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Artist Profile: Philip Gard

Your Trash Is His Treasure

By Ellen Samsell Salas

Philip Gard says he “can make stuff out of anything” — a lamp out of a purse, wall sconces out of old boots, lights out of discarded bee smokers. Where other people see junk, Gard finds stories or parts of people’s lives, and he carries on those stories.

What began as a hobby has become Custom Pure Grain, Gard’s enterprise to rescue items that he finds in yard sales, old sheds, and abandoned barns. The item might be a trombone or an old pair of crutches tucked in a corner waiting to be repurposed, or it might be discarded lumber from what had been the cabins of a retreat center.

“I’m inspired by discovering forgotten and broken items,” the long-time resident of Cherokee County said.

Gard explained that the name Custom Pure Grain denotes the ingenious pieces he creates, the purity of the items he repurposes, and the lifespan of the wood he often uses.

Although he has no training in carpentry or welding, Gard has an instinct for revealing the story of each item. As a photographer, he strove not only to capture the literal, but also to reveal the essence of places and people. Now, he creates art that becomes part of people’s lives and enhances their homes with the depth of each piece’s underlying life.

Recently, he has turned old ladders and wagon wheels into light fixtures, fashioned rocket ship lights from pipes, and added plumbing to vintage dry sinks. Whether he works with wood, copper tubing, or sheet metal, he lets his imagination have free rein.

Gard not only rescues the items but also seeks to discover their history. He will research the origin of an old sewing machine using the model number. He will quiz people who are discarding items, asking who the owner was, or what work went on in an old shed from which he is salvaging lumber.

“I try to salvage the history of the item, no matter how insignificant it might seem, then turn that piece into a table where families come together. The more scratches, saw marks, and layers of paint, the more story,” he said.

Gard gives back to the community by working with teens in the foster system. As a father to two young boys, he also serves as a scout leader.

While he hopes that people enjoy his whimsical creations, Gard also hopes that they continue the stories of those items, “the desires and efforts” of the people who made them and once had them in their homes.

“All these things had a purpose and now have a new purpose,” he said.

If you would like to see more of Gard’s work, he has items for sale at Menagerie on Main in Canton, or you can send him an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..