WEST CHICAGO, IL — Breathing new life into discarded items takes vision, and an artist is doing just that every time he walks past a discarded bin of knickknacks.
Most people would probably toss out a bucket full of old springs, valves, and rusty gears, but not Randy Meyers. He uses these recycled materials to create new-age, functional art.
“Most of these are used fittings or obsolete,” he said pointing to a bin full of parts.
Over the years, Meyers has painstakingly curated all the ‘junk’ in his garage.
“I never incorporate plastic, you know, maybe some wood, copper, aluminum. But it's all got to be pretty old and unique. It's got to have a look,” said Meyers.
For Meyers, the workshop clutter is a treasure trove of possibilities.
“They asked me, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ It's like, ‘You're never going to understand.’ I knew exactly. I'm going to have some big wire coming down and then I'll rewire that for a 110 light. It'll be a desk lamp.”
When he sees a random piece like a car bumper part, he has a vision of what he'll do with it.
“Oh, yeah, yeah. This is because people can relate to this. I mean, older people,” he said. “The kids nowadays wouldn't even believe that came off a car. [There’s] more steel in here than a car these days.”
Using old equipment, vintage car parts, gears, and pipe fittings, Meyers makes retro-futuristic designs with a turn-of-the-century aesthetic that would likely make Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison envious.
“Everything is old that I'm working with like these are old lampshades from the 50s. The lamp would go in there and a big shade would screw on that and would shine down on something.”
The tinkering artist has created some 400 pieces, mostly lamps, all of them are now numbered and signed.
“There's a dimmer switch in this tin here. You can control the light,” he said, pointing to one lamp built out of a series of gears and an animatronic figurine. “I dim him way down just to make it look like that's a little factory, and this guy is cranking the crank and the generator to power the light.”
The first time he discovered he could make a cell phone speaker out of old record player parts he didn’t sleep all night.
“It’s louder than the phone itself.”
Like the gears spinning on his creations, his mind is always turning with ideas buzzing.
“Gauges, the bigger ones like this one, it's such a cool gauge. I'll probably just leave it the way it is, but if this was a little nastier, I would take the guts out of it, put a little quartz movement in it make a clock out of it," he explained.
The conservation artworks are show-stoppers at markets and local exhibitions.
But for Meyers, it’s not just about the sales. It’s about seeing the vision and reassembling the puzzle.
“I think creating something out of basically nothing is -- that's the magic," he said.