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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Profiles in Green: Salvage Artist, Amanda Gross and John Metzler, Urban Tree Forge

Amanda Gross, one of GA/GI's "green" Fashion Designers, worked with a professor at Eastern Mennonite University in a class called "Trash Fashion." She designed and created five outfits from recycled materials and helped put on a group fashion show. She was hooked; very interested in exploring art that reused items no longer deemed valuable for their original intent and purpose (a.k.a. trash). "I reuse trash in my art as a metaphor for hope. Is says that we as a society, as individuals, can do better," said Amanda.

These days Gross teaches at The Neighborhood Academy, a faith-based, independent college-prep high school for Pittsburgh's low-income youth. Students attend school all day with an academic schedule in the morning and either sports or Arts Connection in the afternoon. Amanda's class "Recycled Fashion Design" is one of their afternoon art options.

In addition to opening up conversation about the use of resources, the class has allowed Amanda and her students to connect to several community partners in and out of the school: Teachers, local artists, and community members have been saving all sorts of things from the landfills in order to support the project. Crazy Mocha in Lawrenceville has been especially helpful saving plastic caps and tea bag packets. Students have used materials as diverse as packing materials, plastic tableware, magazine clippings, and junk food wrappers. And the results are stunning!
See them at the Fashion show the evening of GA/GI at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.

John Meztler calls his business Urban Tree Forge, a "creative manufacturer of hardwoods, millwork, furniture, cabinetry and sculpture." And he truly does it all! Metzler, collects his product from Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, and other nearby communities; trees that have outgrown their usefulness and are pushing up sidewalks, blocking roads, or are damaged. He more than collects them, John "rescues" them.

In one instance, he got a call from a friend in Brookline to save a mighty ash tree which may have gone to a landfill. Turns out this large tree can yield about 900 square feet of super, tough flooring or become tool handles and baseball bats. Another call from Indiana Township saved a tree that had uprooted and fallen across a creek. Good wood for a multitude of uses. Still again, another rescue mission: This time a giant Mulberry in Wilkinsburg, a rarity in woods. But it isn't enough that John rescues these jewels from the urban forest, he then carefully considers the future of the wood. In nearly all cases, pieces from the tree will be sent out to be dried in a kiln, some taking months to cure, or even up to one full year. Pieces of the wood are then sold to artists and cabinet and furniture makers who come to John's warehouse on Washington Blvd, to find just the right planks for everything from benches to bracelets. Urban Tree Forge also rents space to over a half dozen artists to create and develop uses for wood materials.

You'll be able to see John's wonderful work as well as art created by other artists using fodder from Urban Tree Forge and other salvage finds during the Geek Art/Green Innovators Festival on Penn Avenue. Hosts for these displays are Friends of the Urban Forest, Grow Pittsburgh, and the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation's Activities Building aka GA/GI's Eco-Tech Center.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you enjoyed it! You may also like our companion blog.


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