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Artist turns trash into furniture — crafting a message about Biscayne Bay

You can shop at the Bay Store studio in Miami through Sunday

Artist creates furniture out of Miami's trash
Artist creates furniture out of Miami's trash

MIAMI – James Quinaz is building a shelving unit, but it’s what he’s making it with that he really wants you to pay attention to: A huge plastic construction barrier he found on one of the Spoil Islands in northern Biscayne Bay, trash that had probably been submerged for years.

“This was a beast to take back but we did it,” Quinaz says. “When I found it, was filled with water as well.”

In just days it will become another one of the pieces on display at Bay Store, Quinaz’s temporary installation in the Miami Design District.

His originally designed furniture is all made with trash Quinaz himself pulled out of Biscayne Bay and the Miami River.

“I’m definitely trying to look at it from a different perspective,” he says. “And I was even trying to change the word from trash to materials. So that way in my head, I see this as material and these are things I can use to build.”

A Miami native and a graduate of the city’s prestigious Design and Architecture Senior High School, Quinaz spent a lot of his free time growing up on the water.

“Me and my friends we would always take kayaks out, we would go to the islands,” he says. “And it was freedom for me.”

He left Miami 11 years ago to hone his craft in Oregon and New York City, where he helped create the famous window displays of Saks Fifth Avenue. Quinaz came back home 10 months ago, only to find his beloved bay was full of trash.

“I thought it was disgusting,” he says. “These are awful things- but we can do something about it, and we just have to start now.”

Picking up all the litter he found inspired him to create his first piece, a bay chair that he built in “four to five days.”

The piece hit on social media and quickly sold. It also caught the attention of the Miami Design District, which commissioned Quinaz to create his studio and raise awareness of what we’re doing to our precious backyard.

“We want folks to come in here and engage with this trash and learn about what’s going on with Biscayne Bay,” says David Harrison, the co-founder Quinaz Studio.

The show opened two weeks ago in an empty storefront, the back of which was filled with the garbage Quinaz had collected.

He creates a new piece every two days, ranging from a coffee table made out of a sliding glass door and driftwood to a bench made from an old cooler and boat cushion. Every bit of material used is repurposed.

“Even the electrical cord, even the screws I used here — everything was found in the bay,” Quinaz says. “Everything.”

Each piece is named after the amount of trash used to create it.

A table, for example, is called 37.3 pounds. Patrons are shocked to find out the whole thing is made of trash that came from the bay.

“That’s the moment that I like, is when this is seen as beautiful and then people have that, ‘Oh whoa! This is trash!’ moment,” Quinaz says.

And it’s that “Aha moment” that Quinaz hopes is a catalyst for change.

“We’re not going to recycle our way out of this, so for me it’s about changing culture,” he says. “What I really want to do is make people to consider when they do throw stuff out where it’s going, and the fact that it does end up in the bay.

“In the end, I’m happy to be making art and spreading the word of this — of the bay.”

More info about Bay Store

Bay Store is at 3914 NE 1st Avenue in Miami and runs through Sunday, July 25. All pieces are for sale, with 20% of the proceeds going to organizations that promote sustainability and environmental responsibility.

It is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

For more info, go to quinazstudio.com

For more photos on Instagram, click here.


About the Author:

Louis Aguirre returned home to Miami and Local 10 in September 2017.