Peer Review Upcycle designer Laurs Kemp on the influence of mid-century salvage artist Louise Nevelson.

Peer Review Upcycle designer Laurs Kemp on the influence of mid-century salvage artist Louise Nevelson.

  • Photograph Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

As a child, my favorite toys were fabric scraps. I would wrap them around myself, imagining they were elegant gowns, until it was time to return them to the toy box. That box of scraps hummed with possibility, and my reverence for it belied its humble contents. The real-world applications for this practice, in art and design, would not become apparent to me until years later. 

The relationship between found materials and final output can be well studied in the sculptures of Louise Nevelson. Born in 1899, she lived a life nearly parallel to the 20th century. Her family emigrated from what is now Ukraine to Rockport, Maine, when Nevelson was six years old and, though she learned English in school, she spoke Yiddish at home. Her father operated a junkyard, salvaging scraps from around the...

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