Photos courtesy of Lee Stadler
She took colored pencil shavings and transformed them into flower petals; punched holes in Styrofoam meat trays and they became festive garlands; yesterday’s greeting cards were converted into three-dimensional trinket boxes. He built and designed houses that could withstand hurricane force winds, rarely used anything other than second-hand lumber, saved vegetable seeds and never put away a shovel dirty. “A Legacy of Thrift: One Couple’s Life and the Family They Influenced” honors Raymond and Leola Glover, a couple that was handcrafting boxes from salvaged wood, whittling walking canes from tree branches, and sewing quilts from scraps way before words like ‘sustainable’ or ‘upcycled’ ever came in vogue. The installation, which displays a wide variety of family memorabilia including quilts, furniture, ornaments, World War II ration cards, vintage photos and documented memories, will run until Monday, July 16th, at The Scrap Exchange, a non-profit creative reuse center.
“I’m drawn to reuse because of the way my parents approached things in general. Which is you take care of them, you use them over and over and over again, and if they break, you fix them,” says Ruth Warren Glover, who collaborated with sisters Lee Stadler and Lynne Mann to curate this intimate family tribute.
Warren, a reuse artist who has worked at The Scrap Exchange for over 6 years, first as a volunteer and currently as the organization’s marketing coordinator, says she couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to hold the exhibit:
“The whole concept of thrift and reuse is the thing that ties it all together.”
While modern concepts of reuse emerged out of a growing awareness of an abundance of “stuff” filling our landfills, Leola and Raymond grew up in the Great Depression; a time when work, food, and resources were scarce. Raymond’s father died young, leaving his mother to raise 8 children on her own. He worked grueling hours as a child laborer in North Carolina’s tobacco and cotton fields and was never able to finish the sixth grade. Against all odds, he pulled the family out of poverty, but his hard knock life left an indelible mark:
“Having next to nothing as a child helped forge his lifelong commitment to save and value everything he touched. He abhorred any kind of waste,” Warren says.
A “master of never wasting a piece of wood”, Raymond would bring home crates and pallets from his job as a maintenance man and carpenter at TWA (Trans World Airlines) and transform the discards into foot stools, picture frames, bookcases or doll furniture for his daughters. When he wasn’t tending his 5-acre plot of vegetables and selling them at a roadside stand, he was constructing the family dream home. Despite his lack of education, his solidly designed houses would stun realtors. Stadler recalls their incredulous reactions:
“They’d be like ‘Nobody builds homes like this anymore, nobody puts stuff together like this’.”
Leola Grace Glover was a traditional wife who worked equally hard providing a stable home for her 7 children. She never worked outside the home, never drove a car, and never questioned her husband. Warren, Stadler and Mann remember a mother who had an amazing emotional stability, a deep religious faith, and did whatever needed to be done with good humor.
“No matter what kind of chaos was going on in her life,” adds Stadler.
Despite a brilliant but demanding husband, Leola handled her artistic life with the same aplomb that she did everything else: she took the best of the any situation and created something spectacular.
“Mom found art possibilities everywhere,” Warren says.
Spent camera flash cubes became Christmas tree ornaments, eggshells metamorphosed into tiny dioramas, popsicle sticks were fashioned into artful geometric-shaped trivets, and old dresses and shirts were made into quilts.
“She worked with what she had,” says Stadler, “I think that shows what a truly artistic person she was.”
“It’s a wonderful lesson for anyone to learn: we can be happy with very few things if we just use a little bit of imagination,” adds Katey Warren, granddaughter.