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Economate’s Katy brings new life to old furniture

After four years of exploring materiality, through a Masters of Fine Art, Katy’s project has come to full fruition. Working with both raw timber and recovered and visualising the intrinsic stories hidden within old secondhand furniture Katy shows how old material can be given a new lease of life.

‘My project is about revealing the hidden ecological biographies of discarded and vulnerable furniture made from scarce and valuable resources. Using inlay work and modern marquetry techniques I tell the ecological biography, aiming to educate the user of the furniture that lies beneath the dark stain.’

Employing functional pieces of furniture such as a dining room table and chairs as canvases, Katy helps the user to interact with the piece through visual, conceptual, tactile, multi-sensory engagement. The table provides a site for social exchange, thus encouraging conversation that may lead to efforts for conservation/education.

Under the ever resourceful ethos of Economate, Katy aims to bring to attention the growing scarcity of certain – once plentiful – materials, to remind us of why we need to value the species they originate from. These tree species are becoming increasingly under threat through disease exacerbated by climate change. While Economate is all about reusing waste, we also need to be mindful of not being wasteful with existing material – here a prime example is abandoned old furniture due to either landfill or sold off cheap in op shops.

‘As a woodworker this project made me realise the stresses tree species were being put under for their valuable materials. Being design-conscious made me reflect on my own practice considering alternative species, reclaimed materials and upcycling. When I researched the possibilities of using reclaimed furniture, I became aware of their vulnerabilities and the scarcity of disease-threatened trees and the timbers they produced. As an educator, I see the importance of preservation and conservation, and through narrative and functionality hope this message can be conveyed to future generations.’

You can view these artworks at Massey University’s Exposure 2019 – but only until 16 November 2019 – see here https://exposure2019.massey.ac.nz/students/master-of-fine-arts/katy-cottrell/