Among the many people I met who represent Cleveland's creative strength were a pair of guys who founded A Piece of Cleveland (APOC), a small company that has been upcycling discarded materials from demolished buildings into wooden furniture that puts the city's history front and center. P.J. Doran and Aaron Gogolin offer both a service and a product, hauling viable materials away from demo sites, storing them in their warehouse, and crafting them into furniture that has found its way into schools, restaurants and private homes throughout the city, including the cafe table in Starbucks over which we discussed their business.
What distinguishes APOC from other reused furniture companies is their emphasis on the history of each piece. For them, the backstory is not some vague sense that the materials had a previous life; rather, the team digs up the specific historic details of the buildings from which they pull wood, glass and metal, and with each piece they sell they include a "rebirth certificate" that keeps Cleveland's legacy alive. P.J. spends countless hours combing through municipal records to find the stories of past owners, major events, and important eras that literally mark APOC's work.
APOC has also been partnering with the industrial design department at Cleveland Institute of Art, led by professor Dan Cuffaro, to produce student projects that will become part of a campus improvement plan. Last week the students held a show of their reclaimed, local, sustainable furniture, much of which will later be incorporated into two new CIA buildings. Student artist Liwei Su's "Keilo" bench, pictured above, is meant to sit in a gallery. Below, Jonathan Janke's "Nestle Desk" forms a box when the two chairs are tucked into the desk, maximizing workspace and forming a single visual statement. See more work from the CIA industrial design students at the department website.