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Rise of the "TRASHFORMERS"

For the past few months, people walking or driving along a quiet neighborhood street in Hillsboro may have been startled to come upon a line of stoic “men,” some of whom look like gunslingers locked and loaded and ready for a fight.

It turns out the figures in front of the house in the 400 block of Southeast Walnut Street are not so sinister after all. In fact, they started out as kids’ toys.

Their creator, Hillsboro cabinet maker Jorge Reyes, calls them “trashformers,” because they’re made from recycled bits and pieces of old lawnmowers, keyboards, vacuum cleaners, discarded toys or whatever else he can gather.

The name is also appropriate because the characters he is building are beginning to transform Reyes’ world.

Reyes, the owner of JR Custom Woodwork in Hillsboro, has lived in the Hillsboro area for the past 22 years. He’s been making cabinets for 20 years, and until about a year ago, has quietly gone about his business crafting attractive cabinets for his clients.

Then one day Andy, his 5-year-old son, asked his dad to build him a toy.

“My son asked me to build something for him. He wanted a dinosaur. I started doing something, but instead of a dinosaur I made this,” Reyes explained, pointing to a 5-foot tall robotic character with a keyboard for its hips. “He liked it, but he told me the first one was too big and he wanted me to make a smaller one.”

So he made another one. And then another. He started out with stuff he found in his backyard, and then began going to garage sales to find the right parts.

“I cut things into pieces to use,” he said.

Reyes then rivets or screws the pieces together, making them sturdy.

“They are pretty durable,” Reyes said. “They don’t break apart.”

Reyes pointed out that he didn’t leave the models outside to draw attention.

“There is not much room in our house,” he explained.

But with the trashformers beginning to assemble outside his front door, Reyes began noticing the response the robotic figures were getting.

“Some people stop and take pictures,” Reyes said. “One day I sat by the window and in an hour almost 20 cars stopped by to take pictures.”

His work garnered so much attention that word eventually filtered back to the city of Hillsboro’s Arts and Culture Council.

“A friend told me about seeing these amazing robots on Walnut Street,” recalled Valerie Otani, public art program supervisor of the Arts and Culture Council. “I went by a few months ago and saw them. I thought they were incredible.”

Otani said an art village has been part of the annual Latino Cultural Festival for three years, and she thought Reyes would be a natural to include. So she knocked on Reyes’ door and invited him.

“We like to spotlight different artists to show the variety of work being done by Latino artists locally,” she explained.

On April 21, Reyes brought a dozen of his trashformers — almost every one he has made so far — to the festival in downtown Hillsboro.

“I have three more at home,” he pointed out. “But they were too big to fit on the trailer.”

At the festival’s art exhibit, youngsters were especially impressed by Reyes’ unique creations.

“Look at this one. Look at his eyes,” said one young boy enjoying the display.

Although he leaves his art pieces in his front yard, he has not had any trouble with thieves or vandals — except for one perplexing incident.

“Someone stole the hands off of one of them,” he said.

Reyes, so far at least, is not in it for the money. When asked how much he would sell one of his trashformers for, he said he wasn’t sure. He pointed out that the odds and ends he builds with are not costly.

“It’s just junk,” he said. “The first one took me three days. The second one took me half a day. Now it’s going faster and faster.”

And now, after months of having a virtual art gallery in his front yard, Reyes is gaining recognition as a niche artist.

People have started asking Reyes to make custom trashformer designs for their businesses or for gifts, but he is not sure what to charge.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Two of Jorge Reyes unusual creations strike an intimidating pose during the recent Latino Cultural Festival in downtown Hillsboro. So far, Reyes has made about 15 of these figures, which he calls trashformers.

“They are not too expensive, and they’re pretty easy to make,” he explained.

He said he has spent only about $80 on materials at garage sales for his first dozen creations, and now he is getting help.

“My neighbors knew I was making them, so they brought me parts,” he said.

Otani said she’s hoping the exposure opens new doors for Reyes’ artwork.

“This has all come as a surprise to Jorge,” Otani said. “He did this on a whim, and found out how much other people enjoyed it.”

Otani said Reyes’ work is colorful and attractive, and also epitomizes the true artist’s spirit.

“He was not motivated by making money, but just by the pleasure of doing something creative,” she said. “This is his inspiration.”



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