Two Anubis--the Jackal-headed creature representing death in Egyptian times--by sculptor Marc Sparfel.

Sparfel specializes in creating figural sculptures out of reclaimed furniture--here, a bird.

After moving to Barcelona in 1999, he became fascinated by the amount of old furniture he’d find on long walks through the city.

He began collecting the refuse and fashioning the pieces into pieces like this, a cow made from chair legs.

The wicker backrests of an old set of chairs become elephant ears in this mask.

Sparfel often uses bicycle wheels to make his pieces mobile.

Grand Cheval, a type of horse, is one such sculpture.

The heavy oak legs of an armoire became these bullish figures.

Little Bird.

Paresseux--the French word for sloth.

Perrito del Mar--or sea dog--with a spiny mane.

Petit Cheval, a smaller horse, is cheekily anatomically correct.

A Petit Lion has a beautifully made mane of chair legs.

The art nouveau curves of antique furniture make perfect horns for a Petit Antilope.

Likewise for a Petit Gazelle.

An old scrubbing brush becomes a passable porcupine.

Thin bent wood spindles form the outline of cattle.

Antique brooms and wheels make for a less figural piece.

Some of Sparfel’s work references folklore and myth.

Today, Sparfel’s old town neighbors know him and what he’s looking for on his daily walks. “The neighbors [have] begun to leave me chairs in front of my workshop,” he says.

A figure that looks suspiciously like Artemis, bow and all.

Co.Design

Charming Animal Sculptures Built From Abandoned Furniture

Over the past 15 years, Barcelona’s residents have come to expect Marc Sparfel’s weekly visits to their rubbish heaps. Just don’t call it "upcycling."

When French sculptor Marc Sparfel left the École des Beaux-Arts, precipitated by "an overwhelming feeling that I was wasting my time," he did what most people in need of a fresh start do: He moved—to Barcelona, specifically, where he spent his first few weeks wandering through the streets of his new hometown. It was on his long walks that he discovered the material that would form the basis of his current practice: discarded furniture.

"I was immediately intrigued by the amount of furniture abandoned in the streets," says Sparfel, who has lived in Barcelona for almost 15 years now. "Initially, I found the furnishings by chance during my walks, but later realized that in every neighborhood there is a set day to leave large items in the street. So I started walking around the old town according to the ‘furniture days’ of each neighborhood to recover the material bit by bit."

The worn wood of the desks, armchairs, and armoires fascinated him—soon, he found himself methodically taking apart each piece, bit by bit. What began as a hobby slowly became an integral part of his creative process, and today, almost all of Sparfel’s sculptures are made from the mottled remains of abandoned furniture. Usually he focuses on animal forms and masks, crafted from the sinuous legs of old Art Nouveau armoires and broken Thonet armchairs. You wouldn’t expect it, but furniture lends itself to figural art. Cow spines grow naturally from bent birch armrests; it’s hard not to be charmed by elephant ears made from the wicker backs of 19th-century café chairs.

Today, Sparfel’s old town neighbors know him and what he’s looking for on his daily walks. "The neighbors [have] begun to leave me chairs in front of my workshop," he says. "This is my forest, my world where I walk with pleasure, always excited by the surprises the new harvest brings, where I hand-pick the best pieces, and choose the woods as if they were fruit on a tree."

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