MINNEAPOLIS—Joe Lennek, 24, a part-time pizza delivery driver and 1997 University of Minnesota dropout, rescued a three-foot length of metallic pipe from the trash Monday in the hopes of one day converting it into a lamp.
"The Dumpster was filled with all sorts of cool shit," Lennek said. "There was an old clothes rack, a bunch of mannequin heads, and this huge stack of records—everything from Poco to Mantovani. But when I saw that pipe, I immediately pictured it as a lamp. I'm so psyched that I snagged it before somebody else did."
Added Lennek: "Who would throw out something like this? This is such a perfect piece to make something with."
In spite of the fact that he has never made a lamp before and lacks electrical-wiring experience, Lennek is confident he can transform the pipe into a lamp.
"Making the lamp should be cake," Lennek said. "I'm sure [roommate] Dick [Donovan] has one of those Time-Life books on wiring or something."
A self-described "found-object hobbyist," Lennek frequently brings home discarded items for use in art projects. Recent finds include a frayed rug, a bass-drum pedal, three broken televisions, and a piece of a hamster Habitrail. With the exception of the rug, which has been turned into a decorative wall hanging, the rest of the objects still await use.
"I was gonna use the pedal as, like, one of those open-close foot things on a garbage can," Lennek said. "But the garbage can I was gonna attach it to was too big. So that's temporarily on hold until I can find a smaller can."
Though tolerant at first, Lennek's three housemates have in recent months begun to become irritated by his hobby.
"He drags useless crap home all the time," housemate Jeffrey Worthen said. "There's an entire box of doll limbs and torsos under the kitchen table. He kept saying he was gonna glue them all to his chair and make some kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre throne, but that still hasn't happened. Neither has the chair made out of wooden wine cases that he was so excited about last summer."
"Some of the stuff he makes is cool, like the poker-chip dispenser he made from one of those old Mr. Mouth games," roommate Mike Mosedale said. "But most of it never gets turned into anything. It just sits there and takes up space."
In addition to adding clutter to an already cramped apartment, some of Lennek's acquisitions are potentially dangerous.
"Joe brought home these old printing plates," Worthen said. "He put, like, six of them up on the bathroom wall, and two of them have already fallen down because of the humidity from the shower. And the ones that are still up have these razor-sharp edges. Every time I ask him when he's going to finish it, he tells me he just needs to borrow some tin snips to fit to the corners. He doesn't care that we're in danger of slicing ourselves open on the edges of these stupid plates."
Last month, Lennek brought home a wooden door he found on the way home from The Nowhere Bar.
"I was on my way home when I cut down an alley, " Lennek said. "I found this bizarre door with all these pages from a Reader's Digest condensed book pasted on it, and each page had a picture drawn on it. I took it, planning to make it a living-room table. I thought we could use that instead of the Dukes Of Hazzard TV trays I found last October, but then I changed my mind."
Explaining his decision to abandon the project, Lennek said the table would have been ill-suited for its intended space.
"It was just a bit too big for the living room," Lennek said. "We could've fit around it to eat or drink beer while watching TV, but it would've been a pain to get around if no one was using it. I figured out how I could make this cool pulley system to hoist it up to the ceiling, but then I would've had to put the legs on hinges so I could fold them under. Otherwise, you'd clock your head when you walked under it."
The door is currently leaning up against the wall behind the couch.
"I have this vision of Joe in 20 years," Mosedale said. "He's going to be one of those crazy people you hear about that has years' worth of newspapers and empty tin cans stacked up in his bedroom. The neighbors will complain about the smell, and the city will have to order him to remove it or face eviction."
Lennek blamed the pile-up on a lack of equipment.
"The big problem is, I don't have enough tools to do what I want," Lennek said. "I should really get myself a good circular saw, a hot glue gun, and a cordless drill. That'll make it way easier to follow through on all these projects. It would help if I had more time, too, but I'm pretty busy trying to hustle for work and looking for more cool stuff."