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Trashy Furniture

Last year I served as a judge—along with Governor Boyd McCleary, architect Viviana Jenik and the Solid Waste Department’s Terry Benjamin—at the first annual CHAIR-ity Exhibit and Auction that took place in front of Nutmeg Designs in Wickhams Cay II. The event, organized by Annie MacPhail, showcased chairs, ottomans and stools made from discarded materials by resident artists, students or people simply interested in trying to make furniture from trash.

As I wove a path between the colourful entries, I rated them on overall use of recycled materials and aesthetic design. The chairs were created using diverse materials that included a skateboard, rope, fabric, a towel, driftwood, wine corks, PVC, bottle caps, a bicycle seat, aluminum cans, mailing bags and the drum from a washing machine. The aesthetic appeal of the chairs ranged from the elegant design of Sayula Hirst’s surfboard chair—made from the remains of a halved Firewire board and some scrap wood—to the funky life raft chair created by the students of St Mary’s School. During a recent phone interview, organizer Annie MacPhail said, “The event was a much bigger success than I thought it would be. I was nervous that we weren’t going to have so many entries, and a lot more people showed up than I expected.”

 

By auctioning off the 21 chairs to the highest bidders, the event raised $2500 for Green VI, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on promoting sustainable living in the Virgin Islands. The event also raised awareness by showing participants, bidders, judges and spectators that a lot of the things we consider trash can be repurposed in fun, functional and artful ways instead of being sent off to the dump or incinerator at Pockwood Pond.

The second annual CHAIR-ity Exhibit and Auction takes place this year on September 28 at Government House. Annie hopes the new venue will attract even more artists and designers interested in showing off their ability to convert recycled materials into functional works of art. “This year, we are recruiting the schools a lot harder,” Annie said. For those who are not artistically inclined, Annie encouraged involvement at the corporate level or simply by coming out to the event, “participation at every level—whether it’s a home project or your company.” She also mentioned that this year’s event is very timely because “there are so many great initiatives going on right now—programmes in the works—to get people interested in recycling.” The move to Government House also gives the event a little more gravitas, and Annie told me that the Governor and his wife bought two of the chairs at last year’s event.

 

Annie expressed her excitement at the recycling initiatives that have started to get off the ground since last year’s event. “People are really getting it—it’s in the newspapers every week. People are getting excited about cleaning this place up and cleaning up the incinerator,” she said. Annie’s business, Nutmeg Designs, sells furniture, fixtures and accessories made from repurposed goods. Her shop has been touted as the first sustainable goods store in the territory.  She hopes this event will inspire resident budding artists to see the usefulness and beauty of what might otherwise be thought of as garbage, and while last year resulted in some stellar creations, she expressed that they were mostly completed in little time. “A lot of the artists did their piece within a couple of weeks,” she said, “and that’s why we had so many people in the end.” Interested participants can contact Annie MacPhail at Nutmeg Designs:
[email protected] (284) 494-9151.  

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