SOLANA BEACH — It’s been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Lester Corral has taken that concept to a whole new level with Re-Gallery, his Solana Beach business that specializes in artifacts made from reclaimed materials that are “revisioned and repurposed” to create sustainable art.
Designed with the environment in mind, the one-of-a-kind pieces at Re-Gallery range from sculptures crafted from scrap wood to handbags created with discarded fabric and jewelry made out of watch parts or old records.
In addition to displaying Corral’s works, the gallery in Cedros Design District showcases artifacts by local artists and provides instruction for developmentally delayed students interested in working with reclaimed materials.
Corral, who grew up in Imperial Valley, is a 2006 graduate of San Diego State, where he earned a degree in applied design with an emphasis in furniture design.
“At school we did a lot of experimental stuff with ceramics, textiles, jewelry and woodworking,” he said. “I was getting a lot of recognition in textiles and work working.”
After graduating, he started building furniture and working in restoration design at his woodshop near La Jolla. A desire to create truly original pieces led him to begin making his own fabric and upholstery.
“I wanted to create something no one else had,” he said. “I used my imagination to create something that had never been seen before and couldn’t be duplicated.”
Having “always been strong on the environment” and remembering all the scraps on the floor in his woodshop, Corral said he eventually realized “trash can be beautiful.”
He salvages leftover materials from factories in Mexico, oftentimes collecting trash from their Dumpsters. He also gets mistakes and samples from screen-printing companies to make fabric.
“I take things people would normally throw away,” he said. “And I can reinvent items that have been sitting in the back of a closet.” For example, he said he can turn an old, stained shirt with sentimental value into a custom handbag.
About three years ago, Corral began teaching private art classes to developmentally challenged young adults. Eventually that expanded into group lessons. “I was really impressed by their work,” he said. “I share with them my techniques. But sometimes they teach me things.”
Student artwork is displayed and available for purchase in the gallery. The open studio allows patrons to view art as it’s created by Corral and his students.
Re-Gallery is a joint venture with Del Mar resident Andris Baltins, whose son, Nick Baltins, is one of Corral’s students.
“We had a vision to educate the community to use reusable art,” Corral said of his partner. Nick Baltins, whose has Down syndrome, is also an ambassador for the gallery. He visits other businesses in the Cedros Design District and tells them about Re-Gallery.
“Art is my passion and I love people,” Nick Baltins said. “I’m Lester’s apprentice and he’s a good model. I like his humor. He has a good heart and a very good patience with me. And he’s fun to work with.”
Corral also recently became involved with Fronteras Mexico. He and a group of artists from Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain are traveling to Mexico for five weeks to teach recycled art at an orphanage in Tijuana. Corral, the only American artist in the group, said he hopes to stay with the organization for its next project in Brazil.
Re-Gallery will hold its grand opening from 5 to 10 p.m. July 23 at 348H S. Cedros Ave. In addition to showcasing the works of Corral, his students and other featured artists, the event will include music, food and art demonstrations.
Private and group classes are available. Call (858) 259-2001 or visit www.regallery.org for more information.