Briarcliff Middle School Custodian Turns Trash into Treasure

Nguyen began making sculptures out of driftwood, recycled metal and oyster shells. Photo supplied

For 27 years, Namphong Nguyen, the Briarcliff Middle School custodian, has been passing by the art room, admiring students’ works in Jessica Dubin and John Brooks’ art classes.

This has inspired him to make his own creations and he began making sculptures out of driftwood, recycled metal and oyster shells.

He has gifted his sculptures to some of the school staff and was recently invited to hold a shell sculpture workshop during May’s Wellness Day at the school.

“Some students in the school saw my shell sculpture and asked me about them, so I thought holding a workshop would bring them joy,” he said.

Nguyen held three workshops for students in all three grades at the school.

“During the workshops, my goal was to help each student create and take home a sculpture,” he said. “I am happy everyone got to make their own.”

In addition to shells, Nguyen also makes sculptures out of recycled metal.

“I see people throwing out a lot of metal, like nails, so I weld those scraps and use them to make metal sculptures,” he said.

Nguyen, who moved to the U.S. from Vietnam when he was 25 years old, loves to go fishing, where he finds oyster shells for his sculptures.

“I go fishing on Long Island, at the Connecticut border and at the Hudson River,” he said. “I see a lot of oyster shells on Croton Point Park, and I also see a lot of driftwood. It looks so beautiful to me, so I pick it up and make sculptures out of it, too.”

Nguyen sees his sculptures as not only art, but as a way to help keep the world cleaner.

“As a custodian, I help keep the school clean, so outside of school I can keep the world clean by picking up metal, and keep the beach clean by picking up driftwood,” he said. “By turning those into art, I hope that maybe someday, someone will see my sculptures and be inspired to help clean our world.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recommended For You

About the Author: User Submitted