When South Walkerville resident Rob Brown sees a discarded item, he doesn't see what it once was - he sees what it could be.
"I've made benches out of doors, chairs out of beds, tables out of old lamps, artwork out of cabinet doors," he says. "I mean the potential is there for anything."
Examples of his work can be seen around his backyard. For example: a bench made from a discarded bed frame sits snug to a storage shed - a work he credits to his mother-in-law.
"She said I got something in the car for you [and] I had to go out an lug this thing out of the back of the van and as soon as I saw it I said oh, this is going to look real nice once it's all cleaned up," Brown says.
Brown says he is following a lead set by his father, one that caused groans in the family house growing up.
"He would say 'can you believe someone threw this in the garbage' and we would all be like 'yeah, yeah we can'," he says.
But Brown, now 47 years old, sees his father's ways as his own.
"I think I've got that bug in me."
While the term wasn't around when his father was practicing it - in more recent days it's been dubbed upcycling. Webster defines the practice as recycling something "in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item."
"I doubt I've paid, if anything, maybe a couple of bucks for the stuff I've acquired, but it's a nice way for me to re-purpose something, save it from the landfill and put my spin on it and hopefully people will enjoy it."
Brown has worked as a tattoo artist for the last 30 years. He says it was March 23rd when he got word from the health unit to shut the doors of Sanctuary Tattoos, the business that he owns.
"I've been blessed with a lot more time with my family," he said.
"Life's going to throw you curve balls but what you do with those curve balls becomes your destiny."
He says while this is a new direction for him, it feels natural.
"Creating things, whether it be on skin or in material, it's just another venue for me to explore my creative process."
"With COVID and all this stuff looming over us, it sort of made my decision for me to look for other ways to still make a living but do it in a manner that I'm a little bit more in control of."
He's not ready to hang up his tattoo guns up just yet, he sees it as something he can fall back on as he gets older. Brown recently staked a spot in his backyard for his future workshop which has yet to be built - he's dubbed it "Shed Zepplin".
"I don't have the ability to do it full time as of yet but... I'm just sort of planning for the future."
He says the groaning that was reserved for his father growing up is now directed at him.
"There's a lot of questions as to when some of this stuff is going to get out of here."
But Brown says he is proud to carry on the tradition and hopes for it to continue even further.
"[I can] hopefully impart that entrepreneurial outlook on my kids and I hope that not just my kids but kids of this generation are going to be real problem solvers and have the ability to look at things a little bit differently."