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Portlandia Is Real: Designer Makes Wooden Birds From Old Furniture

Recent design graduate Lars Beller Fjetland hand-turns scraps into beloved birds using woodworking techniques he learned on YouTube.

Scraps of used wood can be recycled into any number of things, from paper to cat litter, most of which will wind up back in the dumpster before long. But the Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland takes a different approach: upcycling discarded furniture into disarming, handcrafted birds that are guaranteed long lives as prized keepsakes.

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Fjetland, a recent graduate of Bergen National Academy of the Arts, rescues table legs and armrests from local dumpsters. He then spends a day stripping them of paint and nails. “I can assure you that this is the least fun part of the whole process,” he tells Co.Design. “The real fun begins when I carefully start to prepare the wood for gluing. It is always the material collected that defines what species I’ll make. For instance, the Kiwi bird was created after I found a dozen old hardwood windows right next to my workshop.” He turns each bird by hand, a technique he picked up watching instructional videos on YouTube. “Each bird is slightly different, and the personality of these birds first appears when I give them a characteristic beak and a pair of friendly eyes,” Fjetland says. So far, he’s made 30 of them, each one taking about half a day to produce.

Last week, the designer struck a deal with Discipline, a young Italian company, to produce his Re-Turned birds. (The manufacturer will also be producing Fjetland’s Drifted stools, which will make their debut this spring in Milan.) Although they won’t be made exclusively by hand, Fjetland assures us that the manufacturer will stay true to the core philosophy of the project of using rejected or leftover wood. “There is no contradiction between a larger-scale production and sustainable and meaningful design,” he maintains. “Everyone should be able to enjoy a piece of feel-good woodcraft. Don’t you think?”

[Photos and packing by Grandpeople]

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About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.

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