AUBURN TWP., Ohio - As a school boy, Jason Wein began collecting old bicycles and lawn mowers, and just about anything else with an interesting shape. Bringing them home, Wein said he would often see something that others did not, changing metal into works of art.
Recycling long before it became vogue.
Turning an obsession with collecting what many might consider junk, Wein chuckles now. Searching farm and industrial auctions for a living now for his company, Cleveland Art, has given Wein and almost two dozen employees a very satisfying living as interest in Cleveland Art's uniquely functioning antique art sold in two stores in Los Angeles have celebrities flocking to his showrooms. Many enjoying the recycling, re-purposing theme behind all of his products.
"The business kind of evolved from embarrassing my parents as a child from garbage-picking bicycles and lawn mowers and finding cool antiques on the side of the road. I had an art teacher that really inspired me to take my talents and turn it into something more than garbage picking," said Wein.
Many of us have stories of teachers who have made a difference in our lives. Wein can credit his art teacher with making him the go-to guy in Hollywood for his unique, often one-off approach to his lighting and furniture.
"Movie stars like what we are doing. I've sold works to Steven Spielberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, many enjoying what we do and how we do it. It's been a very lucrative business in California," said Wein.
Getting started in Ohio wasn't as easy for Wein and his talents.
"Before the internet, I would look in magazines and search the library to research galleries to see what they were selling. It seemed like all my stuff was selling 20 years ago when I got started in New York and California. So, we have a partnership in New York of a store, and I own two of my own stores called Cleveland Art in Los Angeles, one in Hollywood and one downtown. We lend a lot to the movie industry," added Wein.
The west coast can't seem to get enough of Cleveland Art.
"The fact that most of our materials are from the Cleveland area is something we're proud of. We make most of our own tools out of necessity. Many for glassblowing. Lately we've been going to New England, as well. There are buildings there so old, with things so old, you can't find those things anywhere else. I usually end up buying everything while I can get it," said Wein.
Recycling centuries-old wood products for making furniture and shelves is especially close to Wein's heart.
"We only do our designs. We don't do customs designs. We'll work with someone's specifications. If they want a 10-foot table, we can offer them maybe an old chalkboard top from a school. The deforested almost the entire country by 1928, so all the wood we get is pre-deforestation. We buy trees and wood that was cut 100 or 200 years ago, and these trees were one to two thousand years old, clear wood. So, we have a full wood shop with all recycled wood, pre-deforestation. Those trees just don't exist anymore," said Wein.
The art business, Cleveland Art-style, isn't always lucrative, though, says Wein.
"I'd say one out of 10 pieces I lose money on; too much time, too much thought, a soft spot for someone. But one out of 10 pieces is like winning the lottery ticket that pays for all ten," laughs Wein.
"I'm real fortunate that we can have fun and, yes, we are a for-profit company and we need to make a living, but we do pieces from $10 to $100,000."
For information on Cleveland Art go to www.clevelandart.com