Texas manufacturer turns scrap wood into sustainable exhibits

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Where one man saw a pile of fallen trees destined for the garbage dump, Ivan Benavidez saw a work of art waiting to be unveiled. “It could have just been thrown away, burned and forgotten,” Benavidez said. “But when you cut into it, you’re exposed this beautiful grain that’s probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”

Benavidez is the owner of Seaside Wood Co., Ltd.Under this nickname, he creates wood carvings and unique household items such as bowls, candle holders, and incense burners in his hometown of Los Fresnos. When he first started woodworking, he experimented with driftwood he found on the coast near his home, but the material proved difficult due to long exposure to salt and sun. Now he scavenges on roadsides for the remains of Rio Grande Valley varieties, including honey mesquite, Mexican ash, and rare Texas ebony, prized for its black core. Paying little for raw materials is a smart business model, Benavidez says, allowing him to create the art he wants to make with the message behind it. He is on a mission to highlight what he considers one of South Texas’ most beautiful natural resources.

With techniques customized to the variety, Benavides emphasizes the wood’s natural patterns. Using white vinegar and steel wool, he oxidize mesquite, changes from red to black. “It’s not dirt per se, so you can still see the texture and sharpness of the particles,” Benavidez says.he has reservations Carbonization effect of Mexican ash, is the process of rotating the wood in a lathe while burning the outer layer. And he tries his hand at “power carving,” using a combination of power and hand tools to create sculptures inspired by other natural wonders. sand and coral.

These sculptures cost several thousand dollars and are on display at a gallery on South Padre Island, but Benavides also sells smaller, more affordable pieces through Etsy and a Harlingen-based store. Procuring living and housing. Benavides wants to bring out the natural scent and texture of wood, so most of his products are finished with beeswax and mineral oils rather than chemicals or epoxies.

He’s not alone in seeing the potential in one of Texas’ most abundant resources. Below, check out five more woodworkers from across the Lone Star State who are making sustainability a priority.

7 ply revival (spring)

Sean Sink is an avid skateboarder and self-proclaimed “skate hoarder.” In the more than 20 years he has been doing this sport, he has amassed quite a collection of his skate decks (wooden platforms attached to four wheels).

“I know what it’s like to have certain memories attached to certain decks,” says Sink, who also works full time as an automotive technician.

When her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, Sink looked for a distraction and decided to upcycle her battered and broken board. Now, friends and local skate shops around Houston send him discarded decks, so he has over 300 to choose from when crafting different items. flower pot to beard comb. Sink can layer the wood to create a multi-colored effect, or choose to keep some of the board’s original graphics, as in his work. Popular knife series.

Art: Brian Phillips (Austin)

Brian Phillips has been painting on wood since the early 2000s, but only once has he purchased the materials for a makeshift canvas. It was too much material to scavenge from the huts of an old mining community. “The rest were found, traded or given to me,” he says.

Phillips collects information from all over Austin, including trash cans, trash piles, and friends’ renovations. His large-scale paintings and tree collages are ubiquitous as well, at his Commerce Gallery in Lockhart and his Austin Art Garage in South Lamar, outside his BBQ at the original Salt Lick. moody center, as well as hotels around the capital. The whimsical portraits of cowboys, roadrunners, and other Western motifs are packed with color and pattern, made even more interesting by the exposed wood that Phillips intentionally left in its original condition.

Ryan Renner of Birch + Bloom.
Ryan Renner of Birch + Bloom. Provided by Birch + Bloom

Birch + Bloom wooden mosaic.
Birch + Bloom wooden mosaic. Provided by Birch + Bloom

birch + bloom (Argyle)

Ryan Renner’s grandfathers grew up making furniture and cutting boards, but it wasn’t until later in life that she realized she might have the woodworking gene in her, too.What started as a hobby for her with a circular saw, finishing nails, and barn wood boards given to her by a neighbor has become something incredibly complex. wood mosaic.

She sources most of the wood for the barn locally, but over time (there aren’t that many old barns anymore), demand has become less. As such, Renner has branched out to using other species, including white oak, ambrosia maple, sport plane tree, and walnut, and partnered with local carpenters who shared their hardwood offcuts. She saves her treasured stash of barn wood for accent details.

“This wood cannot be counterfeited or duplicated,” Renner said. “It’s been left out in the elements for decades, aged by wind and sun. The paint has peeled off perfectly. It tells a story.”

dunswood (St. Anthony)

For Darryl Dunn, there is freedom within the constraints of working with dirty, unwanted wooden pallets. “I still see the beauty of it,” he says. “It allows me to be as creative, experimental, and free as I want.”

Dan fell in love with woodworking in 2013 after helping a friend build a bed frame from old pallets. Currently, he has little time to present new collections as he is busy with commissions (Follow him on social But earlier this year, when he teamed up with local art gallery and studio owner Maria Williams to launch “The Unseen Artists Bench Project,” the entire Alamo City came to enjoy his work. Ta. They asked 10 black artists to leave their mark on 10 pallet benches that Dunn had created to temporarily install them in baggage claim at San Antonio International Airport. They are expected to be operational until the end of the year, and Dunn is already looking forward to the opportunity to make even more money.

neighbor’s table (Dallas)

In 2012, when Sarah Harmeyer asked her father, Lee, to build a farmhouse-style table in their backyard so she could invite neighbors, friends and strangers over for dinner, Little did I imagine that it would become the blueprint for an even bigger movement. Inspired by her “passion for bringing people together,” people in 36 states have since purchased Neighbors tables and embraced her spirit. Sarah personally delivered all 500 tables (and counting).

“We rent a box truck and load up a bunch of tables going in the same direction,” Hermeyer said, adding that it’s an inefficient but fulfilling business model. “Oftentimes, you’ll be eating your first meal with other people.”

Sarah’s father recently retired and Steve Dusek, a Wills Point-based builder, took over. Tables are made to order, but our standard size (9 feet long and seats 10-12 people) is the most popular. They use Western Red Cedar because it reflects the Texas landscape and is especially suitable for the outdoors.

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