The Upcycled Garden | Salvaged Materials in the Garden
“What are you going to do with that?” I point to a small Gothic arch propped in the driveway, as we swerve toward the workshop, a “repurposed” barn from the days when this was a 15-acre orchard filled with apple, walnut, cherry, and peach trees. “Probably just stare at it for a while,” Jeff nods.
We pass other fragments of history waiting for new life. A thick slab of keel from the Coronet, an 1885 schooner. Pieces of a cypress pickle tank from Massachusetts. Here are stones that were ships’ ballast in merchant vessels coming from England, and cast-iron corbels off a hospital in Taunton. Inside the workshop, he’s got chunks of the old Coney Island boardwalk, which was torn up and replaced with something newer. “I managed to get my hands on 70,000 feet of it,” he says with awe. “An iconic American landmark. How many people walked across it, how many ice-cream cones were dropped on it, how many marriage proposals were made there?”
Later, we visit a Zen garden in a nearby town, where Jeff shows me a bench made from that historic old promenade. Once silvery and splintered, the wood is now rubbed and polished, infused with the memory of long-ago lives. It begs you to sit.
“What I love most is when someone doesn’t even talk to me and they just rub one of my pieces, they just can’t take their hands off it,” he says. “It’s beyond incredible that people respond the way they do. To be able to do this, it’s such a blessing. That I get to leave behind something tangible for people to enjoy and for their kids to enjoy …That what I’m dedicating my life to is hopefully going to make people happy for generations to come.”
To see more of Jeff’s work, go to jeffsoderbergh.com or visit his seasonal showroom at 11 West Main St. (lower gallery), Wellfleet, MA; 401-845-9087 (studio phone). Open daily Memorial Day weekend through the fall.