Wood is one of the first materials ever used by humans to build basic goods, but it’s taken a backseat in our fast-paced, digital society driven by disposable, pre-fabricated and mass-produced goods.
In the middle of all this excessive purchasing, one Montrealer is trying to revive the ancient art of woodworking.
The 30-year-old French national has been called a magician, a creator and he even considers himself a storyteller through his woodwork.
“There’s a lot of pleasure in fixing things,” Karel Ledru said.
“There’s definitely a story to every piece of furniture.”
After spending several years working as software engineer, Ledru left Paris and moved to Montreal, searching for a larger purpose in life. Ten years later, he’s an established woodworker and living his dream of making a difference by restoring old furniture often destined for the dump.
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“It’s giving it a second life to the point that you don’t even notice that it was once considered trash,” he said. “That’s for me the idea of upcycling.”
He first fell in love with designing and creating new custom pieces.
“I thought that’s where the fun was,” he said, until he discovered his calling for upcycling.
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Ledru insists nothing beats the challenge of having to respect old materials while trying to understand how and why they were made a certain way at a certain point in time.
“I love solving problems and I love learning new techniques,” he said.
“The sentimental value is more important sometimes than the actual value of the piece of furniture.”
Ledru typically finds furniture that’s abandoned on the street and in some cases customers bring him broken pieces that were handed down from generations.
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Julie Cardinal-Laberge is one of his many returning customers. Half of the furniture in her home is reused or refurbished, including a teak dresser she found on garbage day. Ledru worked his magic and the piece now proudly stands in her front entrance.
“It’s so rewarding to find used furniture because it’s affordable,” Cardinal-Laberge said. “Reusing and repairing it just makes more sense to me than buying something new.”
Ledru hopes his passion will rub off on others, to help curb over consumption and cut the number of disposable household items that end up in landfills.
“I think it’s a good idea to buy something that already exists,” he said.
“We have a lot of resources nowadays with Kijiji and even Facebook Market Place are great ways to find things that are used.”
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