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Students Recycle Materials to Create Furniture for New Studio Art Building

A drawing bench constructed by Pomona College Professor of Art Michael O'Malley's class for the new Studio Art Hall.

Stools for the studio art hall

Stools designed by the class

The striking new Studio Art Hall’s interior will have as much attention to detail as the exterior, with handmade furniture painstakingly sculpted by Professor Michael O’Malley and eight of his students.

Drawing benches, apple crates, stools and a conference table all were crafted from repurposed materials, giving students a chance to combine creativity with sustainability.

O’Malley and his Functional Sculpture Conceptual Design II class used everything from felled campus trees to detritus from the building, taking cast-off pieces of Douglas fir and creating a conference table with an intricate honeycomb pattern on the underside, and making stools out of extra plywood from the construction site.

“They become aware that there are resources all over the place and many people think of them as waste,” says O’Malley of his students. “It becomes this opportunity to take something like that and completely transform it.”

O’Malley and the students were given total artistic license, but transforming their concepts into reality was a process. For building the stools—each student made three—they went through numerous design iterations and execution issues, O’Malley says.

The furniture had to be built to last and, O’Malley notes, “because of the building it has to have a level of finish and integrity to it.”

“So there was a lot of, ‘That’s not good enough,’” says O’Malley.  

But the whole experience was more than good enough for Ian Byers-Gamber ’14, who jumped at the opportunity to recycle excess construction materials “in a beautiful and functional way.” The hard part, Byers-Gamber says, was putting down his sculpting tools and getting back to work on his senior thesis.

“Giving students the option of designing and building furniture that they and their peers then get to use is so special,” he says.