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Repurpose & Reuse: From Dishes to Decor

david wallace IN MAG
david wallace IN MAG
gold plate wall display
david wallace IN MAG
david wallace IN MAG

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By David Wallace | Photos by Herb Nygren Jr.

Let’s welcome the New Year! The fact is, if you’re holding and reading the current issue of IN Magazine, then the world is still here. However, if the Mayan prediction for an apocalyptic “end of the world” had come true, your home might now be in ruins, and knowing how to turn trash into treasure would serve you very well.

By now, you are probably very aware of my devoted love of “modernism.” There are many different styles of art and I promise I will try to step outside the box of modernism at some point. Recently, I collected several natural elements and will demonstrate some projects that incorporate them into art and decor in the near future. In this issue, however, I cannot resist demonstrating another piece of modern art.

In my home, I’ve created many pieces of art, architectural elements and even furniture that reflect the modernistic style. Modernism began around the age of Industrialism, in the late 19th century. The concept gained momentum in 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, then peaked in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. It is still going very strong today, although many artists like to refer to our current time as post modernism, to me, it is still very similar to modernism.

The rules of Modernism are basically that of no rules — anything goes. Non-traditionalism rules the day.

That sounds awfully like today, don’t you think? Some of my favorite artists have emerged from this era—artists like Mark Rothko, Louise Nevelson and Jackson Pollock. These artist lives were close in time although they have all passed away. Their work was very prolific and is relevant today.  If by some chance you think the artwork of modernism is less valuable than that of say some of the great masters of the art world, you can think again. A sunset-colored painting by Rothko sold for $86.9 million at Christie’s auction in New York. This was a new record set for a piece of modern art.

Never underestimate the power of art to make a space unique. The art I’ve created for my home is often missing from the walls, because I’ve been blessed to have so many venues request that I display my work in their gallery or other facilities.

Whenever my art is missing from the home, though, the space is not the same. The home still looks pretty good, but it is not the same, because the art makes a noticeable difference. Sometimes art will sell and never return to its rightful place. This is almost always painful since it is unlikely I’ll be able to duplicate it. It feels a little like losing a child that grew up and left home.

I truly believe that you can repurpose and reuse almost anything into art, functional or otherwise. Most of my art comes from found objects, but I have been known to purchase items from garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores. On rare occasions, I have also sought out items at local home improvement outlets. Free or cheap, that is my mantra.

When you visit places like thrift stores or garage sales, you will almost certainly find an area with all kinds of dishes, utensils and other kitchen and dining room bits and pieces.  Seldom will you find whole sets of anything.

For this reason, the things you do find will be very inexpensive, most items at a giveaway price. These bits and pieces are the little extras that can make your art go from ordinary to extraordinary. The substantial piece of wall art in this project was made easily and for as little as eight dollars.

You will notice a number of ordinary kitchen and dining room  items used to create this piece. There are dishes, pillar candle holders, a dish rack, vase, cake plate and even a globe shaped ceiling light cover.

Most of these items were purchased for a dollar or less. Also, note the stack of nine rectangular, gold colored chargers. These are made of plastic, but they look metallic. They are not in mint condition, but this will add some patina to my piece, and because they are plastic, they are very light weight and inexpensive. Traditionally, a plate would rest in the middle of the charger, mostly for decorative purpose, but also would provide a server with a way to handle the dinner plate without actually touching the plate. Here is what you will do:

First, arrange the dishes (chargers) in a pleasing pattern. In this case, I chose three rows of three plates. Odd numbers usually look best in a creative arrangement. Leave a little space between all the dishes, don’t let them touch each other, but don’t leave too much space either. About a quarter inch space is enough, maybe a little more. Next, measure the arrangement for length and width; this will vary according to what you are using. My arrangement measured about 30-by-39 inches.

This measurement will help determine the size of board needed as a mounting surface for the chargers. I am going to allow the plates to overhang the mounting surface by about three inches on each side. This means my board will be six inches less in total length and width. That means a piece of wood 24 inches wide by 33 inches in length. I’m using quarter-inch-thick MDF board. MDF is a manufactured wood product that is cheaper than plywood, and very strong.

MDF is sold in all kind of sizes, including a 24-by-48-inch piece, which is what I am using. The 24-inch width is already perfect.

I measured the length for 33 inches, then cut and remove 15 inches from the length. You can use a hand saw or power jig saw, but follow all the rules of safety. You could make it very easy on yourself by asking someone at your local home store to cut one for you.

There’s not much more to do except to add some hangers at the top; I like hinged D hangers. Now all you need to do is paint the wood and let it dry. Finish by attaching the plates with glue. I like Gorilla glue, but give it several hours to fully cure. Gorilla glue gives you plenty of time for repositioning of your plates. Don’t forget to leave a small amount of space between each plate, so they don’t touch each other.

Remember to paint the wood before you attach the plates. Acrylic water based craft paint works well. A small bottle can be purchased for about one dollar.

Craft paints are highly pigmented, so coverage is easy on MDF. One coat is enough and a flat finish is better than gloss. This board is for mounting and hanging purposes only. The board is basically going to disappear behind the chargers or plates. The dishes will appear to be floating in space.  You can use this idea in many ways for creating your own modernistic art. A side project for this piece was the end table made by gluing a cake plate to a vase. Both were ceramic and white, and they look like one piece.

I also glued a glass plate to a pillar candle holder. I did this twice. Now I have two stands for a tablescape. Instead of Gorilla glue, use an adhesive made for glass and metal to attach these items. I even made a very modernistic candle holder by simply setting the white round ceiling globe on top of the small cabinet dish rack. I used an electric battery powered pillar candle. You could use a real candle, but never leave real candles burning unattended. Now get started. Make your own modern art. Make it from dishes and make your own mark on the world of art or if you would like to make a good investment, buy a piece of my modern art. I’ll give you a really good deal!

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