Inventor Creates Furniture Out of Recycled Materials

Zachary Rotholz is changing perceptions of what it means to create — one cardboard box at a time. By using materials around him, from bamboo to dumpster-dive saves, he proves that you don’t need expensive materials to create something both beautiful and functional.

“It’s really fun to see an object and then think, what else could it be besides everyone’s sort of intended use for it?”

Video Transcript

Meet Zachary: waste inventor

Zachary Rotholz: I love making stuff with cardboard. 

Zachary started Chairigami, a company that makes cardboard furniture.

It’s for everybody. You see it on the side of the street, it comes in the Amazon boxes that you get all your books with. You can make furniture, you can make organizers. And when you have those tools, it gives you a superpower. It’s really fun to see an object and then think, “What else could it be besides everyone’s sort of intended use for it, like could a straw be an oboe?”

I think people have really shied away from using their hands and working with their hands. And I love flipping it around and helping these people figure out how to make things in the world and how to think out loud.

So that’s a bamboo clarinet.

I love helping other people sort of conquer some of the fears around making stuff because it’s a really powerful tool.

(Leading workshop) It’s a structural material, but it also becomes like a fabric that you can fold. And so what I’m going to do is, here, so I’m not cutting all the way. I’m just cutting through … Make that right angle. So this is all about designing as you go, right? So …

Zachary leads cardboard carpentry workshops to teach others how to design their own creations.

(Workshop group chatting and creating)

Girl: Can you put this together? Or is that —

Zachary: So yeah, so that was the triangular prism that we made first, and this is a square prism.

(Speaking to workshop attendee) Yeah, exactly. So, there’s folds along here, and then these are the sort of central column supports.

Boy, sitting in cardboard chair: That’s pretty cool.

Zachary: I’m going in the dumpster. I’m going in.

I think it’s really special when you can see an object that’s really simple and then figure out why it’s magical to you in that moment. I love helping people notice and then take care of those magical moments because I feel like they can take care of themselves in that way, too. And they can find ways that they can express themselves, and not just reserve art or design for these lofty studio visits or for art museums. They can go anywhere and then find things that are inspiring and beautiful.

(Playing oboe straw)

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