A Craft for Our Region
Jeff Soderbergh has been called the poster child for recycling. He tracks down old windows, heating grates, corbels and doors — architectural elements with a provenance — and turns them into curious sculptures and elegant pieces of furniture.
His materials come from all over the world, and his pieces have ended up in museums and private collections. Soderbergh has made a bed from a Gothic church window from Dublin, chairs from a 1902 baby grand, and a coffee table from a soapstone lab counter that came from a Newport middle school.
Often, in the course of remodeling old houses in Newport, I’ve found myself throwing out items that just felt as if they ought to be saved — even if only a single board of old wood. We can’t help but come into contact with history and heritage, around here, and in a sense, Soderbergh’s craft condenses that broader aesthetic into a single piece of furniture of art.
Of course, I can’t help but find it a cheap characterization to equate such activity with recycling. It’s more a matter of preservation — of finding what is of value in the old to a new application in the present, whether directly related or not.
Some will mutter “here he goes again,” but it seems to me an ultimately conservative impulse (especially when one turns around and markets the craft for capitalistic purposes).