By Michael Simon on June 25, 2010

Boris Bally believes that there's more to road signs than meets the eye - which is why he's made a career out of remixing street furniture for the living room!

BroadWay Armchair BroadWay Armchair, 2009. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

Most people look to street signs for direction, but when "material smith" Boris Bally looks up, he sees inspiration! In fact, the accomplished metalworker has made a career from reclaiming and recycling abandoned signs to build stunning pieces of furniture. Indeed, rather than smoothing off the original printed symbols, he emphasizes them, making their designs the focal point of his work.

DETOUR Transit Chair DETOUR Transit Chair, 2008. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

As it turns out, street signs are in Bally’s blood. His father was an award-winning industrial designer, and Boris grew up around metalwork. It was there that he first saw signs being worked on, simply for want of material. However, the habit caught on, until finally as an adult he decided to utilize the signs’ original printed forms, remixing the "pop iconography" of the street as a designer product.

Boris Bally in BroadWay Armchair Boris Bally in BroadWay Armchair. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

"I felt the lettering was beautiful and that destroying the signs was wrong,” he told Jori Finkel of Art & Auction. “Using street signs can even be illegal, but that's part of the thrill for me and, I suspect, my collectors.”

Bally/Taylor Residence, 2001 Bally/Taylor Residence, 2001. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

He added: "Our resources on the planet are finite, and the best test of an artist is how well we can use what we have at hand."

BroadWay Armchair BroadWay Armchair, 2009. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

The process of building the chairs is harder than you might imagine. In each case, the signs have to be bent into shape, usually with the help of a bending brake, which can take two strong men to operate.

STOP: Transit Chair STOP: Transit Chair, 2008. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

Clients sometimes request pieces to feature specific designs, but it doesn’t work that way, as Bally works with what he finds.

Flow (backed stool) Flow (backed stool). Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

Trained as a goldsmith, Bally has been working with metal for over 35 years, crossing the boundaries between art, craft and design. While he started by making aluminum skateboards, nunchucks and throwing stars, "street sign" furniture is now the mainstay of his work, with celebrity clients including Robert Downey Jr., Michael Stipe and Jerry Seinfeld.

Arrow: Transit Chair Arrow: Transit Chair, 2008. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

Bally has won a string of awards for his work and exhibited from Germany to Japan at venues including the New York Museum of Art & Design and London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Meanwhile, his themes have spanned Hurricane Katrina, the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S., and recycling and the search for new materials.

BroadWay Armchair BroadWay Armchair, 2009. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

Indeed, if there’s one thing Bally hates, it’s waste. Every off-cut and piece of discarded material is put to use, whether it’s by making key fobs out of fragments of signs, or making coasters or bowls from larger pieces. And, Bally’s work comes in all shapes and sizes — he also makes clocks, mailboxes and tables out of signs.

Square Transit Table Square Transit Table. Photo: J.W. Johnson Photography (jwjimaging.com)

One of the biggest recycling projects he has undertaken was gathering a huge collection of corks, which he uses for the feet of his Transit Chairs. Stuck for material, he sent out an email to his mailing list in the late '90s and, to his surprise, received some 15,000 corks in return. Fortunately, the material is decidedly useful and now provides the perfect grounding for the designer chairs.

Check out Boris Bally's amazing work at his website, borisbally.com.

About the author


Learn more about Michael Simon

Comments

There are no comments for this post yet


Articles by Michael Simon

Seven Amazing Coral Reefs Made from Sunken Vehicles

By Michael Simon on March 21, 2011

Imagine one of the most extraordinary types of recycling possible: creating beautiful ocean coral reefs from the submerged wrecks of boats and vehicles!

Ten Recycled Versions of Pac-Man

By Michael Simon on January 13, 2011

One of video gaming's most iconic heroes, Pac-Man, comes in many forms — including recycled ones!

Ten Creative Reinterpretations of Mr. T

By Michael Simon on December 1, 2010

Twenty years on, it's time for a reinvention of one of the greatest icons of the '80s. Here are 10 recycled versions of Mr. T!

Reuse Articles

Ten Quirky Ways to Repurpose Wine Corks

By Falesha Wojitysiak on July 22, 2014

Save those corks and unleash your creativity with these fun DIY recycled décor ideas.

Ten Incredibly Repurposed License Plates

By Falesha Wojitysiak on July 17, 2014

If you've moved or received new plates for your vehicle, what to do with the old ones? Look no further than these amazing reuse ideas.

Eleven Creatively Crafted Lamps

By Falesha Wojitysiak on July 15, 2014

Sometimes, to find a lamp that best suits your style, you have to get creative.

Current News

Recycling Profile: San Jose, CA

By 1-800-RECYCLING on July 18, 2014

San Jose is looking to divert all of its waste in less than a decade. Could this be the country's first zero-waste city?

Recycling Profile: Eau Claire, WI

By 1-800-RECYCLING on July 11, 2014

Communities in wide-reaching Eau Claire County are paired together in a curbside program that services much of the northwest Wisconsin population base.

GO Box Celebrates Three-Year Anniversary and 50,000 Disposable Containers Saved

By 1-800-RECYCLING on July 11, 2014

Reusable to-go container service aims to do away with throw away containers in downtown Portland.

Loading