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Q: “I just moved to Austin, TX and bought my first place! Iʼm totally digging the thrift-chic look; do you know of any great shops or flea markets around town where I can pick stuff up?”
Congratulations and welcome to “the live music capital of the world!” I don’t live in Austin, but I have had the benefit of visiting several times for SXSW and to shoot my web series, Urban Eco. Austin is rad, I love it there. I’m sure you will too.
Thrift-chic is a look that must be carefully curated to reflect your personal interests and style. Because if it’s not, you will basically just end up with a garage sale in your living room, which is not a good look. In my opinion, the absolute best part about second-hand objects is that they come with their own personal stories and histories. Sometimes you can learn these stories through the acquisition process, like when the sweet and chatty gray-haired lady holding the yard sale tells you she got that tea set as a wedding gift when she married her first husband in …
Q:“My spouse and I just fell in love with a bungalow, but itʼs in major need of repair . . . how do I even begin the process of renovating. Honestly, I donʼt even know where to start!”
A: First, think about how you will actually use the space (i.e. the formal dining room as a storage closet for craft supplies, the living room as tv/dining room, the kitchen as central hub for entertaining . . . you know what I mean). Get honest with yourself because most houses are used differently today than when they were built. And think long term . . . are you starting a family or a work-from-home business? Or will your love for this house be just a five year fling? This way you can accommodate your current needs…
Q: “Do you have any cool ideas or projects for really old interior solid core doors? My brother is renovating a house and he was throwing them out . . . “
A: I a-door (sorry) old doors. Even when mightily repurposed they are still instantly recognizable. For all that history of service, letting good things in, and keeping bad things out, they deserve to have a place of honor in their afterlife. I’m glad you’re keeping them and planning to put them to good use. It’s what they would’ve wanted.
Upcycling old doors is a noble endeavor. Given their size, shape and heft, they are best suited to table-like applications, but that’s by no means the limit. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:…
Q: “I live in SW Florida and recently moved into a new home. I have absolutely NO green thumb . . . what is a good plant that has color, is pretty, and can survive with minimal care IN constant sunlight? Secondly, my yard is full of sand spurs. Have any suggestions as to HOW to get rid of them so I can let my pooches play outside without putting boots on them? ” ~Micky Rae
A. Ok, fortunately for me, but unfortunately for you, I have no experience with sand spurs. I’d like to keep my distance from them too, because those things are pure evil. For those who don’t know, sand spurs are an annual grass type of weed that produce a very spiky
torture device seed pod that hitches a ride on anything it can in order to spread its reign of terror seed and reproduce. What makes them particularly diabolical is that they can hold on to bacteria from animal feces (and what not) and then inject it straight into your bloodstream when you accidentally step on one and get impaled by its tiny hypodermic needle-like spikes. They inflict their torture…..
by Amy Devers
STEP 1. Start with a happy childhood in Detroit-area Michigan, the offspring of an English professor and an accountant. Throw in a golden retriever, a green station-wagon and a healthy dose of rebellious teen-age years for good measure.
STEP 2. Then add in a ton of college, work and life experience, including an AAS from F.I.T. in New York City, a month-long road-trip with 2 hilarious friends, a poverty-stricken stint in Orange County with 4 people living in a 1 bdr apartment, an MA in Furniture Design from San Diego State University, attendance at more small-venue indie-rock shows than can be counted or remembered, a job as a machine-shop foreman, and an MFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design.
STEP 3. After grad school in Providence, move to Los Angeles, work as a finish carpenter, and an art handler, then open a design/build studio. Do some big jobs and some unpleasant ones, engage in the never-ending hustle for work of a freelancer.
STEP 4. When the handsome and talented musician you’ve been dating asks, say yes.
STEP 5. On a lark, answer a casting-call for a home-improvement show. Go to the audition with rhinestone safety glasses of your own creation…. Read the blog post here
Full article and layout (click through the magazine below to pages 182 – 190)
Meet Your Judges for ReadyMade 100: Amy Devers
Our ReadyMade 100 contest is in full force. While entries come a-pourin’ in, we’d like to introduce you to our panel of judges.
We were stoked when Amy Devers—the furniture designer, home improvement expert, and TV personality—kindly agreed to join us as a contributor a few months back. Now, on top of her Hands On column for ReadyMade, hosting “Designer People” on Ovation TV and “Fix This Yard” on A&E, and a ton of other cool projects that keep her running around constantly, Devers will be joining our illustrious panel of judges for ReadyMade 100. Read on to find out what sort of projects will impress the do-it-yourself extraordinaire.
Hey there Amy Devers. What are you up to?
No good. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I’m juggling a lot of open projects at the moment, which is great. But 2010 is almost over and I have a serious urge to skip town for a bit, change my scenery and reboot in prep for 2011. Not sure if/where I’ll go but I’m gassing up the getaway car just in case.
Do it! You deserve a vacation. Since you do encounter DIY projects and rad design every day, what sort of creative endeavors have really impressed you?
I think Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in LA is one of the greatest DIY projects of all time. I’m still impressed every time I go to see them. One eccentric’s backyard sculpture endures to tell his story and serve as a symbol of hard-work, passion, and possibility, wow.
You’re all about helping out new DIYers in your ReadyMade column Hands On. What advice could you give to newbies who are interested in entering this contest, but nervous of what others would think?
Winning is fun and all, but the lasting satisfaction comes from the knowledge that you can use your brain and your own two hands to make something beautiful and useful and necessary—and therefore manipulate your/our world for the better. And like any new endeavor, there is usually a learning curve. But if you don’t enter the contest then you lose the opportunity to benefit from the feedback of this illustrious panel of judges (this is the real first prize, y’all), and you lose out on being a part of the ReadyMade collective—obvious radness. But the best reason to enter is because of what you will offer the collective: we all benefit from seeing your idea, what you came up with, how you executed it, its successes and failures… it adds to the discourse and enhances the experience for everyone. If you don’t enter, we all lose. And that’s when you should be nervous about what others think.
What are your criteria for a “good” project?
A good project has a reason for being, and whether that reason for being is utilitarian, to provoke thought, or both, it should be expressed in a manner that is uniquely you and supported as best as possible through aesthetics, functionality and craftsmanship.
Do you consider yourself a soft judge or a hard ass?
I am a sensitive and encouraging, constructively critical, brutally honest hard ass.
Anything you’d like to propose as a challenge, in terms of material, time, or purpose?
Yes. Make something that no one will ever want to throw away. Ever.
What sort of creative projects are you not interested in seeing?
No more antlers, please, and pornography would probably not be appropriate.
What projects are you currently working on?
Personally, I’m in the woodshop making Christmas presents for my nieces and nephew. Professionally, I’m making some new work in the studio, writing the column for ReadyMade, gearing up to shoot season two of Fix This Yard for A&E (look for it in April), master-minding a genius plot (TBA), and beating myself up for not being able to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, even though it’s notoriously tricky.
Want to read more from DIY Master Amy Devers? Check out her most recent Hands On column, where she rethinks an old futon frame. And stay tuned for her column on our blog every week. If you have a home fixin’ question you want her to tackle, shoot us an email at articles@readymade mag.com.
Amy Devers is a furniture designer, a home improvement expert, a TV personality, and moreover, a maker. And now, she’ll be dishing out advice to ReadyMakers in her new column, Hands On (see the first one in our October/November issue). We put Los Angeles-based Devers in the hot seat to pick her brains about her many, many experiences in the world of DIY.
What are you looking to accomplish with your new ReadyMade column?
I’m hoping to help ReadyMade readers with any DIY issue their brain might be chewing on—from how-to questions and design dilemmas, to efficiency issues and even relationship advice. (Examples: I love the design of this vintage clock radio, but it doesn’t work. Got any great repair or repurpose ideas? Or: My boyfriend and I always get into arguments when we work on house projects together. I love him but he can’t cut-in with a paintbrush to save his life. Any tips for home-improvement that doesn’t end up in relationship-destruction?) And if it happens to be outside of my area of expertise, I will make it my mission to track down some valuable intel from someone who knows. Or I’ll just make something up and throw in some technical jargon so it sounds like I know what I’m talking about.
[Have queries of your own? Send them to email@example.com and we'll put Amy on the case!]
Besides helping out ReadyMade readers, what else are you up to right now?
Let’s see, I’m hosting “Designer People“on Ovation, “Fix This Yard” on A&E, and have another TV project in development. I’m working with the American Hardwood Export Council to design and present DIY-themed educational seminars and workshops in various countries (just got back from one in Korea.)
In my design studio, I’m building some art pieces, some furniture pieces, and some prototypes for a forthcoming line. I’m collaborating with other artists and architects as part of Watts House Project, a very dear-to-my-heart non-profit, and I’m in the middle of revamping my website (but I’m procrastinating). I’m also faithfully watching Mad Men and seeing as many bands as I can fit into my schedule.
Whoa, you’re busy. What’s the passion driving all of this?
I get depressed when I’m not productive, so I stay busy to stay happy. Thank you, Universe, I love what I do! The passion behind my work stems from the satisfaction I get from imparting empowering knowledge to people who are hungry for it.
Back when I was in school, after I had struggled through the design and construction of my first few pieces of furniture, I remember something clicked and this kind of liberating confidence set in. I started to see things for all of their components and connections and the whole material world started to make a lot more sense to me.
Suddenly, I could comprehend my car as a machine. And I wasn’t concerned about the possibility of having to change a tire, even though I had never done it. I realized that if a pipe in my place sprang a leak, I could probably fix it—at least temporarily—until I could call a plumber or figure out how to fix it permanently, and before all my stuff got ruined.
I gained this understanding that if I wanted to, I could figure out how to fix, modify, create, or customize anything I wanted to, and therefore I could control my environment for both comfort and safety. When you consider that survival is a basic human instinct and shelter is necessary for survival, then the gravity of this realization starts to have some merit.
With shop class disappearing from public education and a cultural emphasis on intangible digital and knowledge work, there isn’t much opportunity for most people to get a handle on the handy arts. But through TV shows, I’ve had the opportunity to teach countless homeowners some of these basic skills. I’ve been there when the light bulb over their head turns on, and it is such an amazingly cool and rewarding thing to be a part of. Knowing it’s broadcast on TV just makes me feel like the information is reaching more people and that makes me even happier.
We’re convinced. How did you get your first TV break? And were you always so comfortable in front of the camera?
I was starting up my independent design/build studio and still doing some freelance contracting as a finish carpenter in 2003 when home improvement shows were blowing up. A casting agent friend of a client told me about a TV show that was looking for a female co-host. Actual know-how was the chief criteria over acting experience. I thought “What the hell, this could be a kick in the pants” (thinking I was just going to come home with a fun story about what it’s like to go to a Hollywood audition), packed up my rhinestone safety glasses (yes, I made them myself), and went for it.
I was not at all comfortable in front of the camera at first, but after a while I was able to relax into it and just be myself. Well, as “myself” as they would let me be. I still had to watch my mouth, of course. And, in the beginning, the network execs were super concerned that my credibility would be in-question because I’m female, so they insisted on a very conservative demeanor. “You know, just the facts, ma’am.” Thankfully, that’s not an issue anymore and I can have a lot more fun while the camera’s rolling.
Your bio says you’re “fluent in the manner of making things.” What makes you a ReadyMaker?
First and foremost, I make a mean Manhattan. Other than that, I mostly make furniture and accessories (I have a thing for lamps), but I’m also known to dabble in jewelry, clothes, bags…and while I haven’t made shoes yet, they’re next on the list.
I work with a lot of different materials (wood, metal, plastic, ceramic, cork, textiles, found objects, you name it) so I’ve built up a pretty good mental databank of their physical properties and methods of joining them, not to mention a certain handiness with all the tools needed to work with them.
I think what makes me a ReadyMaker is the fact that I want things that don’t exist, so I am compelled to make them myself. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m always taking things apart with my eyes, and thinking about how to make them better. Or maybe it’s because I’m so much more satisfied with the fruits of my labor when they are tangible, and you can sit on them.
We’re almost afraid to ask: What does the “average day” look like for you?
Whew, there is no such thing as an “average” day over here. Which, honestly, is sometimes exhausting, but I’ll take that over monotonous any day.
There is a lot of travel, both domestic and international. Typical shoot days are very long, grueling, and always a stressful race against the clock (daylight is precious). I’m either doing strenuous manual labor out in the elements or walking all over the cobbled streets of a European city in the rain while wearing high heels, lugging equipment, holding an umbrella, and preparing interview questions in my mind.
At the end of the day I feel this weird blend of excited, enriched, inspired, extremely self-critical, and utterly exhausted. Every day is different—the project, the locale, the people. It’s intense. And intensely awesome, hell yeah. I love every minute of it.
What inspires you?
People. I’m completely fascinated by them, their stories, psyches, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and interactions—the whole human enchilada. I’m pretty sure that the reason I’m compelled to make things that are functional and interactive has to do with my personal desire to bond with the user, and develop a very deliberate relationship, physical and otherwise (sounds sexy, huh?) through the very un-self-conscious ritual of utility.
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your DIY philosophies with us. Super inspiring. Welcome aboard Amy Devers, and be sure to ask her your all-things-making questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Designer People: Amy Devers Meets Bjarke Ingels
Architect Bjarke Ingels is using his super-powers for good, not evil. Whew. What’s his super-power? I’m going to assert that it’s his ability to solve problems. But not just the regular old pre-existing problems, this guy is thinking and re-thinking things in such progressive ways as to encounter a whole host of new unforeseen problems. Then he goes ahead and solves all of those, effectively creating giant cascade of solutions in the form of an amazingly innovative new building.
Espousing a philosophy of Pragmatic Utopianism, he’s created his manifesto in the form of a graphic novel, or “archicomic,” Yes Is More. And with an air of genuine benevolence, the dashing good looks of a Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne type, an intellectual the-gears-are-always-turning look in the eyes, and the forward-momentum of a man on a mission, he bears an uncanny resemblance to an actual super-hero. Though, to be sure, there is nothing about his down-to-earth demeanor that suggests he thinks of himself that way. Oh, and instead of a bat-mobile, he rides a bicycle; much smaller carbon footprint.
What’s more, he hangs out with a bunch of other heroes whose super-power is to defy gravity. And they defy gravity beautifully, all over his buildings! Check out this trailer for the film My Playground by Kaspar Astrup Schröder featuring freerunning and BIG architecture.
MY PLAYGROUND - PREVIEW from KASPARWORKS on Vimeo.
The BIG studio is packed with so many elaborately constructed scale models that it begins to feel like a veritable miniaturized metropolis of Ingels’ work. So much so that it starts to play with your own sense of scale. Towering over all of those buildings made me feel a bit like King Kong or Godzilla! Definitely dvr the episode so you can pause during scenes at the studio and get a longer look at the models. But not just because the models are cool, because it’s a great way to get a panoramic view of the variety of work being generated by BIG.
And for a more in depth explanation of the concepts and evolution behind the work, in his own words, check out Bjarke’s TED Talk. Fascinating.
Tune in for Designer People: Bjarke Ingels premiering tonight (4/26) at 7pm ET/PT.
There are few DIY television personalities capable of building cabinets in one show and sitting with Marc Newson discussing high design in another. Amy Devers does this with aplomb and is an accomplished and rising star in lifestyle television.
Her background in design (MFA in furniture design from RISD) provides a perspective to home improvement projects that many TV contractors don’t have. We all want a finished product that is not only functional but looks good in your home and Amy understands this as well as anyone.
In the following interview Amy shares her unique entry into entertainment, experiences on the set of DIY TV, and her opinions on the current state of building both in front of the camera and off.
CH: Hi Amy – As a trained carpenter and furniture designer can you share with us how you moved into entertainment and started working/teaching in front of the camera?
Amy: It was sort of a fluke! A friend half-jokingly forwarded me a casting notice for a home improvement show. They needed someone with legitimate knowledge and experience of carpentry and fabrication, but previous acting experience wasn’t necessary.
So I thought “what the hell” grabbed my rhinestone safety glasses and went to the audition not expecting anything out of it other than a glimpse into the Hollywood casting process and perhaps a funny story to tell. But, I actually got the job! That turned out to be for DIY to the Rescue, which lasted for more than 100 episodes!
CH: As the current host of Designer People on OvationTV in which you profile numerous world-renowned designers such as Juergen Mayer H. and Marc Newson, you traveled the globe to produce this show. Are there any highlights from this season you’d like to share as well as personalities or processes that you’d love to learn more about?
Amy: As far as I’m concerned, every moment is a highlight! It was such an honor to have some inquisitive access to these incredibly inspiring and prolific minds.
Juergen Mayer H’s Metropol Parasol project is phenomenally innovative and I was fortunate enough to get a guided tour of it while under-construction. Zandra Rhodes designs all of her textiles, and then let’s the pattern influence the shape and structure of the garment. Bjarke Ingels is a problem-solver of the highest order. Marcel Wanders is capable of realizing fantasies into functional objects. Marc Newson has a computer-like mental index of shapes and forms that he calls up as needed, Michael Young has a way of pushing the manufacturing processes to accomplish new feats…honestly I could go on and on. Every single designer we profiled is worthy of mention here, it’s a fascinating show!
CH: Many of our readers know you from Trading Spaces and DIY to the Rescue and we really liked your work on Freeform Furniture that was more How-To focused. I worked at This Old House and know that TV production doesn’t always go as smoothly as it shows on TV. Have there been any memorable challenges that put your design, carpentry or hosting skills to the test that viewers may not have been privy to?
Amy: OMG, yes!! All the time! For instance, on Freeform Furniture we shot every episode in a single day, which meant I had to have 7-9 prototypes in various stages ready to go so that we didn’t have to wait for dry time etc. Sometimes I would have pulled several all-nighters earlier that week to get all the prototypes ready, then we would shoot for 14 – 18 hours a day under the hot lights with no air circulation! (For audio purposes we had to keep all the windows shut and fans off.) It got up to about 110 degrees and I had to get permission from the network to wear tank tops – I said, you can have bare arms or sweat marks, pick one.
We did a DIY to the Rescue special in New Orleans about a year after Katrina hit. We rebuilt the home of a 78 yr. old woman who had been swindled out of her life savings by a fraudulent contractor, and it was an intense and emotionally profound experience, to say the least. In addition to long, laborious days in sweltering heat, the conditions were still pretty toxic. I got very sick, needed to go the hospital for antibiotics, and lost my voice. But that’s minor compared to the oppressive emotional weight of tragedy, fear, and desolation that was all around.
As a host, my interactions had always been with happy homeowners who were maybe a little frustrated or overwhelmed at most. Suddenly I was thrust into the position of trying to, through media, provide a means for some devastated people who had lost everything to tell their story. It was very humbling, and I’m deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to participate.
CH: The popularity of cable networks that focus on DIY and home improvement continues to grow. Do you see it reaching a saturation point anytime soon and how do you see it evolving?
Amy: The need for shelter is universal, so in that sense, I think this type of programming will always be relevant. Right now there is a lot of fertile territory with regard to retro-fitting existing homes and gardens for solar energy, water-conservation, composting and edible gardening. I think while of this type of DIY how-to information is still relatively new, the audiences will gravitate towards the shows with knowledgeable pros and a bit of substance and take-away information vs. pure entertainment.
CH: Between your busy schedule do you have anytime to design and build furniture and if so are they available commercially or do you create them as “couture” pieces? (I know there must be a better term for one-of-a kind pieces but “couture” is all I’ve got right now)
Amy: I do create one-off designs and sculptures for sale through galleries, though I don’t have a whole lot of time to do that these days. I’m also designing a small collection of limited-edition pieces and looking for distribution.
CH: Is there a designer or teacher that inspires your creative process when building a piece of furniture or seeking an inventive solution to a home improvement problem?
Amy: Well, I’m always drawing upon things that I’ve learned from Wendy Maruyama at SDSU and Rosanne Somerson at RISD, as well as the other faculty at both of those schools.
As far as inspiration goes I tend to look outside the fields of furniture and home improvement for it -to things like music, sculpture and documentaries. I also can’t get enough of the TED talks, no matter what the subject, they usually get my gears turning.
CH: How has the “Green” building movement affected your work as a designer and carpenter?
Amy: My work has always included the frequent use of found objects and/or salvaged materials in unexpected applications. The only thing that has changed is that people now refer to that as “re-using” or “re-purposing,” but other than the lexicon, nothing has changed aesthetically speaking.
In practice, I’ve always sought out less-toxic more planet-friendly paints, glues and finishes and I’m excited that those only continue to get better and better. There are loads more choices now for sustainable materials.
CH: Can you recommend a particular DIY skill that every homeowner should have?
Amy: I think everyone should own a cordless drill/driver and learn all diverse things that it can be used for.
CH: Are their any particular DIY/Design focused websites that you enjoy or check into often?
Amy: I’m interested in arts and culture – art, architecture, design, fashion, film, music, fiction, storytelling…and food! I love to eat, and I love to try new and interesting things, though sadly I am a terrible cook! Oh and this: sleeveface.com
CH: Can you share a DIY tip that has impacted you most?
Amy’s newest show Fix This Yard helps homeowners tackle their yards which have become neighborhood eyesores by boosting their curb appeal.
Fix This Yard premieres on A&E this Saturday, April 3 at 10:00am.
New episodes of Designer People will air on Ovation beginning the week of April 25.