Urban Ashes receives top honor as the first ever Platinum Awardee of the Michigan Ross Center for Positive Organizations’ Positive Business Project.
Saving Trees and Lives ... Intentionally simple and timeless designs, crafted from salvaged woods, featuring rich organic textures integrated with raw modern and industrial materials. By empowering our citizens with felonies and mentoring our youth who have had contact with the justice system, we provide them the opportunity to repurpose their lives with meaningful employment. This dynamic combination of resources, all too often discarded, creates the unparalleled quality behind our hand-made goods that tells a uniquely human story to pass down through generations.
Each stick of moulding is hand-selected for its character unique to urban wood as well as the story it carries from the neighborhoods from which it came. These are trees that grew on our streets, in our yards, in our parks and in our urban areas. The wood's character is then enhanced when finished and rubbed out by hand using petroleum-free finishes. In this process we are reviving the hand-made art form seemingly lost from our culture.
To complete this Made-In-Michigan product, the glass, the paper insert, and the backer are also made in Michigan.
Wood Variations and Character Marks
The Urban Ashes esthetic was founded upon the concept of Wabi Sabi, or the beauty of natural imperfections. Therefore, all of the wood utilized by Urban Ashes bears a random character, which renders each frame unique. To maximize the utilization of the wood and the variegation of the frames, we don't grade for high character nor for what is typically grade A wood. We strive to provide a frame that embodies our concept of consistently inconsistent. However, we do go to great lengths to ensure each frame, even one with high character, is structurally sound.
Each frame is hand-finished using age-old petroleum free finishes. The process always takes the innate qualities of the finish, the wood and the hand application into account; therefore we again embrace and enhance the imperfections that arise within each frame and make them unique.
In 2008, Furniture Designer Paul M. Hickman set out to design a product that would increase the utilization of urban salvaged wood while drawing from Michigan's transitional or disabled workforce. The answer was right in front of him. Since 2005, Paul had been working with his two young sons creating collaborative prints, framing them and selling them. The frames that they used were ready-made frames but were made out of the country and from who knows what kind of wood. It occurred to him that these very frames could be made from "urban" woods and engages this under-utilized workforce. Out of this concept, along with the blight of the Emerald Ash Borer, a whole new line of picture frames was then added to Paul's existing furniture and Urban Ashes was formed.
The Emerald Ash Borer
Since 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed between 50 and 100 millon Ash trees in at least 15 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The blight threatens to destroy most of the approximately seven billion Ash trees growing throughout North America. While the Ash tree is the impetus behind the Urban Ashes name, our frames are not limited to Ash wood alone. We utilize a wide variety of domestic urban wood species that are often discarded as waste wood.
Urban Ashes® transforms the raw reclaimed de-nailed timbers, carefully deconstructed from abandoned homes and buildings in the Detroit Metro Area, once slated for the landfill, into fine picture frames and home goods. While absorbing countless stories and rich histories for decades, these old growth timbers quietly provided the shelter for their Detroit families and companies. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of homes now stand abandoned in Detroit and that does not even address the abandoned commercial buildings. However, we are working to give this rare wood another life. “Re-born” as the Detroit De-Nailed™ Collection.
Someone once told us, “you’re reclaiming lives along with trees”. We feel we are giving people the opportunity to reclaim their own lives. We strongly believe that everyone, when given the chance, will strive for and often achieve their best. When people are believed in and given the opportunity to prove them selves, they can do amazing things. We have chosen to provide these missing opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged workers, ex-felons coming out of the prison system. We have found that many ex-felons have extreme potential and dedication. At Urban Ashes we believe it is critical to employ a diverse and dynamic crew, featuring a balanced blend of ex-felons and non ex-felons, ultimately bringing out the best in both.
Stock Manufactured Goods ... Available Through Our Retail Partners ... Store Locator
• Custom Framing • Photo Frames • Poster Frames and Shells • Valet Trays
Custom Design & Fabrication for Residential & Commercial
• Tables • Benches • Shelving • Cabinets • Picture Framing • Bar Tops • Wall Cladding • Other Custom Goods ... Please call or email for details
HOLSTEE Goods ... Available Through HOLSTEE
• Reclaim Frames & Card Holder
RD Tables ... Available Through Found Gallery
Design ... Email or Call for Details
• Custom Furniture - Commercial and Residential
• Interior Design Consulting - Commercial and Residential - Unique/sustainable materials and feature design elements
• Custom Product Design - Initial concept development to prototyping to final production
Wood - Urban salvaged and de-constructed wood sourced from Southeast Michigan
Finishes - Hand applied milk paint & a petroleum-free linseed oil
Glass - Manufactured in Michigan
Paper Insert - Source from a 5th generation family-owned Michigan paper mill. 100% recycled content with a minimum of 30% post consumer waste. Acid-free, lignin free with a neutral ph Processed cholorine-free. Produced with 100% green power via their own hydroelectric plant
Printing - Provided by a Michigan printer
Backer & Easel - Hardboard utilizing hardwoods manufactured in Minnesota with no added adhesives
Hardware - Manufactured in The USA
Our clientele in San Francisco have a great eye and are really drawn to unique and interesting designs. Urban Ashes provides more than a frame, it's a conversation piece. The Urban Ashes story alone is enough to make you want to support them for all they are doing in their community. On top of that they provide a much needed service and create a stunning product. Every frame we receive is different and unique to itself and that is the beauty and the charm of the reclaimed frame. I have enjoyed every experience I have had with Urban Ashes and they make me feel more like a friend than a customer and that is huge for me and that's how I run my shops. They have passion for their craft and it's evident not only in their frames, but also in their willingness to do whatever it takes to help you out with an odd, over-sized or rush order. I'm proud to carry Urban Ashes in my shops and I know I will be designing with and selling their frames for years to come.
~ Micah Ruiz - Manager - Underglass Custom Picture Framing, Inc. - San Francisco, CA
Just Salad has worked with Urban Ashes since 2014 and we love the craftsmanship, quality, and attentive customer service. They have always been helpful meeting our tough deadlines, and store budgets. We will continue working with Urban Ashes on more projects as they do such quality work for reasonable rates. You can see frames and tabletops from Urban Ashes in our NYC and Chicago store locations.
~ Rosalin Anderson - Chief Branding Officer - Just Salad LLC - New York, NY
Urban Ashes moldings have made some of our more memorable and important framing projects this year extra special. The quality and uniqueness of each frame are always consistent and convey the care and values of the individual craftsman. It's a pleasure working with Urban Ashes and their mission of craftsmanship and human responsibility is one we support and aspire to.
~ Joel Heflin - Owner - Mainframe - Seattle, WA
Urban Ashes was initially very attractive to us, not just because of the moulding's rich ascetic & obvious care put into preserving wood with history, but because of the hiring model Urban Ashes has employed that fits with our deep desire for a better world. We at Ballard's have enjoyed our on going relationship with Urban Ashes over the years and our customers cherish the look & story behind the frames.
~ Aaron Ballard - Owner - Ballard's Framing - Los Angeles, CA
During the past 25 years of Saline Picture Frame Company's existence, we have seen picture framing change as our society has changed. Repurposing, sustainability, community and global stewardship are important matters to us as individuals and business owners. Urban Ashes is a company, which encompasses all of these motivations. Reusing the wood from the terrible ash blight in Michigan as well as the awful housing blight in Detroit, Urban Ashes has cleverly taken an underappreciated and undervalued wood source and turned it into beautiful moldings for use in the design and picture framing trade. If that weren't enough, he also hires people who are similarly discarded in our society and gives them an opportunity for gainful employment; teaching them a new skill and building purpose and confidence in their lives. A wonderful idea and one we fully support. We love using Urban Ashes products because they are lovely and it makes us AND our customers feel good!
~ Mary A. Bowe - Owner - Saline Picture Frame Company - Dexter & Saline, MI
Urban Ashes is a great company with a fantastic product and an amazing social mission. I am always bragging about them to my customers, who are impressed not only by the beautiful mouldings, but also by the idea of reclaiming fallen trees and salvaging wood from abandoned houses, all the while putting people to work in a place where so many were put out of work. They understand what this means to Detroit, and how it is a model for others around the country recovering from economic disaster. I am proud to offer Urban Ashes and will continue to do so as long as they will have me!
~ Henry Daniel Gatlin - Gatlin's Framing and Photography - New Bedford, MA
Urban Ashes is a beautiful, sustainable product made in the USA by American employees, which my customers love. They enjoy hearing the story of Urban Ashes and knowing they are supporting locally produced products, is a plus. But the best parts are the beautiful finishes and the great woods, they as so finely finished. I just had a customer purchase a cherry photo frame and she said, "I may skimp on many things but not my frames". The photo of her son and husband on a fishing trip was now suitable for any room in her home. We are so glad to be able to offer Urban Ashes to our customers and proudly display the "Made in the USA" label. What a wonderful product and absolutely great people.
~ Sondra Quatraro – Manager - Frank's Hang Up – Vero Beach, FL
When I decided to add framing to the business, I knew I wanted to offer something different that I had not seen around here. I found Urban Ashes while browsing Instagram and I'm glad I did. My customers love Urban Ashes. I watch them browse the frame selections and they keep coming back to the beautifully reclaimed wood. While we are picking out moulding and mats, I tell them the story of Urban Ashes. They love to see what type of character the wood will have when they pick up their order. I see more repeat customers ordering Urban Ashes. I even have a client that moved from Louisiana to Colorado that sends me items to frame and ship back. It's safe to say that I found a great company to work with to build my business and make my customers happy.
~ Henry McCoy - Owner - Fine Line Supply Co. - Ruston, LA
I enjoy the unique one of a kind frames from the gang at Urban Ashes, the only company I can call and get a really great, truly unique frame with as much character as I want. I recently called UA and asked " What do you have for an art project I am working on?" They made me 5 frames from an old gym floor that are showstoppers! Truly unique company that makes moulding as special as the art that they surround.
~ Mikki Kavich - Owner - Mikki’s Frame Shop - Crossville, TN
For my store, Urban Ashes is a no brainier. Consumers now days, love social causes and urban salvaged wood, UA is the real deal. The wood and how it's made, tells a story that customers support. Unlike other salvaged wood, UA brings a modern design aesthetic that can appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes. Urban Ashes is my most poplar line of custom frames and photo frames. I love to sell it!
~ Randy Parrish - Owner - Parrish Fine Framing & Art - Ann Arbor, MI
My frame shop in Tucson Arizona has a good customer base that are winter visitors, here for half the year. Many of which have their primary home in Michigan. I love watching their eyes light up when I mention Urban Ashes, tell them where the company originates from, and tell them the story. Urban Ashes puts out an amazing product. I love opening an UA box and smelling the wood and oils used in their finishing. The Urban Ashes Crew believes in their product and passionately stands behind it. They have had me send pictures to ensure I got exactly what I wanted and the owner, Paul, has helped me personally more than once. I hope to continue hanging their samples on my wall and design with them for years to come.
~ Erin McBride - Owner - McBride's Framing Gallery - Tucson, AZ
We were one of the early retail partners outside the Michigan area.... once we saw the photo frames we knew they were something special. We ordered a few to try and they didn't move right away. I saw Paul months later at a trade show and he encouraged me to stock up on sizes and styles and have a large display of frames. I took his advise and have never looked back.... the photo frames are a consistent seller for us. Shortly afterwards we got the set of corner samples and have found that these mouldings create the perfect package for many styles of art. Our clients love the product and the back story - we never tire of telling about the wonderful job that Urban Ashes does in repurposing wood and reclaiming lives. Paul Hickman is a visionary businessman that we are happy to do business with and call a friend.
~ Letha and Mike Drury - Owners - South Hill Gallery, Ltd. - Lexington, KY
In 2013 we meet Paul and the team at Urban Ashes and were inspired by their work with reclaimed wood, as well as their approach to training and working with formerly incarcerated individuals. We are proud that through our partnership with Urban Ashes, we are able to give both the wood of our frames, and the craftsman and women who assembled it, a second chance. We look forward to many more years of working and growing together!
~ Dave Radparvar - Cofounder, Holstee - Brooklyn, NY
I first stumbled across Urban Ashes in January 2013... reclamation is IN... reclamation is EVERYWHERE... but not this kind of reclamation and reuse. Urban Ashes creates or redevelops heirloom quality materials from both materials and labor capital, which might otherwise be discarded or disregarded. Urban Ashes’ products revolve around finding depth and beauty where many folks will never look. We've had many opportunities to work together and notably a very large project for our local state park. Urban Ashes was the perfect choice for a myriad of social, historical and aesthetic reasons. I'm proud to have Urban Ashes well represented in my two frame shops. There is simply no product in the moulding market anything like Urban Ashes. The product transcends what is IN. Urban Ashes is timeless.
~ Kara Cable - Owner - Cat’s Meow - Pine Mountain, GA