Name: Carla Bruni
Home: Chicago, IL
Makerspace: Dining room (yup) / workshop at a salvage warehouse / metal workshop at the Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center
Day Job: Historic preservation consultant, assistant director at a salvage warehouse, Craftsman outreach consultant, writer

Making a toolbox (not reused items though)

How’d you get started making? Necessity. My father needed help fixing and building things in and around the house and I was his designated helper from a young age. Also, ever since taking apart a broken VCR in grade school, I’ve loved making sculptural pieces out of salvaged parts as well as tinkering and repairing things.

What type of maker would you classify yourself as? Ethical. I spend a lot of my time working to save buildings from demolition, and if that battle is lost, I work on saving the materials and diverting them from the waste stream. I also run a monthly repair clinic in Chicago — Community Glue Workshop — to revive things (pretty much anything you can imagine) that would otherwise be trashed.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made? Wow, that’s a tough one. Much of what I make is for other people — I love the challenge of making things that are both thoughtful and completely unique. Recent things I’ve made for gifts include papier-mâché replicas of several of my friends, copious amounts of origami, vases from hollowed out light bulbs with organic-themed etching, and lamps out of an old metal drill and a flashlight. I really, really love working with metal, so as a treat to myself, I hand forged a Viking-inspired ladle, though I still need to rivet the handle to the bowl.

What’s something you’d like to make next? Ultimately, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be one of those cantankerous old women whose made a house out of bottle caps, bits of glass, and bubble gum. I just finished learning how to restore axes (good lord, that’s a rewarding undertaking), and I’d like to start cleaning up the piles of vintage tools I have now that I have a better sense of how rusted metal can clean up. Then, more than anything, I’d really, really like to forge some heartbreakingly beautiful cutlery.

Any advice for people reading this? I’d encourage people to work with materials that are already out there instead of spending a bunch of money at hardware and big box stores—this will also grow the reuse economy and get stores on board with selling reclaimed materials and diverting it from landfills. Older materials tend to be far superior — they can easily have several lives because they tend to be incredibly hardy — and they’re just naturally gorgeous. So take a strong stance and incorporate reuse into what you do.

Who else should we profile?

  • Charlie Vinz, a creative carpenter who teaches classes and uses reclaimed materials.
  • Nick Thrane, the guy who taught me how to restore axes in Maryland
  • Sarah Holden, metalworker and jewelry maker who helped me with my Viking ladle. Her jewelry is crazy and awesome and sometimes scandalous.

Find Carla Bruni online here:

Repair Clinic | Hands-on Blog | Craftsman Blog | Instagram

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