What inspired you to design goods using reclaimed and unwanted materials? I used to work in the retail industry and I noticed that when retailers didn't want their display units anymore, it was easier for them to throw them out. After observing several stores in the industry over a few months, I saw the abundance of good quality items they were tossing. For the most part, the pieces were unique and sparked some upcycling ideas. After asking my employer's permission to take away some of these pieces, I repurposed my first set of units into cinema style light boxes. They sold before I was even finished making them! How does upcycling create challenges and inspire you? Often when I am designing a piece for my client, the materials typically guide the designs rather than the other way around. This definitely does present its challenges throughout the design and fabrication processes. For example, if I am designing a display unit for a trade show booth and I have a weird polygon shape metal plate, I will incorporate that as a base but maybe add other materials to fill in the negative space of the polygon shape.
How has Ottawa been an important part of starting Re4m? Ottawa has great resources for being an entrepreneur. There are plenty of networking opportunities in Ottawa as well as free seminars on growing and starting businesses. I also graduated from the Industrial Design program at Carleton University which is the reason for my relocation to Ottawa back in 2009. I fell in love with this city and stayed ever since!
You have worked with a few businesses here in Ottawa. What was the most unique work you were commissioned to do? It's tough to choose! But I will say that one of the most unique and challenging projects we completed was for a company called N.U.T.S. The owner Hi, requested a "obstacle course component that everyone could use that lit up and looked awesome". We ended up designing and fabricating a jumping "base" that sent an infrared signal to a corresponding tower that chronologically lit up everytime the base was jumped on. It is still used every day!
You make notebooks or sketch books out of old LPs. There is a huge resurgence in vinyl and people are seeking out old records at shows and retail locations – will this limit the supply? Notebooks and sketchbooks were one of the first products that got Re4m off the ground. We don't produce them as much anymore and the reason behind that is because we found our time was better spent on larger furnishing items. When we were producing them at larger quantities, we found the LP supply was never ending! Although the demand for them is rising, there are plenty that are from the 70's / 80's that are unpopular in today's demand (francophone, christian, gospel, etc.) There are also lots of records out there that are scratched and ruined from too much use.
When you aren’t working what do you do for fun? I still make things for fun! Whether it's making items for my apartment, yard or ways to improve my shop, I am always thinking of something to make.
Is there a dream project in the future? I definitely have a goal to have my dream workshop one day. All of the fancy equipment (large lasers, 3D printers etc), running off of renewable energies and a large stock of really neat, eclectic materials. OH to top it off, a workshop puppy helper would be nice :) How do you see the future of “upcycled goods”? I see the demand for authentic spaces for other businesses such as pubs, restaurants, cafes etc. rising in the future. I believe that upcycled and recycled furnishings will go hand in hand with that demand and it will almost become a norm for more sustainable alternatives for spaces.
Has there been a specific business in Ottawa that has made a huge impact in the success of Re4m? One of our first big clients, Feline Cafe, made a significant impact on the growth of Re4m. We were just starting out and Feline cafe had us design and produce their entire interior! This was an amazing job for us to showcase our skills and provide a great portfolio piece for future jobs. It really helped us get the ball rolling and we are so happy for that experience! What Ottawa neighbourhood is your favourite and why? I really like the Glebe! I am a bit biased because I live nearby but I find the combination of local shops, Lansdowne, the farmers market and local events makes for such a great community.
If you could be an animal what animal would you be? An owl! I was thinking about this recently... I think an owl would be awesome because I have always found flight interesting and also I would get to see all the shenanigans that happen at 3am.