One Man’s Trash: Repurposing for Art’s Sake

YES! Weekly | February 16, 2012
The impulse to emulate Mother Nature is, at its heart, an artistic inclination. In the case of Greensboro artist Adrian Boggs, it’s his life’s work.

While fulfilling an internship with a High Point furniture company two years ago, Boggs discovered the manufacturer was routinely discarding high-quality sheets of plywood after larger sheets were cut into customized shapes by a computerized mechanism. After observing a good deal of raw material being thrown into the dumpster, inspiration struck.

“Ten to 30 percent of these large sheets were waste, and it was beautiful, beautiful material,” Boggs said. “I found a way to reshape and reinvent this material to create objects that responded to its size and shape.”

Repurposing waste material became the subject of Boggs’ master’s thesis as part of his degree requirements at UNCG. Repurposing waste stream materials cuts down on the carbon footprint of area landfills, Boggs said, and creates a new paradigm for furniture design.

“In the perfect design process, we’re using everything, just like Mother Nature,” Boggs said. “There’s no waste at all — everything that grows becomes a nutrient for the next product.”

Boggs’ passion for repurposing raw materials has fueled the development of his latest business venture — Adrian Boggs Sustainable Design and Furnishings.

The business model is simple: Craft a design perspective to address the problem of waste materials generated by North Carolina manufacturers by transforming it into home furnishings, and works of art.

“Right now, a company will produce objects that will be cut out of large sheets so smaller items are seen as waste,” he said. “Those companies could take the waste and apply a design principle to accommodate the sizes and shapes that are left over.”

For example, one of Boggs’ more impressive pieces of furniture is a bookshelf that was created out of discarded pieces of wood from a local factory.

“I wanted to build this bookshelf, but I couldn’t say, ‘I want a 4 [foot] by 8 [foot] piece’ —I can’t do that,” he said. “It’s about learning how to work with what we get.”

Instead of cutting customized pieces of wood, Boggs created the bookshelf by using discarded drawers.

“Instead of using them like drawers, I turned them on their side and created bookshelves, and curio cabinet,” he said. “I’m trying to challenge people to look at how things are used and to start to look at trash as a value-added resource.”

There is something amazingly beautiful and perhaps naïve about starting successful businesses that live on the waste stream of North Carolina manufacturers, Boggs said, rather than importing new raw materials.

“There’s something kind of warm and fuzzy about an entrepreneur taking a waste product and turning it into something useful to create jobs here at home,” Boggs said. “By redefining our idea of what trash is, we can achieve our goal of decreasing landfill footprint while increasing revenue for our company.”

The repurposing movement is inextricably tied to the larger ideas of supporting a more sustainable economy by supporting a sustainable environment, Boggs said.

“If we can find a way to make it profitable, we can do good to the environment by doing well in our business,” he said. “Instead of supporting the Chinese economy, we can support the North Carolina economy.”

Boggs’ latest mission is to find manufacturers in the state that will support the creation of furniture prototypes so that he can keep his business model growing for years to come.

“I’ve got the resource from the furniture makers and I’m confident I can work with the size and orientation of the material,” he said. “The big hurdle right now is the prototyping and the challenge becomes, how do we grow it?”

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YES! Weekly began as a concept in December 2004, and was on the streets of Greensboro by Jan. 4, 2005. Our mission was to bring hard and fair news, insightful commentary and comprehensive cultural writing. Since then we have expanded...
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