Artist turns old scraps into new wonders

Becky Campbell • Dec 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Hand Brian Scotka a piece of old wood or some reclaimed steel, and he might hand it back.

In another form altogether.

The Texas native, who moved to Johnson City about a year ago, creates unique furniture using wood from old barns and metal he’s found at a salvage yard. Sometimes it takes a bit of thinking to come up with an idea when he sees a piece of metal; other times, it just jumps out and speaks to him.

“It all started with a buddy of mine in Nashville,” Scotka said. “I was living in North Dakota when he sent me an idea about using barn wood and reclaimed steel,” to make furniture.

“It just took off from there. I really enjoyed the whole fabricating from scratch. It’s very gratifying and meaningful to me,” he said. “He gave me a big chunk of barn wood, and I’ve been able to use that for a lot of things.”

When he can, Scotka tries to learn the story behind the materials he gathers for his projects.

“It’s neat to see the story it has with it ... a time when the world was a little simpler,” he said. “Now, 150 years later people remove these barns and cabins and it’s going to serve another purpose for another 150 years. I try to pass the story on.”

He picked up what looks like two short tubes with a metal plate on top that connects them and explained how he might use it and an identical piece he made as legs for some type of table. He’s not sure yet, but sometimes he just plays around with the metal until he figures it out.

That metal was once a long steel pipe that he found in a salvage yard in New Mexico. It was the pipe used to pump water from a creek to the top of a gold mine out west. He liked how the pipes were made — flat steel rolled and twisted like a can of biscuits — to form a pipe that was riveted together all the way up the seams.

Scotka said he loves working with the natural materials and how wood and metal look together.

“I just appreciate the natural look and character of it. I think its beautiful to put he wood and metal together,” he said.

Most any day, Scotka can be found on his front porch in South Johnson City grinding away at a piece of metal or shaping wood into something beautiful. The area is filled with his tools and the material he uses to make his pieces.

There are metal wheels, steel bars and sheets of metal among other pieces.

“I’m more of a steel guy, but on smaller projects I’ll work with wood,” he said. For larger projects involving wood, Scotka works with Ian Herrin in Jonesborough and Rubin Robertson, owner of Rugged Lab in Jonesborough.

“They help me out on some of the wood project, but if I can do the wood on my own, I’ll do it.”

Scotka said he’s always searching the Internet for ideas, but he adds his own twist to things.

“I spend a lot of time changing the plans, adding to or taking away from it. Sometimes the pieces do call out to me, especially if I see wood with a lot of character to it.”

Scotka’s work can be seen on his Instagram page at www.instagram24.com/rustic_renderings, or for more information, you can email him at [email protected]





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