Outside the box

ReStore challenges local artists and builders to give new life to old stuff

Jim Boyd took first place in a recent repurposing competition with this “Steampunk Light Fixture” made entirely of items found at Chico’s ReStore.

Jim Boyd took first place in a recent repurposing competition with this “Steampunk Light Fixture” made entirely of items found at Chico’s ReStore.

Photo courtesy of the ReStore/via Facebook

220 Meyers St.

Walking through Lost on Main last week, one might have been surprised to see not live reggae or metal but instead an array of eclectic, handmade items. They ranged from a simple and homey coat-and-hat rack made of recycled trowels to a fanciful and eerie chainmail-clad figure riding a stick horse with a carousel unicorn’s head to a reportedly functional machine designed for dredging gold out of streambeds

The event, dubbed the ReStore Repurposing Competition, was sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of Butte County, a Christian organization dedicated to providing affordable housing for “people in need regardless of race or religion.” And it turned out to be one of Chico’s most interesting art exhibits and competitions, with its goal to raise awareness of Habitat’s ReStore, a retail outlet that provides recycled building and home-improvement supplies at low cost to people looking to spruce up their living spaces without the price tag of brand-new materials.

A total of 10 local artisans and craftspeople entered the contest, agreeing to use items found at the ReStore, repurposing them into something artistic, functional or otherwise ingenious.

Top honors went to Jim Boyd for his “Steampunk Light Fixture,” an assemblage of intricately linked iron plumbing joints and pipe sections attaching two rheostat-controlled industrial lamps around a brass-rimmed pressure gauge. The stunning piece was highlighted—literally—by a flickering flame-like incandescent bulb in an old automobile trouble light that cast an orange glow into the dimly lit nightclub setting. Boyd’s materials for the piece were all found at the ReStore where, he said, “I always go when I’m working on making home improvements and repairs.”

Second place went to Roger Braddy for his “Her Majesty’s Secret Steer,” which he says depicts, in found-object form, “the head of a steer secretly kept at Buckingham Palace that the queen tells her troubles and secrets of state to when it all gets to be too much.” According to Braddy, the meticulously crafted piece took about 100 hours of preparation and labor, including brazing all joints of the metallic frame, which included bicycle forks for the horns, a fondue fork rest halo, and a bike seat providing the foundation for the intricately mosaicked head with shards of Delft Blue pottery forming the facial features and a whole dollhouse-scale teapot crowning its forehead. He priced the piece at “$1,250, wholesale.”

Rod Caudill’s “Auggie,” a semi-abstract figure made from a skateboard, a yellow fright-wig, some plumbing fixtures and a large, oddly shaped light bulb, took third place.

The judges of the event, University Art Gallery curator Kelly Lindner, Erin Banwell of Idea Fab Labs, and interior designer Evalani Washington appeared to have a great time assessing the various works, and local Habitat for Humanity secretary Bob Gross expressed satisfaction with the event’s turnout. Gross says that the ReStore gets about 100 clients on a good day and that the event was developed as a way to publicize the store and hopefully draw in more customers to serve the goal of keeping usable materials out of the landfill by providing quality used resources for those working to improve their homes economically and in an environmentally practical manner. He said that among the items available are “hardware of all kinds, lumber, tools, odds and ends of décor, cabinets, doors, sinks, and all kinds of random miscellaneous stuff—including VHS movie players and even vinyl record albums.”

Attendee Dave Vert, a local musician, guitar tech and craftsman, waxed enthusiastically about the ReStore as a source of materials, saying that when a friend needed to build some turntables for displaying his ceramic art they found counter tops that they cut into circular pieces and “made 10 turntables for ceramic art for like 15 bucks!” Vert, who lives near homes recently built by Habitat for Humanity, added, “I’ve been watching ’em grow two really nice houses on 11th Street—they do great work.”

For those who are making improvements that require getting rid of old but usable materials, the ReStore accepts “doors and door hardware, windows, all appliances, paint/stain (new or used, must have a label, must not be leaking, and no more than 50 gallons at a time can be accepted), pneumatic, electric, and hand tools, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, kitchen and bathroom sinks, low flow (1.6GPF or less) toilets, plumbing supplies, lumber (no nails/staples, please!), all types of flooring and underlayment (again, no nails/staples), tile, landscaping materials, miscellaneous hardware/fasteners, electrical supplies, trim/moulding, light fixtures, ceiling fans, glass/mirror, woodstoves/fireplaces, roofing materials, and we could always use more of your leftover grocery bags!”

The event’s host, Lost on Main owner Kyle Ullrich, happily directed guests to the snack table during the contest. When asked how he came to host it, he gestured around at the eclectic furnishings of his establishment and said, “When they asked, I said I’d be glad to do it. Half the stuff in here is from the ReStore.”