LINCOLN PARK — A craftsman who spent 20 years constructing homes has made the jump into the art world by turning salvaged wood into home furnishings.
Neil Galati, 36, completed the transition in May when he opened Wreck Creation, his studio/gallery space on Halsted Street just north of North Avenue.
It's hard for Galati to call his work art because is working with the same material that he has since he was 15 — wood.
"I was born in a blue collar family doing construction my whole life, so to be referred to as an artist is a little hard for me to get used to, but I love what I do," Galati said.
Galati, who was born in Old Irving Park and now lives in Jefferson Park, had worked with his dad as a carpenter for most of his life.
Wreck Creation's showroom is packed with home furnishings that Galati has created from old cranberry crates and wooden pieces that he salvaged from Northwest Side bungalows over the years.
The eco-friendly pieces are all functional; numerous custom fireplaces and an old turn-of-the-century radio that he is outfitting with an iPod jack are two of his favorite pieces.
The Old Irving Park native and current Jefferson Park resident was still working as a contractor in 2011 when he began messing around with some of the salvaged wood. His creations ended up furnishing his apartment.
"Before I knew it, I had my own gallery. Everyday I would be working [in the basement of his apartment unit] and I kind of last track of time," Galati said.
His brother, who owns a bar, held a reception for Galati, and customers bought every piece he had.
"I was floored," he said. "And that's when I finally figured out I can do this for a living."
The customers of his work have ranged from trendy 30-somethings to an older crowd who stop by while waiting for a play across the street to start.
"It always kind of tickles me when I see an older couples come in and they remember this stuff," he said.