Recycled Salvage: Longview man turns junk into furniture, sculptures, art
Feb. 14, 2015 at 11 p.m.
A chair with armrests made from World War I missile projectiles. Benches made of tailgates from old pickups. A sculpture made of rings off of old oilfield equipment.
These are among the items that sit in a storage building, waiting to be sold by their creator - a man East Texans might have known in the past couple of decades simply as "the junk man."
Raymond Guest was a picker for 18 years before his creative eye told him there was more to do with the junk he was finding than just reselling it.
So he started repurposing it, creating furniture and artwork that he sells nationwide through his brand, Recycled Salvage.
"All I do is recycle," Guest said. "I can see a pile of junk, and I have this vision that I can't really see, but I know there's something there."
Though originally from Long Beach, California, Guest grew up in Longview.
He had other careers before he got into picking nearly two decades ago.
Like the TV show "American Pickers" portrays, pickers typically travel the country searching for obscure antiques that can be sold to be put into a museum or home.
Guest's adventures in picking began when he took a trip to Vail, Colorado, and visited a gallery that had vintage items - not just paintings, but things such as a red velvet couch and stuffed snakes.
"I thought it was so cool. They had these old pictures on the walls," he said. "I just liked it. That's where it started."
His journeys as a picker took him as far as Illinois and Missouri, but he did most of it in East Texas by knocking on doors and going to garage sales.
"They called me the junk man, but I was good at it," Guest said.
He took the items he picked and would sell them at First Monday Trade days in Canton. He recalled taking seven trailers of items one weekend and selling out.
"I didn't have a clue what I was selling, but I had a good eye for what I was getting," he said.
Guest's favorite items were for the garden, such as concrete statues and lawn furniture, as well as collectible signs and quilts.
One day, he looked at the things he was picking and realized there was more he could do with them than just sell them.
He had tried welding before, but gave it up because the sparks scared him.
When he turned 50, he bought a $100 welder, had a couple of guys teach him the basics and went from there.
Guest had seen wooden tailgate benches, "and I thought, you know what, I'm going to learn how to weld, and I can do it better."
"I had no clue that I was going to be doing all of this," he said.
Welding was difficult at first. "I've burnt my eyes several times. I've gotten metal in my eyes," he said.
But, he learned it quickly.
Guest still picks, but he uses the items now to make furniture.
"I love it when I find a bunch of goodies, and I know I can do something with it," he said.
The first piece he made was a table. He used a saw blade from a saw mill as the table top and attached it to a table base.
His first bench was made using the tailgate of a GMC truck; his second tailgate bench can be admired in the J.T. Smith Sculpture Garden at the corner of Green and Tyler streets in downtown Longview.
He does most of his marketing via the Internet and has sold to buyers across the state and country. Recycled Salvage can be found online at recycledsalvage.me and on Facebook and Twitter.
The benches, chairs and coffee tables are his top sellers, but he's also sold a few sculptures.
As far as the sculptures, Guest makes a variety, from small pieces such as hearts to larger, more abstract ones.
The sculptures are his imagination brought to life.
"I'm a dreamer. I've always loved the idea of being in love. I used to doodle hearts in elementary school," he said as he showed two intertwined hearts that he had welded from recycled materials. "I make them look real amateur, real raw. It's just my style."
Inside his Longview storage building where he keeps his creations until they sell, everything from a lounge chair made out of old conveyor belts to a robot whose body is made of a fan to tables made out of old car and oilfield parts can be found.
"I'm evolving as I do this," he said.
While some people have suggested Guest take welding classes or art classes, he doesn't want to do that.
"I don't want to contaminate my brain," he said, noting that having teachers giving lessons might influence how his mind sees his art.
So, how long does he plan to continue welding?
"Until I learn to paint," Guest said.
And so his adventures in the artistic world will continue.