Turning trash into treasure: Maryville man recycles wood lath into wall art

Living East Tennessee

For one local Maryville man, a mere observation turned into an opportunity to recycle waste and turn it into beautiful pieces of art. 

“It’s a product that there is an abundance of at my job,” Craig VanGorder, local hardware store employee said. 

VanGorder said he noticed copious amounts of wood lath being thrown away on a weekly basis at his job. VanGorder took some home after seeing his co-workers throw some away, and said, “well, I can find a use for this.” 

VanGorder said he brought the wood material home and just stared at it for a while. He later got the idea to add color to the wood lath pieces and then began using some of his power tools to create shapes. Those shapes were later laid on a piece of plywood to create a mountain scape or a pattern. 

“That’s where the wood lath quilt squares come in,” VanGorder said. “The quilt squares are kind of down home, East Tennessee, I mean you can look at those on the side of the barn, that’s where the inspiration comes from, and that’s where kind of the down home warm feeling comes from.”

VanGorder takes wood lath, wood that was originally used behind plaster in old buildings, creating wood slats, similar to a lattice board, and turns these pieces of wood into beautiful wall art.

“I’m taking a two by four that was slated for the dump, pulling it out, recycling it, and re-purposing it into a piece of art. That’s the way that I look at it,” Van Gorder said. 

From start to finish, VanGorder takes pieces of wood, that have been stained and colored,  puts them together in varying patterns to create his masterpieces. 

VanGorder said these wooden pieces of art, are apart of the “knot,” in the KnotSewPerfect shop he and his wife started. “I’m the knot, she’s the sew and together, we’re perfect.” 

VanGorder said these pieces of art began as nothing more than recycled pieces of palette. We’ll be sitting outside in the driveway, cutting these things up and at night until 1- 2 in the morning. Me doing my thing and my wife doing hers,” and it later evolved into a crafting business. 

“We’re not going to be millionaires doing this or anything like that. It’s usually a gift– you know if somebody else wants to buy it, by all means, that’s fantastic, we’re not looking to become millionaires out of this, it’s just something that we both enjoy.” 

“I just want someone to appreciate the piece, just as much as I do,” VanGorder said. 

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