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Who Wood've Thought- Connecting Art & Sustainability

For this week's post I interviewed Ike Wynter Weins, a local artist in Milwaukee, WI that is behind Wynter Woods. He makes art pieces out of reused wood. And only wood. The only part of his artwork that he has to purchase are nails. His art sticks out to me because he doesn't use toxic oils, paints, finishes or stains that many artists use.

Instead, he focuses on "rethinking art with products that already exist in their natural state." As we were talking, it was clear that he simply wants to use "what is already here". He picks up wood from industrial parks or the back of grocery stores, which have large amounts of wood that get thrown away (like pallets). Weins started making his wooden art pieces about 4 years ago, but he took advantage of quarantine to really work on his art. It was really cool to hear how he has tried to make the most out of this quarantine time (much like we're trying to do with this site).

At least personally, I've never really thought about sustainability in the world of art. I asked Ike, "when did you become interested in sustainability? What are the challenges it presents to your business- and what are the opportunities?

He answered that he honestly has always been interested in sustainability (both by choice and not by choice). He was raised in a household that practiced recycling and reusing materials such as metal at a very young age. He and his brother would sort and take things apart as young as 6 years old, which gave him an early exposure to the value of reusing things.

As for challenges sustainability presents? Ike shared that it makes the art more difficult to do without the use of paints or stains... BUT, he wouldn't have it any other way. This eco-friendly practice not only makes his artwork more environmentally conscious, but it also makes it really unique (a win-win right?!).

When asked "What would you say to other small business owners to help them consider sustainability in their stores, with their projects, etc.?"

Ike's answer really stuck out to me because it was simple & direct- CHALLENGE YOURSELF! He challenges artists or business owners to take a look at their every day processes and to consider every time they go to the store. In doing so, "every time someone goes to the store, they should challenge themselves to think outside of the box in order to buy less but still make their product or art." Likewise, this thought process challenges you to rethink other components of your life. For example, in one of my earlier posts, I discussed a local shop in Milwaukee that has NEVER bought shipping supplies in their multiple years of operation. Instead, they literally thought outside of the box- getting only used and donated shipping items. These seemingly small "challenges" to the business-owning norms are what really makes a difference in sustainability and understanding of our environmental impact.

I was interested- what was one thing an artist would like to know more about?

The answer? According to Ike, sustainable paints and stains! I also asked if he would use these more sustainable options if they were available and he was hesitant. He ended up saying that he would consider using the sustainable option but that he would honestly probably continue making his natural pieces without any paints, oils or stains.

Towards the end of our conversation, we talked about the future of Wynter Woods. Ultimately, Ike wants to focus on education as a large part of his work. He wants to share how to repurpose wood and materials or how to use tools, especially with young people. This emphasis on teaching young people the importance of repurposing rather than buying new is often overlooked.

It was so exciting to talk to a local artist that is challenging the typical practice of using paints and stains, instead creating amazing art with only natural and reused items. The small steps and practices in all industries, sectors or professions is what makes a difference in connecting people from so many different backgrounds into a the realm of sustainability- and it's amazing!

Click here to check out his art on Etsy!

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