For those of us who are adults and know what it's like to not be living at home at 26, we know the pain of scrounging to find a sofa to sleep on. --- When you just start out on your own, whether it be post-dorm studio apartment in the valley or the rundown bungalow with six of your closest Craiglist friends, travels to the Desert Industries to buy four pieces of furniture on $50 become an adventure, ending with you owning several dusty and chipped versions of '70s arrangements, as well as a giant cable spool as a coffee table. Suffice it to say -- not that stylish.
Junque Furniture is the artistic answer you've been waiting for, as they can take whatever you have in your home and turn it into a fantastic piece of decor. And if you don't have any bad-looking furniture, they've got a selection for you to check out that will complement whatever you may have in your home. Today, I chat with founder Brecken Rushton about the business and the works she creates. (All pictures courtesy of Junque.)
Gavin: Hey, Breck. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Breck: Hey, hey! I am a Utah native, born-and-raised. I escaped for a little bit to the bayous of Florida and then up to the Seattle area, but I couldn’t stay away. I love Utah and the beautiful outdoors and fantastic local brewery scene we have here. I am a borderline-crazy dog lady, I have a pit bull/blackmouth cur mix named Tank that is pretty much the coolest dude around and my very best pal. I have been restoring furniture for over 10 years, and I photograph pretty zombie faces for Fear Factory.
Gavin: How did you first get interested in art, and what were some of your early influences?
Breck: I have always been drawn to all things art. All forms of art can speak, and when someone puts their soul into it, it is just fascinating to me. I have been interested in art in one form or another from a very early age. I was always doing something creative, always making something. I used to make a lot of jewelry when I was younger; once I took a bunch of necklaces to Gateway with my friend Marlee and we tried to sell them. We just got kicked out of the mall, but it sparked something within my soul. My earliest influence would have to be my mom. I watched her refinish furniture to sell when I was younger and I saw her open a very successful store and that has always been very inspiring to me.
Gavin: What got you interested in both photography and restoration?
Breck: The restoration started as more of a child-labor sort of deal. I started painting for my mom when I was around 15. She would pay me to paint furniture for her store when she was first opening EmilieJayne. I fell in love with it and have done it ever since. The photography came about in my college years after I had changed my major a few times and just wasn’t happy. I did not want to settle into a career. Life is too short to not be happy with what you are doing. I did some soul searching and have always been interested in photography, so I decided to get serious with it and see where that would lead. So far, it has led me to photographing a lot of zombies for Fear Factory. I kind of love it.
Gavin: Did you take and classes or go to college for either, or were you self-taught?
Breck: The furniture restoration was self-taught. I did go to school for photography, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I am glad that I did decide to get formally training, I learned quite a bit and Salt Lake Community College has a fantastic program with amazing and talented teachers.
Gavin: What really got you into doing furniture restoration with different color schemes and styles?
Breck: After distressing and doing the “shabby chic” finish for years, I got really bored and wanted to do something different that would express my personal style. I like bold, bright colors and unique pieces. When I first started using the black glaze I’m most known for, people thought I was crazy and tried to tell me that it would ruin the piece. Instead, it added such a dramatic depth to the furniture, and I see other furniture refinishers using black all the time now.
Gavin: How did the idea for Junque come around, and why the old-fashioned term for the name?
Breck: I had a cheesy little name for my blog I started out with, and when I started selling more I decided I needed a name; my sister-in-law actually came up with the name and it just fit. The furniture I restore has seen better days and is typically looked at as junk when I first pick it up, but after its transformation it becomes something completely different. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or junque, in this case.
Gavin: What was it like for you starting out, establishing both yourself and your works?
Breck: It was hard, at first. Utah is a very DIY state and the furniture market has definitely gotten flooded over the years, but I have found my niche and own style, and thanks to what started as a little blog has helped me reach people across the country and helped spread the word about my work.
Gavin: How do you go about finding furniture and deciding what you can work with?
Breck: I find furniture all over the place, from second-hand stores, estate and yard sales, classifieds and even curb sides. I have a certain type of furniture I like working with so I typically stick with the gnarly, big, '70s- and '80s-style furniture. I love the details and carvings that are now outdated but end up making the pieces look so much more interesting and unique. I typically stick to solid-wood pieces.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in designing a new look for any given piece, from start to finish?
Breck: It might sound crazy, but the pieces speak to me, in a way. I can just look at a dresser or headboard and I can almost feel what color it wants to be and how it wants to look; I know, I might be a little crazy. I just envision what I -- and the piece of furniture -- want it to look like and just bust out the sander and go for it.
Gavin: What made you decide to go with an Etsy account rather than opening a formal shop?
Breck: I was getting so much feedback from my blog, a friend of mine from California who restores furniture, as well, told me to give Etsy a try. I was getting ready to move to Florida and was worried about how I was going to continue painting in a completely new place. It ended up being the perfect solution, and I started shipping all around the country. I have considered opening a formal shop and would still love to one day. Now that I am more settled back in Utah and not moving around anymore, it is more of a real possibility than it was before.
Gavin: You've been doing it for over three years now. How has it been watching your business grow and building up a catalog of works?
Breck: It has been a very crazy, stressful, interesting and beautiful decade of furniture. Sometimes it can be very intimidating and frustrating, but at the end of the day, I absolutely love what I do and love that people want to put my work in their homes. My style has changed so much over the years, and now I paint more edgy, personalized pieces with some soul; I’m not out to please the masses. I realize my work is more of a unique clientele, but I have found that there are plenty of people who want a lime-green nightstand just as much as I would.
Gavin: Are you looking to expand in any way, or are you good with the way things are now?
Breck: I have considered bringing on another person in the shop to help prep pieces so I can get more done. I do like that I work on the pieces from start to finish. I take pride in my work and want to know that it is done right. I am good with the way things are now, but there is definitely a part of me that would like to expand and get more of my furniture out there.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and Junque going into next year
Breck: I can already feel that 2014 is going to be a huge year for myself and for Junque! I have been toying with the idea of a “One Love” collection of furniture -- Rasta-themed furniture. I have also been talking to a local tattoo artist about getting him to paint artwork onto some of the pieces for a very unique line of furniture.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Breck: I am currently having an end-of-the-year sale, so all current inventory, all of the unfinished pieces available for custom jobs and any personal pieces people have me refinish are 25% off. Also, any new customers who come to me from reading this can take 10% off.
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