They met in a Harper College sculpture class and fueled their friendship as student aides in the college's 3-D art studio. They've now become business partners in a venture aimed at giving secondhand castoffs a new life.
The trio of scholarship recipients work together to creatively up-cycle old furniture, turning items such as defunct record player cabinets and broken-down work benches into functioning 21st century appliances and family-room-ready works of art.
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"We started this to expand our possibilities as artists," says sculpture student Paul Fritz of Arlington Heights, who stresses the group's earth-conscious attitude and notes profits go toward more art supplies. "This is funding our creativity, and that's really our goal: to keep learning new skills, applying old skills and all around enhancing ourselves as artists and individuals."
The business, dubbed Leftie's in a nod to the leftovers the team transforms, does custom work by request, and is displaying work at Harper's Studio V -- an on-campus, student-run boutique featuring art, jewelry and fashion from students, faculty and community members -- and selling finished pieces online.
"Being able to share our abilities and our talents and combine everything we've learned to come together as one -- that's really what I'm going for," says welding student Nick Kohler of Elk Grove Village. "We're able to make a lot out of very little."
Fritz, Kohler and their colleague Victoria Claus of Arlington Heights, a recent graduate, are quick to credit Harper for bringing them together.
"We credit Harper with almost all our success, individually and together," says Claus, a single mother who finished her sculpture degree with support from the college's Women's Program, citing helpful mentoring by professors and studio faculty.