Jamison Sellers makes recycled furniture and teaches urban youth to do the same
Jamison Sellers is driven by process and a near obsessive attention to precision and detail: “I am a firm believer in environmental and social responsibility, and design and build my work accordingly. My material use is primarily salvaged and reclaimed–wooden shipping pallets, old flooring, and industrial artifacts.”
Jamison studied sustainability and environmental & human ecology alongside furniture design at RISD, a combination that focused his design approach on materials, their sources, and minimizing of environmental impact.
“To be honest,” says Sellers, “I am astounded at the amount of material waste in our society, so much of which is perfectly useable or recyclable. What drew me to shipping pallets was the fact that they are a ubiquitous symbol of globalized shipping, and generally regarded as trash. Contrary to this perception, I find that under the layers of grime, many are made of strikingly beautiful and unique domestic and exotic species of wood. Using this material not only saves perfectly good raw materials from ending up in the dump or being burned, but also avoids the virgin timber that may have been used otherwise. In addition to the environmental aspects, I really like the aesthetic quality of salvaged materials–the nail holes, stains, and checks indicative of their previous uses. I think these characteristics add a nice contrast to the clean lines and geometry found in most of my work.”
Keep your eye out for Jamison Sellers’ upcoming custom work:
“My favorite commission project so far is a pair of conference tables I just started working on. I have not yet had an opportunity to create a piece this large (8′ and 4.5′ tables), which is exciting, and a lot of work! This project has also enabled me to find sources of larger-dimensioned pallet wood, as well as adapting pattern designs for a large surface area.”
To start your career with a really sharp modern furniture line made out of recycled woods and natural chemical-free finishes is an admirable feat for anyone, and a pretty impressive thing to achieve a couple years into your twenties. To simultaneously jump-start the careers of inner city youth in Boston by passing along environmental awareness and eco-friendly furniture building skills is not just impressive, it’s taking furniture and turning it into something socially transformative.
Artists For Humanity
Jamison is the 3D Studio Project Coordinator and mentor to a small group (9+) of local high school kids at Artists for Humanity. “AFH is a non-profit design firm (I use that term a bit loosely), and overall the work here is a very collaborative and democratic process. Each day and each project is completely different, so it’s important to have a core process to guide you through it. At the same time, the work is so diverse [the program participants] really learn to be flexible balancing client’s needs with the studio’s capabilities to deliver the best results.” Artists for Humanity not only teaches creativity, it employs Boston teens as Makers, both passing on the trade and giving kids real career-starting jobs.
What’s it like to teach 3D design and eco-friendly furniture building?
“It is a combination of teaching design thinking and design/build skills, helping them realize their visions and think about sustainability issues in the context of their own work and lives, while also working on commissioned projects for clients and other in-house projects. With each project, I strive to use green materials and incorporate recycling and reuse where I can, but these days many clients come in with that already in mind. The design ideas are not always my own, and the studio members play an integral role in each and every project, contributing to brainstorming, concept generation, sketches, model making, and final production. Working with teenagers definitely helps you learn great people and managerial skills. If you can deal with a group teenagers you can deal with anything.”
AFH design projects capture industry attention
In “ReVision,” Jamison’s students turned 200 plastic bags into colorful plastic bar stools, a project which received the Social Responsibility Award by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) at the 2011 Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York City. The colorful, individualistic recycled plastic stools got some serious industry buzz, including a nod on renowned home goods blog CasaSugar and even a spot on CBS!!! “The plastic stool tops were a continuation processes I explored for my degree project at RISD. The studio members are now well versed with the plastic, and are beginning to produce some outstanding results.”
The future of custom furniture making
“As for the future of custom furniture making,” muses Sellers, “I think I am part of a larger push, especially by young designers, to be more resourceful with materials, putting emphasis on the sustainability and longevity of well made, custom work. While there will always be a place in the market for high-end custom furniture, I am intrigued by the task of making fine furniture and design objects more accessible and affordable by combining simple and efficient designs with salvaged materials, which is what my next “collection” will focus on. I think there’s a lot of potential to this approach because it vastly expands your market. Not everybody can afford to buy a chair that costs over $600 each, or a table that costs $5000.”
Jamison not only brings a new voice to sustainable furniture design and a gritty-textured-clean-lined-cutting-edge look for any contemporary home; he adds new meaning to the phrase “sustainable furniture” by using 3D design and furniture teaching as a tool to help youth in Boston become independent and self sufficient. Hats – and shipping pallets – off to you Jamison.
To custom order furniture from Jamison Sellers follow this link.
To learn more about making recycled furniture or how to contribute your own skills to teach others, comment below.