Artist Embraces Rust, Dents and History in Upcycled Works

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For Michael Stodola, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based artist and furniture maker, upcycling is a way of life. The designs in his product line, Milwaukee Modern, utilize old car hoods, cast-off furniture, scrap wood and plenty of other materials to create something that is not only interesting to look at, but also has a story.

Each item Stodola uses has a history, and rather than sanding down these pieces, he chooses to let that past – whether it’s told through dents, discoloration or even text – live on in new ways. Click through to see how Stodola’s art and furniture not only keep trash out of landfills, but also keep history alive.

Photo: Milwaukee Modern

Photo: Milwaukee Modern

The Lincoln

By day, Michael Stodola is the Creative Director for the Milwaukee-based ad agency Boelter + Lincoln. When one of the founders – an actual descendant of Abraham Lincoln – retired, the company decided to adopt the image of Lincoln and asked Stodola to create a visual. The result was The Lincoln, a rusted drawing of the former president ground into the hood of a 1975 Lincoln Continental.

“I don’t know where I got the idea from exactly, but it popped in my head and I thought, ‘Well, what if we do a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the hood of a Lincoln?’ That Lincoln could even be from 1975, which was when the agency was founded,” Stodola told Earth911.

Stodola, who normally uses materializes he comes across or already has, sought out a ’75 Lincoln hood, which he eventually found on Craigslist. After some trial and error, he managed to carve Lincoln’s portrait into the car’s hood in a way that certainly catches the eye.

So how do you make the hood of a car rust without leaving it outside for years? It turns out there are plenty of recipes for how to oxidize metal quickly. Stodola found one that used iron filings, sea salt and some chemicals. After he drew the image of Lincoln onto large pieces of paper, he glued it to the hood and ground through it so the image was engraved on the metal. Then he applied the rusting recipe he found on the internet and let the mixture sit overnight.

“It was a pretty remarkable thing to come out the next morning and the hood looked like it’d been sitting outside for 20 years,” Stodola said.

Recently, Ripley’s Believe It or Not got wind of the hood and asked Stodola to make another for their touring collection.

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