Stephen T. Johnson is an artist.  His works are said to be included in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.   In his book, A is for Art, he says that for him, “art, like language, is about discovery.”  Furthermore, he goes on to state, “Art provokes, confounds, challenges, surprises, informs, rejuvenates and stretches our way of seeing the world.”

Personally I feel that reusing and salvaging material is humanitarian and artful. Just as reusing preserves natural resources, salvaging is exemplarily of the aforementioned.  Objects may be reused in original form for the original intended use, but the original intent does not have to be everyone’s paradigm for use.  With a little patience, and with the right tools, objects may be cleaned, disassembled and reimagined.  This innovative reengineering elongates the lineage of an object. 

Back in 2009, when Understanding Green Building Materials was published, it was stated that: 

“The salvage furniture market is still maturing.  You will likely find more salvaged material (i.e. salvaged wood that you can make into a table) than actual salvaged furniture pieces in their reclaimed form (Rider et al. 153).” 

I feel that today we are still recovering from the 2008/2009 recession.  Because of the evolution of rising costs and job losses; we are finding more and more unanticipated uses for originals.  Instead of recycling we are upcycling because for every one use there are possibilities for other unusual and productive uses; often using a disposable to create a durable in another form.  And so it would be to our advantage to try to tap into this unused potential.  Sequentially, artful attempts at being creative positively impact our world in more ways than one.

 The source of salvaging materials is deconstruction.  “Deconstruction, by the nature of the word, is a much more environmentally conscious process than the more traditional demolition process” (Rider 112).  “Deconstruction means the building is taken down carefully, rather than simply demolished, and its materials are either appropriately recycled or salvaged.  Materials include but are not limited to brick, steel and hardwoods.  “The practice has created a great source of reclaimed hardwood flooring and beams that have been salvaged and being sold for reuse.  Many companies are emerging and maturing in the deconstruction and reclamation industries, giving customers a viable alternative for a sustainable material (Rider 112).

One company spreading the financial, social and environmental benefits of salvaging is Second Chance in Baltimore, Maryland.  They are creating a beautiful “win-win for everyone,” even though salvaging is not quite at the point of being click-of-a-button easy as stated on the website:

Through a process called "deconstruction," architectural and structural elements are carefully removed and salvaged before a building is demolished.  Quality, historical items retain their useful and valuable properties, and even common materials find a second chance!

(Second Chance, 2015).


Whether you are looking for refurbishing a home or producing remarkable artwork, reuse is a great sustainable approach – allowing each of us to look at old as new again.

-Tera M. Sade


Works Cited

Johnson, Stephen T.  A is for Abstract: An Abstract Alphabet.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

McKinney, Sarah. “Creating Beautiful Furniture from Reclaimed Materials—the Inspiring Story Of Jacqueline Sharp’s Fort.”  Forbes  6 Jan.2014. 10 Nov.2014

Rider, Traci Rose, Glass, Stacy, and McNaughton, Jessica.  Understanding Green Building Materials. Ed. Karen Levine.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.  112-153.

Second Chance. Deconstruction. June 2015).

AuthorJane Rohde