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Resurrection: Local artist brings new life to pre-loved objects, furniture
It takes an artist to be able to look at something broken and left behind and envision a shining new purpose for it. It also takes talent to mix a rustic, well-used wood table top and mix it with industrial style hardware, repurposing it into a coffee table that looks like it would be a perfect fit for a Seattle loft.
Eli Brown is a talented artist and is using fully reused, repurposed, reclaimed objects, fasteners and furniture to create a heady combination of designs.
The idea behind opening Eco7 Trading Company in Carrollton came to Brown two years ago during an open air market.
"The purpose behind the whole business was to be more eco-friendly," she said. "Everything we do is reclaimed, recycled or repurposed. So even down to the nails, the screws, different fasteners and nuts and bolts we use, we go find them at estate sales and swap meets. We try not to use anything new. The only thing that we have to use new due to some regulations and so on is the stains and the paints we use. We use water-based paints and sealers."
The whole intention behind her business, Brown said, is the love of what some people call "junk."
"We want to share that [idea] with people and keep things out of landfills," she said. "So often people go to a big-box store like Ikea, and then two yeas later the stuff they bought is broken and they just throw it away. Instead of doing that, if people bought vintage, reused, recycled or reclaimed stuff, they're not adding to big-box waste."
Brown said her choice in creating the eco-friendly interior design showroom was not to accumulate piles of money, but instead to do what she loves everyday.
Brown spent 11 years in the construction industry, dabbling in everything from sales and marketing, to project administration and site development. She sold architectural coating and soon became frustrated with witnessing the wastefulness of the industry.
"I got fed up with the construction industry because it's so wasteful," she said. "Everything they tore out went to the trash. Nobody saved a sink or a light bulb or anything. A lot of time when people move, they leave furniture in their apartment. They didn't give that to Goodwill, they threw it in the trash. I got very disheartened about all of that, which led up to me wanting to make a difference."
That difference began at home, where Brown started recycling, composting and collecting rain water. Her efforts were soon filtered into her business as well and she began to creating industrial-modern and primitive-type furniture.
"All the carpentry I do -- the design, building -- is all self-taught," Brown said. "I've never taken a design class, a carpentry class, and I'm not a master carpenter by any means. The stuff I build is very -- it's more of the primitive style. Because they didn't have a lot of the tools back then, and if they did it was all hand-carved. They're very clean lines in the furniture. It's mostly a box-type feel. We mix in some oddities, like military and medical styles. It's a very eclectic mix of furniture you can use in your home."
Brown said the style was difficult to explain because it is a new, developing trend.
"It's hard to explain, because most people don't understand what industrial-modern is yet," she said. "It's growing, though. I did mid-century-modern before I got into this. And I'm seeing a decline in mid-century-modern, so I think industrial-modern is going to pick up and that's going to be the next wave. The type of stuff we sell you probably don't want to do a whole room in, because it's a little bit overwhelming and it can come across as cold. But if you take our pieces and incorporate them in your home, then you get cool, funky pieces, but it also brings more character to the room."
Brown's hunt for the perfect item takes her to some unusual places.
"I'll go to a junkyard or somewhere, and I'll see a piece of something that I know that I want," she said. "Let's just say it's a table top, and I'll buy it, and it might be three months later until I find a bottom, and say 'that's the perfect match.'"
Everything in the showroom is unique and one-of-a-kind, Brown said, to ensure customers get their own unique look for their home.
"Sometimes we'll find value of a couple of things that are the same, but most of the time we just get that one, and when it's gone, it's gone," she said. "We might find a version of it, but it's not the same thing."
Brown said she has designers and stylists that visit the showroom from time to time.
"There are a lot of people that come in here to do weddings or are decorating their home this way," she said. "That whole steam punk movement is very big right now, and they love my stuff. Because I've got stuff from, like, the '20s, and it's metal and not plastic or fake. We're slowly doing a little bit better and a little bit better. We're hoping we can hold on until the economy picks up and we can do really well."
To help with the revitalization, Brown offers a haven to local artists whose style compliment her work.
"I've got seven local artists that adorn my walls. They bring stuff in and change stuff up from time to time. We just had a huge art show in May. So this gives them an outlet to have their stuff up where they might normally not have this outlet."
Brown's decision to establish her business in Carrollton was not planned.
"At first it was an accident. I was in the antique gallery of Lewisville. And some of our pieces are really huge. So if I wanted to bring in full vignette situations, it's possible, but also it's, you know, almost the same cost as having your own building, depending on where you're located. I live in Valley Ranch, and I saw the silo that said 'historic downtown Carrollton.' I had never been down here.
Brown had traveled to Bishop Arts and Lewisville looking for space and was getting discouraged because it was so expensive.
"So I came down here and was looking around and there wasn't anything available on the square. And so I came around the corner and saw the building I'm in now, and I just thought, 'that'd be perfect.' Because when I looked in the window I just saw one, big open space -- there's no walls."
Before she committed to the space, Brown decided to meet neighboring business owners.
"I didn't mention I was going to have a business and everybody was just really nice, very welcoming," she said. "And so I thought, 'OK, I'm going to come down, eat lunch, tell them I'm going to open the shop and see if they're just as welcoming.' And they were. They offered to help me if I needed any help, if I needed any cable or Internet -- they offered to tell me what worked for them. Everybody's been really, really great."
So great, in fact, that when Brown hosted an art show, local businesses on the square donated money, certificates or products from their stores for the cause.
"It's a family, it's a community -- I'm a vice-president of the Downtown Carrollton Association now," Brown said. "I'm very active in the association, trying to revitalize the area. My heart was just here from the start, I can't explain it -- kind of like when you fall in love -- you can't explain it."
Brown said she has quickly established roots in the community and is hoping to see a greater revitalization of downtown Carrollton.
"I was just hoping people that had bought from me before would follow me here and that I'd make new friends and have new clients come," she said. "Kind of like a Field of Dreams thing -- if you build it, they will come. I didn't have an agenda when I first came in that Carrollton would be the place to buy industrial-modern furniture, because it doesn't seem like it'd be a fit. But I'm different than everybody else here. But there are also stores like Vintage Martini that sells vintage clothes, and their clientele mixes in well with my clientele."