‘Architecturally Speaking’ gives new perspective on old art
Drive past Steve Zeigler’s warehouse on Lexington Street in Susquehanna Township, and it’s likely you won’t notice anything besides a junkyard. Surrounded by a chain link fence, the warehouse faces an old coal shed whose storage bays spill with porcelain bathtubs, a blue park bench, a pile of metal grating.
Then you see the gates: enormous wrought iron towers with the high arches and plunging curves that evoke the entryway of a Victorian mansion.
“I’m not sure where they came from,” says Zeigler thoughtfully. “But I would like to use them over the warehouse entrance.”
This is the storage warehouse of Architecturally Speaking, a business that finds, makes, and sells repurposed industrial art for the home or garden. Selling mostly from a stand at the Antique Marketplace in Lemoyne, Zeigler—a full-time landscaper, Dauphin County native, and the owner, artist, and picker of Architecturally Speaking—has been salvaging and selling his goods art for over 5 years.
At Zeigler’s business, every item has a use—and a story.
“This is a freezer door from the old Weaver’s on Derry Street,” Zeigler says, tugging at a massive wooden frame with a steel lock and peeling turquoise paint. “I’d like to see this as a wall decoration.”
Nearby, next to a functioning coal stove, sits a length of wrought iron railing from a Pittsburg cemetery. There’s a zinc façade from Sixth and Maclay Street, Harrisburg and street signs from New York City. Zeigler even has the arched transom window from the boarding house that formerly stood on the now-vacant lot on the corner of Second and State Street, Harrisburg; the address is still printed in yellow on the glass.
“Other people throw things like this away, but not me,” says Zeigler.
Many of Zeigler’s finds are for sale “as is,” but Zeigler also sees the pieces as inspiration to create new art: organ pipe fences, clutch gear mirrors, heating-grate flagstones. Wooden desk drawers become shadow boxes, carefully filled with other found objects—like an old photograph of a Harrisburg flood paired with antiques that could have been found inside the homes. Patterned tin, like that which covers the ceilings of old buildings, is sanded, repainted, and stretched over a frame like a canvas. A birdhouse is built out of old wood from a blacksmith’s shop behind Penn National Racetrack and then fitted with metal from a roof of a car.
Edgy, funky, yet consistently practical, this art pays homage to the beauty of the architecture from which the materials came.
“I can just look at an object and find another purpose for it,” Zeigler says. “It’s fun. I love it.”
The larger trend toward “industrial” art can be seen in popularity of exposed ductwork, brick walls, and the use of antiques as décor in restaurants, bars, and businesses across the mid-state. The bell hung in the Midtown Scholar, Harrisburg, is from Manchester, England. In La Piazza of Linglestown, an Italian restaurant housed in a former church, customers wait for their tables by sitting on one of Zeigler’s found church pews.
Zeigler’s picking runs take him as far as New York City, Baltimore, and Virginia; and his art has been sold to customers along the East Coast. Creative and meticulous—he loves working especially with textures, especially metal—Zeigler views his own art not a challenge, not only for him but his viewers as well.
“The name ‘Architecturally Speaking’ asks people to take a different perspective on what’s around them,” he says.
Sales: Antique Marketplace, 415 Bosler Avenue, Lemoyne
Warehouse: 4410 Lexington Street, Harrisburg (by appointment)
This article first appeared in TheBurg, September 2011.