revision Division handmade furnishings range from $25 rustic mirrors to $2,000 slab furniture, depending on size and materials.
Find it: Visit the Revision Division gallery at The RE Store, 2309 Meridian Street, Bellingham. You can also browse and purchase Revision Division items on Etsy. RevisionDivision.Etsy.com
Learn more: Did you know that cabinet sets can be recycled? Learn more about how you can donate to Revision Division and The RE Store.