Interview with a junker: The free junk is where I profit. No, I weld my own art; my husband has his own job. My brain never stops inventing.
Interview with a junker: The free junk is where I profit. No, I weld my own art; my husband has his own job. My brain never stops inventing.

Interview with a junker: The free junk is where I profit. No, I weld my own art; my husband has his own job. My brain never stops inventing.

People ask me where I get all my junk.

Well, all over the place, really.

Do you buy all your stuff?

I do buy some stuff, but the free junk is where it’s at. I’d say 85% of the stuff I take in is free. I love the stuff nobody else wants!

Where do you get it? How do you get it for free?

Bench made from free barn timbers, with the recipient’s initials hand-carved into the seat.

I offer a service where I go in and empty out old sheds or barns. I reduce the amount of stuff they have to deal with later. If they ask, I’ll clean out everything and tear down the building for them. I tear down a lot of old sheds and barns and use the wood to make furniture. Once I have the time in tearing down the building and de-nailing the wood, I can’t afford to have extra cost in the materials, so I stick to the free picks. People know they can trust me on their place, and I also offer to make them a piece or art or furniture in exchange for the materials, which is appealing to some and sweetens the deal.

Is that all? You just tear down buildings?

No…Sometimes, I go to unlock my studio and there’s a pile of stuff in front of the door. I have to go out the back door regularly to see what’s been left there too. Sometimes random stuff shows up in the bed of my pickup. People leave stuff at my mom’s office across the street too. 

I tell people that and I get a lot of chuckles. I always get more questions: Do you ever go to auctions?

I do love a good auction, but I don’t always have time or money to go. When I do go auctioning, I have limits on what I’ll pay for something.

Where else do you go?

Dirty boy signs made from cabinet doors that someone threw on the curb.

I never pass up the opportunity to pick up a broken chair off the curb. That’s the kind of stuff nobody wants, but when I see a broken chair, I see 6 or 8 wood spindles that I can sell for $5 each! It’s pretty normal for me to clear $30-40 from a broken chair. But not everyone can do that…I have worked for nearly 10 years to cultivate the audience and the retail outlets that allow me to market my salvaged materials and art. Curb surfing is a fun free way to get the good stuff.

 

 

How do you get your ideas?

Well, it took some practice at first, but now I can’t shut it off. My brain is always working out fun ways to repurpose junk.

Do you end up throwing a lot of stuff away?

Not if I can help it! If I make the effort to remove it and haul it home, I’m going to find a way to use it. Every now and then, I get the urge to purge, and I build a fire and get rid of stuff that has sat around and not been used, or stuff that I made and it didn’t sell, which isn’t often, but we can’t hit home runs every time we go up to bat.

{This notched piece of wood was a scab used to support a roof joist in an old barn that I paid to tear down. I thought with the notch at the bottom, it looked like a cat standing there. So I looked at cat pictures on pinterest and painted my first cat, then used the metal triangles from a Jack o’lantern cutout to make the ears, and a storm door spring for the tail. It sold within hours of posting on social media.}

 

 

 

Do you do all the work? The welding?

A fine example of the crazy ways I weld up my junk!

I do all of the welding and plasma cutting. I do most of the furniture building. My mom helps me quite a bit. She is really great with doing vinyl layout, custom orders, and building smaller things in the woodshop. She is awesome at painting shabby chic furniture. She enjoys going to shows and to Kansas City with me, talking to customers and working our space. She’s really great at coming up with cool ideas too. My husband works full-time off the farm, so he is only able to help on a limited basis, though my pipe dream is for him to be able to tear down barns and market the salvaged materials with me. He is invaluable in the business though. He helps me in ways around the house that save me time and sanity. He’s a great cook, and he does most of the laundry. He also cuts and splits all the firewood that heats our house, which is what allowed me to spend more time doing my junk thing: I used to spend most of my spare time cutting and splitting firewood until I met him. I had very little time to do my art work. The growth in my business happened in leaps and bounds after we met. I joke and say I married him for his log splitter. I get a lot of questions about who welds the scluptures and does the metal cutouts. And I hear a lot of conversation about it when people are in my booth…’Look what he did here…’ I just grin and let it go unless someone asks me.

Do you ever worry this recycling fad is just a fad?

No, I don’t believe so. It’s not just a “recycling fad.” People will ALWAYS  want to preserve memories, which is what I do. I don’t “do arts and crafts.” I give people memories. People love clever art too. I have a way of repurposing things in a way that they’ve not seen before. 

Do you ever worry about running out of junk?

No way. Look out the window as you drive down the road. There’s junk everywhere. There’s no end to it, and no end to the fun!

 

Be wild. Create!

Signs made from cabinet doors that someone threw on the curb.

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