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wary meyers: tossed & found + diy project!

by Grace Bonney

it’s been such a treat to introduce some great new design books on d*s today and i’m thrilled to close out the day with two of my favorite designers of all time: linda and john meyers- perhaps better known as team wary meyers.

i have been a fan of their work for as long as i’ve been following the design world and am always so excited to see how they turn their love of salvaged materials and objects into beautiful new designs. today i’m thrilled to talk about their new book
wary meyers’ tossed & found: unconventional design from cast-offs (abrams 2009). i received my copy in the mail a few weeks ago and have been pouring through the pages ever since. not only is it a wonderful collection of whimsical projects, but it’s a wonderful example of the sort of creativity that hard to find these days. when linda and john see a chunk of blue foam, they don’t see trash, they see a turquoise lamp. plastic planters and pastry bags? turned into chandelier, of course! if i could have one wish, it would be to see the world through the wary meyers’ eyes for one day. the possibilities would be endless…

today i’m thrilled to share not only an interview with john and linda (after the jump below) but a fun new diy project inspired by their “golden drip” project in the book. these two are endlessly creative and it was such a treat to be able to chat with them about this project and all of the exciting things they have lined up in the future. if you’re a fan of diy, upcycling or just plain old creativity, you won’t want to miss their interview and diy project for “drip bookends”. thank you so much to john and linda for taking the time to chat and to create this project for us today. you can order their new book online right here.

CLICK HERE for the wary meyers interview + drip bookends diy project after the jump!


Design*Sponge: Hi guys! To most of our readers your work is legendary, but for those reading who are new to the site or the design world as a whole- could you introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what you do?

Linda: We are Linda and John Meyers, artists and designers. We have a company called Wary Meyers Decorative Arts (Wary is my maiden name), where we work on interiors, object design, paintings, illustrations, and soft sculpture (coming soon).

D*S: How would you describe your design philosophy, or your style?

WM: Carefree optimism, with a balance of old vs. new.

D*S: Repurposing things is such a huge part of your interiors- why do you think you’re drawn to repurposing, rather than buying something new or creating something from scratch?

John: The repurposing aspect stems from wanting to be resourceful and creative, and a lot of times we’ll customize things, so it’s just a waste buying something new and changing it, when there are so many more economical and interesting alternatives. Also, since we like the balance of old and new, especially on the same piece of furniture, we’d rather work with something old, with a patina and history, and then provide the new ourselves. For example we wanted to make a skeletal splat back on a pair of Chippendale chairs, but you can’t just go to a store and buy Chippendale chairs without paying an arm and a leg, and it’s pointless to make them from scratch when all you want to do is slightly alter them, so the answer is finding them at a yard sale, flea market, or thrift shop. Other times we will create from scratch, but the scratch may be old wood planks found by the docks, or fabric from a yard sale.


D*S: Your “tossed and found” column for Time Out NY is a favorite among d*s readers and staffers alike- could you tell us a little bit about how that came to be, and how people have responded to your column there?

Linda: We’d been doing some jobs in New York for friends on extremely low budgets- $1500, $2000, so we had to be extremely resourceful, especially when entire apartments needed to be made from nothing. Time Out was putting together their Home Design issue and my friend Courtenay, who was working there at the time, told the editor about our resourcefulness and how we even take things off the street, and they should get us to do a special feature on resuscitating those cast-offs. The feature turned into a column, which we named Tossed & Found. The response from the column was great, we heard from many people that they were inspired to make their own projects using cast-offs.

D*S: Your new book, Wary Meyers’ Tossed & Found, is a wonderful celebration of design made from cast-offs. what made you decide to create a book of projects, as opposed to focusing on the magazine column?

John: The book was decided upon before the column was launched. We were contacted by a literary agent between the first magazine feature and the start of the column. We ended the column ironically due to economic reasons- it was done for free, and everything we made was donated, and unfortunately in the end it was too difficult to work like that, especially with wanting the quality of the design to keep getting better.

D*S Could you tell us a little bit about the book and the types of projects that people can find within? Do you have to have a lot of crafting skill to tackle the projects?

John: The book is awesome- it has 5 sections: Seating, Tables, Storage, Lighting, and Decorative. The projects within those sections vary from super easy to rather difficult, and run the range of woodworking, sewing, painting, electrifying, gluing, cutting, placing, and even “gardening”, as with the pickle jar terrarium. For each project we explain how-to, with either drawings or photos, or sometimes without, if the project is easily figured out. The sewing projects are simple and don’t use any too-fancy techniques beyond pillow-sewing and quilting. The woodworking projects are relatively easy, and were governed by what equipment we have around the house. So basically they involve cutting and hammering, with a couple jigsaw projects thrown in. The painting projects have ideas on other variants, the electrical stuff is basically lamp-making, and there’s an easy to follow illustration of basic wiring. In the end it’s more about the design and the idea and less about the technique. If it were about craftsmanship and tool expertise we definitely wouldn’t start with stuff from the side of the road.

D*S: I love the drawings and sketches inside the book- can you tell us a little bit about your design and inspiration process? Do you always sketch things out- or do you sometimes just run with an idea?

John: Thanks. Sometimes i’ll sketch things out after i have an idea, and then while sketching a variation, or another idea will come to mind that you normally couldn’t think of without drawing. For instance with the sewer pipe lamp, I don’t think we would have come up with the idea for the curved tops, let alone the space ship, if it hadn’t been sketched it out first. Not that we’ve made either variation yet, but sometimes drawing is like an additional resource. In some cases it’s difficult to draw the subject, like a stack of Aalto stools, so you end up either simplifying it or altering it, and in that case it lead to the idea of the Art Base. In some cases we wanted to draw more ideas, notably typographic variations, such as in the Aalto stools and the 1×2 Molding.


D*S: So many of us in big cities are constantly lamenting our picked-over fleamarkets and yard sales. do you think living in portland is a slight advantage in terms of finding more interesting items?

Linda: Portland has only 60,000 people, so the playing field is evened out. We are always surprised, however, at how few people go to yard sales up here and often wonder what could people are doing at 7am that is more fun?

D*S: What are some of the craziest or most interesting found objects you’ve found/worked with, and what did they become?

John: We tend to avoid crazy, as I think is the best advice when handling the found. There’s a photo on our title page of a table marked free, with a bag and a mop, but that’s as close as I went. I think one of the most fun was the pool noodles, as the idea was to make a sort of Eileen Gray Bibendum chair, so there was this great contrast of low and high, and then thinking you could use the ends of the noodles as beer koozies, it was like low to high to low- there and back again.

D*S I love the whimsical nature of so many of the projects in the book. So often we hear about form over function and vice verse- do you think there’s a case to be made for making something just for the sake of liking the way it looks?

Linda: Absolutely, if everything had a reason for being, life would be a very boring place. We don’t expect anyone will be making the Golden Drip, and we don’t sit on ours very often, but it’s fun to look at. And the same goes for the bookends we made for Design Sponge (project steps below). There’s always room for crazy decoration.


D*S: If you had to choose a favorite project from the book, what would it be and why?

John: My favorite project is the chess set, because it incorporates all the things I like to work with the most- boxes, type, and the scroll saw, and it’s a game, it’s the perfect size, it came out so nicely, and directly references two of my favorite designers, Herb Lubalin and Lou Dorfsman, even down to the Dorfsman/Dansk-inspired photo.

Linda: My favorite is the Trunk Seat, because my cat Bumbles looks so adorable sitting on it!

D*S: Did you learn anything about yourselves, your design process, or your design style while making this book?

WM: We learned over and over that we need a bigger apartment. Also that a natural patina is usually better than a paint job.

D*S: What is next for you guys? Can we look forward to more books?

WM: Linda’s pregnant and due in December, so right now we’re working on the baby’s room, which has infinite possibilities for carefree optimism and soft sculpture. And as far as books go, ideally we’d love to write a book where Tossed & Found leaves off, incorporating more of the interior design aspect.



About the project: There’s a project in our book called “Golden Drip” where we made an large, stuffed, gold lycra antimacassar that drips off of an old wicker peacock chair. This is an offshoot of that, in bookshelf size. Anyone who’s tried to solder before, or broken a mercury thermometer on a lightbulb will recognize the inspiring little metal drips, but for us the most inspiration came from John’s grandmother, who a few years ago left a pot on the stove all night, melting it down to the size of a Hershey Kiss. The resulting little modern sculpture was displayed on her kitchen window sill both as a reminder and because it looked so cool. By the way, today is her 99th birthday, so Happy Birthday Grandma!

So, the basic idea here is that the lycra drip forms are stuffed with rice and buttress against the books, holding them in place. We made a few more incidental drips and dots for effect, and to hold the books from fanning at the top, but you can get away with just the pair of teardrop shapes, especially if you have paperbacks. The silver lycra is found in the dancer section at the fabric store, the rice at the supermarket, and we have a canoe full of yard sale polyfill, but obviously that can be found at the fabric store as well.

CLICK HERE for an illustrated step-by-step instruction sheet by the Wary Meyers’- or follow the steps below

-silver lycra

1. Stack two pieces of lycra on top of each other, shiny sides facing inward, dull sides facing out. Draw shapes on the reverse (non shiny) side of the lycra fabric. Leave a 1/4″ seam allowance.

2. With your two pieces of fabric together, cut out the shapes, leaving the shiny sides on the inside.

3. Keeping the shiny sides on the inside, sew the shapes together.

4. Cut a small slit on one side of the sewn shape.

5. Turn the shapes inside out

6. Fill about 70% with broken rice, 30% with fiber or polyfill.

7. Hand-stitch the shapes closed and you’re done!

*See their illustration link above to see each step drawn out!


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