High efficiency

Kurtis James Christensen

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

You never know quite who you’re going to meet in Reno. At a recent Art for under $50 event at the Treehouse Lounge, Kurt Christensen, 41, was selling wood and aluminum belt buckles, necklaces and small sculptures. Turned out, it was all recycled material from odds and ends left from construction sites. And those were just small pieces. Christensen is a positive guy, and he’s quickly moving into a new career as an artist. Check out kurtisjames.com or call 771-0708 for more information.

Describe your art.

The pieces that I make are the leftovers from furniture and the larger items that I make. I’ve been a high-end finish carpenter my whole life. When I was about 21, I lied my way into a job in Maui as a finish carpenter, and I’d never read a tape measure. The first thing I ever did was a three-piece crown molding on a 12-foot ceiling.

So, how did that go?

I actually had to learn very fast or else I was going to be sent back home. I begged them just to give me a chance, so 9 months later I was the lead carpenter on a job with about 35 guys.

No shit.

Really, no shit. It was a hustle extraordinaire.

What type of items are you making now?

I’ve always been an accessory junkie. I always love to make accessories. But I like things that people use every day, that they interact with, letter openers and rolling pins. I love to make stools because they’re always pulled around and used, and I just like to make things that are in people’s way, and in their everyday lives.

I got a belt buckle and a necklace, but you mentioned to me that you do furniture that kind of exudes light.

I’ve made some stools that have tubes of aluminum through them, and I have ways to illuminate the aluminum tubes within the stool pieces themselves. I’ve even got necklaces and belt buckles that do the same thing. I’ve made some belt buckles that hold credit cards and money. “Efficient” is a word I always tell people. I like to make things sometimes that perform more than one function, like a piece of furniture that releases light at night. I really like to take things to their furthest use.

Where can people see your stuff?

I have a great display at Red Chair on Lakeside. Red Chair has been around for about six years, and Erin Walker is the artist, owner, she’s amazing. I have a really nice display made out of billet aluminum; you would really love my display. I’ve got a nice little cross-section of items and small pieces of furniture. I’ve got little stacking stools that I made out of wood that I got right off the forest floor at a job I was recently working kind of in the Colfax area of California. I just completed a bath house for a family that lives off the grid up there. We built it out of lumber that we cut from trees that we cut on the property.

Anything else we should hit on?

I want to reassure people that they haven’t seen anything yet. As soon as I finish things, I like to give them away or get rid of them because I always feel like I’m on the edge of my biggest best thing. That just kind of plays into my cup is half full mentality. It’s been one of my most challenging years, but at the same time, it’s been one of my most rewarding. I really feel that I was put on the earth to create—to make things. I really love to give things away, and my goal of goals is to become successful enough to where someday I can just wake up everyday and just go give things away to brighten people’s days.