"The main reason I like the concept of upcycling," said artist Priscilla Coleman, "is that people realize what they can do with junk. Repurposing is more efficient than recycling, and that's one of the good things Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity does."
Coleman and quite a few other artists are helping the ReStore celebrate its 10th anniversary by turning salvage into art. The ReStore is Habitat's outlet for used building materials. Sales from the store and the upcoming Upcycled Art Auction fund construction and renovation of homes.
Coleman selected a wooden cabinet, a bird cage, a metal chandelier and table lamps from the piles at the ReStore, "because I just couldn't resist," she said. "I think they're a great organization. I like the concept of helping people become self-sufficient. They help build the homes and are invested too."
Sonja Griffin Evans is a painter who grew up in Beaufort. She picked out old plantation shutters and a little table. She calls them "rescued items."
"There's already a story ingrained in the pieces, and we as artists let it tell the story."
Evans is donating her time and talent because as an artist she strives to provide hope, "and Habitat for Humanity does that very thing, gives people the opportunity to have a place of security and hope."
Terry Brennan ("the great upcycler!" commented Jenny Drake, manager of the ReStore) has created a large fish and a painting on tin for the auction. Reggie and Greg Przybysz picked out a table and a teak boat hatch to transform. "We're enhancing," Reggie said. "These pieces are something people can use. This has been an impetus for us to create, and a way to give back."
Aki Kato selected a bathroom vanity, replaced the top and enrobed the whole thing in a luscious and realistic Lowcountry landscape.
"At least I can do this with the skills and knowledge I have and contribute to them to raise money," Kato explained. "Lots of people donate time to build the houses for deserving people. As an artist, time is very important to me."
Cassandra Gillens is the honorary chairwoman of the event and is working on wooden interior doors.
"The doors will fit with the theme she's done over the years," said Benjamin Gillens, her husband and former Lowcountry Habitat board member. "So many people have seen the doors she's painted for our home, and she thought of their comments when we saw the many doors they have in the ReStore."
The Gillenses contribute to Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity "because we know of the difficulties individuals have in trying to secure a home, and Habitat is one of the entities where we could be hands-on and get out there and put in a door knob. That was the first thing I did when I volunteered. The house was on Prince Street, in downtown Beaufort, and I was very happy to help put in the door knobs, it gave a lot of pleasure to know that I was contributing to someone to have a home of their own and move forward in life."
When they are not volunteering, the Gillenses concentrate on producing and enjoying art, in large part for what it adds to the home.
"For me and for many collectors I've talked with, art brings on a pleasure. It gives perspective. I see something different every time I see the piece of artwork, how the light hits the piece. I can create a storyline in my head when I look at it, even when I know what the artist wanted to convey. This is your habitat, this is where you live, and you always want a refreshing view, even in the things that you might consider permanent." Benjamin Gillens was sitting at his dining room table while he shared his thoughts with me, looking at a painting by Cassandra of a lady reading to a child.
"Just from the positioning of the child looking into the lady's face, you can create the story that is being told to the child, you can see the excitement going on between the two. A lesson being learned, that's what I see. I wish I could place a piece of art on every wall in Beaufort and these United States. I am fortunate to live in this home where the art changes on a daily basis. It hurts a little when it's gone, but I know that others will enjoy it, possibly as much as I do."
Lisa Annelouise Rentz lives and writes in Beaufort.