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Catholic Voice
CURRENT ISSUE:  June 6, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Bead by tiny bead builds a ministry of rosary-making
East Bay link nurtures ministry to Italian Catholics
St. Vincent de Paul Thrift shop
becomes gallery, store, studios

ABOVE: Chris Rummell sorts clothing that can be made into other useful products, an example of a way to teach social service clients how to produce items for sale. RIGHT: Recycled decorative arts made by independent artists will be available at Redux.
José Luis Aguirre photos

When the familiar St. Vincent de Paul store reopens on Lincoln Avenue in Alameda in the next few weeks, it will have a new name: Redux.


What: Store, gallery and artist studios

When: Opening early summer

Where: 2315 Lincoln Ave., Alameda

Web: www.svdp-alameda.org

Info: crummell@svdp-alameda.org
Making the old
new and useful

“I’ve been fortunate to work on projects that make a difference,” says Ryan Duke, who designs three-dimensional objects for consumers.

Duke graduated in 2008 from the California College of the Arts in Oakland with a degree in industrial design.

During his time as an Artist in Residence at St. Vincent de Paul, he transformed bed frames and chair frames into new pieces of furniture.
A large donation had been received from a furniture wholesaler, and while some whole pieces could be sold to consumers, there were plenty with broken or missing parts available to become something else. “There’s something redemptive about that,” Duke said.

He sees the new gallery space as a step in that direction.
Duke, who grew up in Portland and now lives near Lake Merritt, says he sees the “social value behind design work.”

One example of that can be the employment of social service clients to produce products.
An industrial designer, Duke said, typically works for a client.
The SVdP experience gave him some additional perspective.
“There are a lot of decisions you don’t make as a designer,” he said.

“It was a fun way to work, seeing an opportunity to transform discarded trash into something that’s valuable. Its value is not determined by what it came from — a rare gem or exotic animal fur — but rather by what it becomes.”

What an industrial designer brings to the table is illustrated by some of Duke’s work with Project H. He helped design a bar that prevents the whirlwind wheelchair from tipping, a design used in Third World countries, and helped change the shape of ingenious water barrels called Hippos that help Third World people bring water to their homes — not by carrying it on their heads, but by rolling it in barrels behind them. The cost of shipping had been prohibitive — they’re essentially empty barrels — until designers figured out a way to ship one inside another.

The design group offered to raise half the money for making the molds for the products as well. “Eventually, it’s for them to go on with that,” he said.

He is currently working with a commercial housewares project, as well as with a woman who is changing her business from supporting microfinancing for Kenyan women to assemble her products to using U.S. labor. Her competition is China’s cheaply made factory goods. “To compete in that space with U.S. labor is a challenge,” he said.

— Michele Jurich
And instead of the wares of a typical St. Vincent de Paul store, Redux will offer something entirely different. It will have a store selling primarily works of local artisans, including those who work with recycled, reused or repurposed materials.

A gallery with changing exhibits will open soon afterward, as will workshops that are open to the community. Also on the premises: affordable studio space for more than a dozen artists who work with salvaged materials.

“I’m really excited to see what happens,” said Ryan Duke, an artist who is not only an alumnus of the Artist in Residence program of St. Vincent de Paul, but who had a role in designing the studio space.

Artists in Residence at St. Vincent de Paul have access to tons of donated items, ranging from furniture to metal to a seemingly endless supply of clothing. While much of the clothing donated to St. Vincent de Paul is given to the poor or sold at its thrift stores, there’s plenty left over for recycling. Instead of being shipped overseas — which can have a catastrophic effect on local textile industries, said Katharine Miller, director of development — or being turned into rags, the clothing will give artists an opportunity to make something new out of it.

Some examples are the imaginative hats of Sarah Padgham, whose work would have been right at home at the recent royal wedding in London.

Chris Rummell, who has directed the Artist in Residence program, will manage Redux, which is St. Vincent de Paul’s first foray in this direction.

He joined SVdP as an electronics waste specialist. He has a personal interest in art, crafting collages and mixed media work from found objects.

He is interested, too, in the education component Redux will offer. In addition to workshops led by artists on various topics, some perhaps holiday-themed, there will be waste reduction and reuse awareness through hands-on opportunities.

For the 13 artist studios, Rummell is looking for artists who work with salvaged and reclaimed materials. These artists will also have the opportunity to exhibit in the gallery space at Redux.

The spaces, with rents beginning at $200 a month for a 9-foot by 12-foot area, might be best suited for painters and those who work in textiles. Wireless Internet access is available.

But what’s also available will be a weekly bale of materials from St. Vincent de Paul.

Artists who are looking for studio space, or who would be interested in selling their work in the store, can contact Chris Rummell, manager of Redux, at crummell@svdp-alameda.org. He is also the contact person for the Artist in Residence program.

In the store, jewelry, purses, housewares and decorative arts made by independent artists will be available. A grand opening to which the vendors have been invited will be scheduled this summer.

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