Scott Poverud has worked for Waste Connections for six years as a recycle driver for multifamily housing complexes, mostly in downtown Vancouver. Seeing all of the pallets getting chipped as hog fuel and burned for energy, he was inspired to save that material and make it into something that can be enjoyed by all. What started out as a few custom donations for school fundraisers is starting to take off as a nice side business.
Can you describe your art and what recycled materials you use?
Scott: It's an outdoor, rustic cooler—outdoor art for people to enjoy with their friends and families. It's made of pallets.
Jen: That it's a unique piece that you can't get from Costco or Wilco, because they have some but they're not made local and they're not recycled goods. They're glossy new wood. And they're more expensive or similar but they don't have that unique rustic feel that's literally been picked piece by piece.
Scott: The stain I use on these is a Sherman Williams it's a water-born stain, so it's not your typical oil-based stain. It's a water penetrating stain. It doesn't smell up the environment, it's better for the environment.
Jen: It penetrates, so it doesn't peal. And it's waterproof, so you don't have to put on the shellac or clear coat over it.
Scott: And we don't just put the stain on the exterior of the art but on the inside as well so it's fully coated.
Did you create the design?
Scott: I took a design I saw on YouTube a while ago and I've kind of refined how I want things to be, even down to where you drain the cooler out. I've had to figure all of that out myself. They're made so that if something does go wrong, if the cooler breaks, they can take the whole cooler out and replace it.
Jen: The wine bottle shelves because some people want to store glasses and stuff.
Scott: Another thing we do is stencil "ICE COLD" on the top; Jennifer does that.
Jen: I cut the template and paint it on there. We have also personalized them. We got permission from Prairie High School to use the Prairie logo so we had the Prairie Falcon on it for the auction. But I could also put family names or something on them.
How long have you been making these pieces?
Jen: It's something we started four years ago for a high school auction fundraiser. For the last two years, we've sold them on the side like 5 to 10 for father's day or summer time.
What motivates you to use recycled material specifically?
Scott: I like the way it looks, I like the way it's weathered and beat up, almost basic and crude. Other people make similar products, but I think they're too refined, too nice looking. I think people want something that's comfortable and easy to look at.
Jen: And the unique thing is trying to find if they have a stamp or a knot. He'll try to find pieces that have specific interesting elements. Also working in the recycling industry, he sees that mound of pallets and fence boards and stuff like that in the recycle yard and it makes him go, "Wow. They're wasting so much of this where people can make things." We have ideas to make so many other things that we just don't have time to do. He has this ability to see outside of a pallet that's on the pile or on the side of the road.
Scott: It motivates me to reuse the products. Not just let them get scrapped; I find that to be kind of sad.
Scott: I really try to get as much out of a pallet as I can and have little waste. Some of these that crack or aren't quite right, I actually give to another artist who uses them to make wine racks.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of working with recycled material?
Jen: Since we try to keep the design the same, trying to find pieces that are consistently the same thickness, not bent, warped. Sometimes they crack. But since these are so rustic, that doesn't really hinder us too much.
Scott: I had one that took me a day and a half, but I just focused on that one. What I usually do is try to make five at a time, and it normally takes me a week from start to finish to get them all done. It really depends, because sometimes I get tougher pallets, and it will take me longer to cut those pallets up. Or like right now, the coolers I use I'm having a hard time finding that exact same cooler. So there's always modification.
What do you want people to take away from your art?
Scott: Every piece is unique and not perfect. I don't like perfect because that's not how life is anyway.
I genuinely put in effort to pick out pieces from start to finish, from cutting the pallets to pulling the pallets from the pile. It's pretty labor intensive, but it's something I enjoy. The times that I've seen people using one of these is really enjoyable; it's a good feeling to have your art really enjoyed.