New Orleans, Louisiana

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Heather Mattingly

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Heather Mattingly


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About nolasalvage

Sales 431
On Etsy since 2007

Overcoming Hardship and Creating a Better Life

I grew up in New Orleans, a city rich with creativity in art, music, culture, delicious food, and exquisite nature. Since childhood, I have been creating art using a broad range of mediums such as painting, sculpting, origami, woodworking, and stained glass. As a young adult I developed a passion for fine woodworking and became a cabinet maker, creating beautiful solid wood cabinetry, and furniture. The handmade cabinetry business slowed, and I became a house painter. Soon, I was building walls, hanging and floating sheetrock, installing finish woodwork, tiling kitchens and bathrooms, and renovating whole houses. In 2005, hurricane Katrina hit the south and devastated New Orleans. Now I found myself gutting filthy, mold infested homes, not so much the creative work I was doing before! During the process of gutting a house, everything was removed, no time to "save" the woodwork and architecture, it all just had to go to make the job efficient. Its much more difficult to renovate a house while trying to preserve existing elements, so entire homes were emptied onto the streets. It was an unbelievable sight, heaping piles of wet sheetrock, light fixtures, refrigerators, sinks, sofas, mattresses, toilets, cabinets, toys, clothes, pictures, old wood, flooring, baseboard, doors, windows, just everything. A lot was damaged, but some could be salvaged. On my days off, I would drive around the city and pick through the piles of debris, taking home all the wood I could rescue. My creativity was unleashed, and soon I began collecting every bit of metal I found in the streets and used it to make found object wall sculptures. In 2006, people started moving back home and began rebuilding their lives. Only a few grocery stores and businesses were open, and the selection of goods was pitiful. The community organized a weekly farmers market, finally we had a variety of fresh produce and homemade baked goods that we could get directly from the producer instead of waiting for big retail stores to stock shelves. The farmers market grew rapidly and an outdoor art market was added. I sold my mixed media pieces at the art market, a local favorite is the "Fleur Debris", its the city's emblem, the fleur de lis, made out of salvaged metal, it symbolizes courage and strength. The message I want to give people through my art is that we can all overcome hardships and create a better life, no matter what difficulties we face, we must pick up the pieces and re-build. It has been almost 9 years since the hurricane, a long hard road to get where we are today, but New Orleans is fantastic again, in many ways far better than before the storm. Two years ago I retired from home renovation work and I became a massage therapist. I now work for a gorgeous day spa, and last summer I moved into a beautiful rental in my favorite neighborhood, Mid-City. There are still a lot of improvements to be made in New Orleans, but that's a part of life, to continue learning and doing better. And lets not be discouraged or defeated by hardship, lets be stronger than any problems we face and create the lives we want.

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Last updated on February 7, 2011

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