When I was a child the rag and bone man came round on a horse drawn cart shouting ‘rag a bone!’ as he went. His cart was often full of bed frames, bicycle parts and old washing machines. Though they often lived their lives close penury, these collectors of junk were the original heroes of recycling.
Sad to say, the totter, rag-picker and bone-grubber had largely vanished from the social and economic landscape but recent trends have seen a re-emergence of the rag bone man. The significant increase on the value of scrap has led to a spike in their numbers though their reputations have suffered somewhat from some poor public relations. The other factor is the emergence of waste ‘awareness’, the impacts of consumer consumption and perceived and actual obsolescence in a large number of household products. Times have moved on and the first wave of waste recycling has given way to a more fully formed offshoot movement … upcycling, crafting the old into something else and creating something new. These modern day Upcyclists have given us scrap-hacking, scrapiana Trashion, funky-junk giving new meaning to do-it-yourself fixtures, furniture and lifestyle accoutrements.
This Beautiful Business takes upcycling to a whole new and different, level….this is art, design, sculpture and the engineering of new possibilities This beautiful business is something more; this is the Rag and Bone Man aka Paul Firbank. Paul is proud of a the link between his own scrap scavenging and traditional tottering, Paul is a skilled contemporary craftsman, working in the medium of scrap, distinguishable from the broader DIY notions of upcycling his metalwork focuses on craftsmanship with some pieces taking months to create and complete.
Based in the east end of London, Paul turns scrap into something special.
Each piece is by its very nature, unique, credited thus by having its own metal tag and serial number. The nature of the scrap dictates the piece and what can be done and achieved with it. Some of the creations suggest an art deco influence, others a Gieger-esque reference to an industrial and machine age. Whatever their tendencies and lineage and however hard we might try to pigeon hole this work, it goes to show that scrap doesn’t have to be rough edged and lacking in beauty.
Paul uses a range of techniques including welding, brazing, polishing and lacquering to create a range of stunning assemblages. Finding a good use for golf clubs (at last), springs from cars, electric boxes and engine parts, Paul appears able to fashion anything from…anything else. Having worked on commissions for hotels, restaurants and private homes, Paul is always open to the challenge as long as its not dictated to him.
As a creator of contemporary art, his commissions must give him carte blanche to… create. If you would like to see more of Paul’s creations you can watch the splendid video below or visit his website at http://theragandboneman.co.uk/. I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you.