Waste not, want not, it’s often said. Bryan Russell of Eaton Rapids not only believes this, but he also lives it. Nothing gives him as much joy as finding an interesting item at the side of the road that’s been slated for the dump, claiming it, and then making it into something useful and unique. Bryan Russell is the “Curb Stalker,” the guy who drives around the night before trash day to see if you’re throwing away something that he can use in his re-purposing work.
Pieces of old metal, old furniture, old tools, Ball jars, and miscellaneous items are all treasures to Russell. He finds them and after careful thought and consideration makes them useful again, usually as a unique piece of furniture. A clawfoot bathtub becomes a comfy couch. The pillars off the front porch of an old house become impressive table legs for a dining table for twelve. A rusty metal barn find becomes a high-end coffee table. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to his imagination.
But Russell also has a “real” life. He is a civilian working for the Air National Guard at Selfridge Air Force Base in logistics. He served in the active National Guard for five years and retired in 2016.
“I have to keep moving or I get bored,” Russell said. He works 40 hours each week for the Air National Guard, and another 40 to 50 hours a week on his creations, he estimates. In addition, he serves on the board of Heroes Haven, a Eaton Rapids non-profit created to provide support and enrichment to first responders, veterans and their families during and after their service. Russell rents space at Heroes Haven for his spacious studio.
It all started when he was working in Detroit in 2017 and got bored at night, Russell explained. He would go for a drive in his beat-up old truck. He started noticing that there were all kinds of things at the curb that were set out for trash pickup. They were often things with a lot of life still in them, or maybe were damaged beyond their original purpose but he could see a new use for them. Sometimes he just wanted to save the history that was embedded into the object.
He would go into work the next day with his truck full of these found objects and his buddies would comment “You’ve been out curb stalking again,” he explained. The name stuck.
“I enjoy putting a new spin on something and being able to repurpose it,” Russell said. The imperfections are what I like and add so much character to a piece.”
Russell has an eye for artistic expression, despite being self-taught in his endeavors and with no formal training in what he does. He uses YouTube for help, when needed, or gets advice from one of his fellow “makers.” He hopes to learn welding in the near future, seeing it as a skill that can add another dimension to his work. “Sometimes it’s just trial and error,” he said. “Learning by doing and learning from my mistakes.”
A lot of his work features architectural salvage, which he is always on the lookout for, or unique items with an aged patina. “Each piece has history.”
You can see some of his work at Mark’s Place in Eaton Rapids, and at Preuss Pets in Lansing. If you have some “good junk” that you’d like him to have for his creations or would like him to make you something, you can contact him through Facebook @curbstalker, by email at Curbstalker@gmail.com, or on Instagram @curbstalker