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Photo by Molly Ressler

Santa Cruz has a long history of environmental stewardship that’s reflected in our plentiful organic farms, bike-friendly streets, drought-tolerant gardening incentives, and our local art. Reusing material is nothing new in the art world but these three artists in Santa Cruz have perfected the craft. Scraps of redwood, skateboards, and glass become surfboards, bottle openers, and dinnerware that pay homage to their past forms through stunning transformations that highlight rather than hide the reused material. Each piece diverts waste from the landfill, yet you’d never guess this art began as someone else’s trash. Meet a surfer, skater, and artisan glassmaker who are each trailblazers in the upcycled art scene and create right here in Santa Cruz.

Photo by Molly Ressler

Martijn Stiphout of Ventana Surfboards and Supplies

A medley of wood scraps including redwood, and bay laurel, and Doug fir lean against the wall in Martijn Stiphout’s second-floor workshop where he handcrafts his signature hollow wood Ventana Surfboards. The redwood is the siding off the Mushroom Dome Cabin’s hot tub, the #1 Airbnb in the world located right here in the woods of Aptos. The bay laurel is from the historic Cowell Cooperage building at UC Santa Cruz where lime barrels were assembled in the late 18th and early 19th century. And the unassuming Doug fir once shaped the hull of Steinbeck’s famous fishing boat, the Western Flyer. Stacks of smooth flame maple and dark ebony, offcuts from Santa Cruz Guitar Company’s world-famous acoustic guitars, are stacked nearby, waiting for their transformation.

Photo by Molly Ressler

Each piece of reclaimed wood has a story that eventually makes its way into one of Stiphout’s coveted Ventana surfboards. Made of hollow wood (often five or more varieties) and coated with epoxy and fiberglass, the boards are made to ride waves though they most often end up as a central art piece in homes and businesses. Ventana has a whole crew of upcycle partners that supply Stiphout with historic and exotic reclaimed woods, from local distillery Venus Spirits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Beyond reusing materials for all their boards, Ventana also donates at least 5 percent of profits to ocean conservation. Order your own custom board or check out Ventana’s selection of sustainable apparel and accessories in their online store or at Berdels in Downtown Santa Cruz. You can also stay up to date with Stiphout’s latest designs on Instagram (@ventanasurfboards).

Photo courtesy of Annieglass

Annie Morhauser of Annieglass

Only 10 percent of the glass we so carefully place in our blue recycling bins actually gets recycled. With a production rate of 200 pieces per day requiring a ton of glass per week, Annie Morhauser of Annieglass, a handcrafted glassware studio in Watsonville, is acutely aware of her company’s environmental footprint and does everything she can to reduce it. When the glass factory that recycled all her scraps shut down, Morhauser had to figure out another way to keep the company’s glass ‘waste’ out of the landfill. As their excess glass stacked up in the studio, Morhauser decided to experiment with creating recycled glass pieces to add to her collection.

Photo courtesy of Annieglass

The Elements Collection features thick trivets and appetizer trays inspired by the organic shapes of lakes, rivers, and clouds with scrap gold platinum flecked throughout the recycled seafoam green glass. Morhauser currently has a patent pending for her innovative process that uses water-jet technology to make the recycled glass into the trivets and trays and, more recently, daisies, tulips, and butterflies. The technology is saving approximately half a ton of glass every month from the landfill. Annieglass also uses green packaging materials to ship all its products and invites anyone to drop off their clean bubble wrap and other packing materials (except styrofoam) at their Watsonville studio.

Add one of Morhauser’s glass pieces to your own collection by visiting the Annieglass online gift shop, their brick and mortar store attached to their glassmaking studio in Watsonville, or a local supplier. (For one of the largest selections outside their official gift shop, check out Dell Williams Jewelers in Downtown Santa Cruz.)

Photo by Molly Ressler

Alex Wong of Upcycled Skate Art

After decorating an old speaker with skate decks for his sister, Alex Wong starting asking friends and strangers at the local skate park for their old decks so he could make more art. Stacks of donated skateboard decks now line the back wall of Wong’s workspace for his company, Upcycled Skate Art. The split decks look like flattened ribbons of taffy in every flavor, from bright yellow banana to pink cotton candy.

Using the decks and reclaimed wood from Ventana and Santa Cruz Guitars, Wong combines the strips of colored maple in a variety of designs, from cactus coasters and California bottle openers to the iconic Screaming Hand and detailed butcher blocks.

Photo by Molly Ressler

3 million discarded decks end up in the landfill every year but Wong is proving that a broken skateboard can serve a purpose beyond its first life. Find Wong’s art in his online shop, on Instagram (@upcycledskateart), or in local boutiques like Home/Work and Art Inspired. Also look for his distinctive pieces on display in local businesses like Hotel Paradox where he designed custom menu boards with the Solaire Restaurant logo and a laser-engraved map of Santa Cruz.

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