Artists Brendan Smith and Nicola Armster are wood obsessed. By hand, the couple makes bookmarks, clocks, coasters, picture frames, birdhouses, earrings. All of their pieces, they insist, must serve a function. All of their pieces are made from reclaimed wood that the two have salvaged throughout New York City and the Northeast:
Coney Island boardwalk planks. Pickle barrels from the Bronx. A former bowling alley in Queens.
These are just a few of the sources Smith and Armster have used to create their “affordable and sustainable” art.
For years the two sold their work to stores. But in 2004 they decided to start making their living entirely on the streets – Ft. Greene Park, Grand Army Plaza, 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, Union Square.
Selling their work on the streets, they say, allows them to interact directly with the people who buy it. This in turn gives their work an added value. It also allows Smith and Armster to tell the history and story that each piece of their art contains.
Last Friday, I paid a visit to Smith and Armster at Union Square. Lately, they’ve been working on a project called “Reclaimed Wood; Reclaimed Words.”
Using pieces of an old water tower from the Bronx, boardwalk planks from Coney Island and crossbeams from a historic building from the Meatpacking District, Smith and Armster have created a series of small, square magnets. Each magnet contains an antiquated word found in old dictionaries. For example:
limerence: the first moments of love
petrichor: the smell of rain on dry earth
musophobist: a deep and sustained fear of poetry
Surprisingly or not, included among these magnets was one with the word “mungo,” which Smith quickly rattled off, “One who finds beautiful things in trash.”
Brendan Smith and Nicola Armster speak with a customer about their “Reclaimed Wood; Reclaimed Words” magnets at Union Square last Friday.[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/87/files/2009/11/Union_Nat_1-2.mp3]
Nicola Armster, Street Artist[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/87/files/2009/11/Union_Nicola_1-2.mp3]
Marie Duverger, Customer[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/87/files/2009/11/Union_Marie_1-2.mp3]
Brendan Smith, Street Artist (and Former Ivy League Educated Attorney)[audio:http://cdn.journalism.cuny.edu/blogs.dir/87/files/2009/11/Union_Brendan_1-2.mp3]