Re:Design Exhibition Showcases Young Designers Who Repurpose Materials into New Objects

SUMMIT — Re:Design, a new exhibit at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, highlights 14 emerging designers who are taking a fresh look at old materials. Part of a generation raised in a world where the continuous production of new objects can be environmentally irresponsible, some of these designers have repurposed old or discarded objects, finding beauty in their history and patina. Others have taken an innovative approach to objects or materials already in production, using them in creative and unexpected ways. Re:Design will open to the public Friday, April 8.

Bank of America, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, is the sponsor of Re:Design. Bob Doherty, Bank of America New Jersey President, said of the sponsorship: “Bank of America has a strong commitment to both the arts and the environment.  Thinking creatively about how we use and re-use things is an important part of how we can address the impact our actions have on the environment.  Re:Design provides a wonderful platform for showcasing outstanding and inspiring work from young designers throughout the country who are able to put a different slant on what we once considered disposable.”


Recycled materials offer inspiration to a number of the designers in the exhibition. Myriah Scruggs and Nadia Yaron of Nightwood in Brookyln, New York, use recycled wood and discarded furniture to create pieces that have both a weathered sense of history, and the fresh lines of the contemporary. Their Amelia Earhart chair, made from a 19th century chair with graceful curves, plays with concepts of femininity—the curves topped by a seat upholstered with an old bomber jacket, and the back shows a portrait of a woman who defied gender stereotypes. David Levine and Meli Salihagic of Koff Designs, Brooklyn, New York, reuse old shipping pallets to create furniture that looks rugged and timeless. Rebekah Rauser of Rauser Designs, Austin, Texas, creates Redeploy rugs that rely on the sturdiness of military blankets with quilted stitching to give them soft, sensual curves.

Many of the designers poke fun at design conventions. Stanley Ruiz’s Neolithic Clock is a playful take on the iconic Ball Clock by George Nelson. With rocks, the clock becomes something out of the Flintstone Stone Age. Martin Konrad Gloekle takes an interactive approach to design. People can complete his tables and lights with their own books, customizing the size, color, and shape of the objects and changing them according to their current interests and reading list.

Some designers find beauty in objects we would normally keep out of sight. Craighton Berman was inspired by the bright colors of electrical cords to make a lamp formed entirely from the cord. His Coil Lamp is bright, cheerful, and cleverly simple. Peter Sid used objects with more negative connotations—medical vials from IVs used in chemotherapy treatment—to create Bottles of Hope Chandelier that turns the vials into rays of hope.

Although each of the designers has a different reason for re-using materials, they are all adept at rethinking ways to make completely different objects. Re:Design may be a glimpse into the future of design: Instead of relentlessly producing something new, with all the inherent environmental costs, designers can creatively engage with existing materials to add beauty, style, and functionality to our daily lives.

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Craighton Berman, Coil Lamp
2008, laser-cut acrylic frame, bulb adaptor, 100 foot orange extension cord, 1 CFL light bulb, 17” x 11”

Stanley Ruiz, Neolithic Clock
2009, painted steel, found stones, clock movement, string, 16 ½” (diameter) x 2 ¼”

(Photos courtesy of Visual Arts Center of New Jersey)

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