Lumber and leather

A Pratt Institute graduate mixes found objects and design



A finished necklace with three different stains

Caitlin McGrath

When she began working on her jewelry line, The Knotty Owl, in 2011, Ashley Landon was using only found and salvaged wood to create her art. Most of the mate- rial was left over from her days at the Pratt Institute, where she spent her time in the woodworking shop constructing furniture. “For some reason, I was unable to let go of the wood scraps, so I started fiddling around and making small, wearable things,” says the twenty-four-year-old artist, who graduated with a bachelor’s in industrial design.

Landon is still working with some wood stockpiled from college, but most of those supplies started running out after about a year. Luckily, she’s been able to find area lumberyards with locally sourced wood. “All of the redwood that I use for my carved pieces has been salvaged by a local lumber store. They tore that out of wineries down in the Finger Lakes,” says Landon, a Bushnell’s Basin resident. “Even when I buy wood, I try to buy stuff that has been repurposed.” Ideally, she is looking to partner with a contractor or other local business that would naturally have scrap wood.

Why does she search high and low for salvaged lumber? “I like the idea of the history of the material, mostly, and the fact that it’s given a second life,” she says. The artist is holding onto a few pieces of cherry wood, which was cut down and milled by her grandfather decades ago on the family farm.After about a year of working almost exclusively with wood, Landon began to “branch out”—pun intended—working with metals and leather.

The leather she uses is sourced from old samples and discontinued pieces from furniture stores. “There are all these ideas that I wanted to do, but it’s physically not possible in wood. I’m also using new mate- rials to keep my pieces fresh and evolving,” says the artist, who sells her wares online and at local festivals.

Landon is also working on a line incorporating found animal bones. For those materials, she has partnered with an ethical taxidermist from Cleveland and a man from Florida who has bones leftover from Native American tribal practices. “Any piece that is made from found or salvaged material, I disclose that to my customers, and I think people enjoy that,” she says. “I suppose that it must be a selling point, especially with how important the repurposing movement is.” 

Jinelle Shengulette is a Rochester-based freelance writer/copy editor and weekly contributor to the Democrat and Chronicle. Find her on Linkedin and jinelleshengulette.com. 

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