Guest Article: Sami

Monday, May 16, 2016

I was able to interview a very talented close friend of mine, Sami Avery. Here is her interview. And I suggest you check out her refinishing work, it's amazing!

Some Basic Info About Me
I am a custom finish artist with a special focus on restoring and refinishing antique furniture. I have a master’s degree in Historic Preservation, concentrating on material conservation and historic building technology. I have worked professionally in a variety of different environments from a shabby shop that restored historic windows and doors to high-end decorative finishes in multi-million dollar homes. I am super crafty and I love breathing new life into old dingy pieces of furniture. One of my favorite hobbies is hunting through garage sales and local thrift stores to find perfect pieces to rehab. I like to be creative and mix architectural salvage with furniture and household items.

What is your philosophy regarding non-consumerism/repurposing?
Why burn through the resources to make new products when there’s so much life left in many of the things we already have?  Humans produce such a vast amount of waste that we are literally running out of places to put it. Why? So much of modern society is stuck in the “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. People are so quick to discard older items because they are dated or out of style and it’s gotten so easy and cheap to just replace it. We need to be mindful of every single thing that we buy, because a lot of resources are used to get that thing into our hands. We need to respect the environment and this earth and not take it for granted. For me, I try and think about everything that goes into creating a piece…the tree thatproduced the wood for a table, the people that labored to make that wood into a beautiful table, etc. Every piece of furniture has a soul and it deserves to thrive as long as we can allow it to. It deserves our respect. That might be a little too new age for some people, but that’s ok. We can all at least agree that the environment is important and we all need to do our part to reduce our footprint. Be creative and try to use what has already been given to us instead of demanding more.

 You want a red accent chair? First ask yourself, “Do I really need a red chair?” If you can’t live without it (I know the feeling). Spend some time looking at local thrift stores and find a quality, solid wood chair to refinish. Use your imagination and think outside the box. Spend less than $20 on supplies and a few hours of your time and paint that chair red. It will require more effort than going to Ikea and buying one, but you’ll save tons of money, you’ll be proud of your work, no more trees had to die, and instead of creating waste, your repurposing it.
How did you find out about your passion for repurposing items?
It started with architecture. Ever since I was a kid I hated to see beautiful historic buildings demolished and replaced by contemporary ones. It has always seemed like such a shame to erase a building’s history, all that ever happened in it, around it, the people that worked/lived there…all that energy from years and years of interaction between people and structure erased to make room for a Starbucks. I have always had a passion for preserving the material remains of the past and as I continued on my journey through the higher education system, I honed in on a more specific craft of repurposing elements of historic buildings and eventually furniture as well.
I’m sure growing up with a family that treasures heirlooms and the importance of keeping things in the family contribute to this. I have watched my mother and grandmother re paint, strip, stain or do whatever needed to be done to furniture to adapt it to whatever it was needed for at the time over and over again while I grew up.

Any advice for people who want to begin reproduction/upcycling their items?
One thing I hear often is that people don’t think they have the ability to do some of the projects that I have done. The best advice I can give to those people is that it’s hardly ever as hard as it looks. It’s so easy to be intimidated by a lot of the power tools and equipment used to repurpose furniture. In reality, most tools are very easy to use and there’s tons and tons of tutorials on youtube that break it down for you. If there’s something you don’t have access to, generally people are more than willing to help out.  A lot of times people that own woodworking equipment are eager for an excuse to use it. Also, many hardware stores will cut wood to size for you. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Favorite projects?
I recently worked as a finisher in a shop that specialized in making furniture out of reclaimed barnwood. I found an old slab of bead board that was being used as a sliding shed door which had a perfectly distressed seafoam green finish. So my boss and I built a bed out of it and now I sleep on it every night.

You can find Sami's other works at The Revived Vintage