It was somewhat by chance that Kenneth Armstrong got his start in the re-cycled art business.
He was working as a messenger, and between runs was hanging out at Bicycle Inter-Community Action & Salvage, a community education and recycling center for bicycles in Tucson, AZ. A group of people there were making items for an art auction, and asked if he was interested. The result: A clock that sold for $40 – a design that Armstrong still makes today, nearly 10 years later.
In the intervening years, he’s taken college courses in fashion design and welding, and his work has evolved since that first clock. He makes a number of more elaborate pieces, including an “urban picnic” lunch box and furniture made out of different parts welded together. The pieces are sold at fundraising auctions and events, at galleries and through his Etsy shop, Enclave Online.
“I’ll use about anything,” he said, “but I lean toward the shiny stuff.”
He estimates that he spends nearly as much time prepping the pieces - removing any dirt and rust, and buffing them – as he does actually making the items. The result is a mix of artistic and functional pieces – including sculptures, furniture and lamps – with a clean look.
Armstrong gets his parts through BICAS and from local bike shops, some of which have been supplying him for nearly 10 years. As a result, he gets high-end parts and low-end parts, and everything in between.
“I really like the high-end ones,” he said, “especially the Campy cassettes. Just like with bikes, some people want the nicer parts.”
The recycling aspect is important to Armstrong – not surprising given that he works in the recycling program at the University of Arizona.
“They’re really nice parts,” Armstrong said of his materials. “It’s not like we’re just throwing little scraps of metal away. It’s stuff that at one time they put some time and effort and money into making. And they work really well in a lot of different recycled pieces.”