Is it re-purposing or senseless destruction?

doll cradle for re-use

Doll cradle from side of the road

Like many DIYers, I frequently cannibalize one thing to create another. Buttons from a much-loved coat, torn beyond repair, became the closures for an artist book I was working on. Cast aside planks were turned into painted bootjacks, and yes, I have a necklace made out of old clock gears.

Where does one draw the line? When is it saving something, giving it a new life and purpose, and when is it destruction of something historic and irreplaceable?

The week before Easter is town pick up in my town. This is the epitome of re-using. People put unwanted items by the roadside, other people cruise and take what they want. What is left gets taken by the town crew and enters our garbage stream. I put things out and am delighted when someone takes them. I hope that someday everything I put out will be taken before the town crew comes by.

I am making a teaching kit for a class, and need percussion, some sort of primitive sound makers. Four 18-inch dowels would work, but since this is a volunteer thing I do not want to have to pay for the parts. Also, I am creating the kit with a historic feel, striving for an eighteenth-century curio cabinet aesthetic. Hardware store dowels are not really the right fit.

This morning I walked to my village’s boat landing to check for blue herons. People have been reporting them, and the tide was right. On the way I noticed my neighbors had tossed out a wooden doll cradle to their pile for town clean-up. The four corner posts of the cradle had been turned on a lathe and had a sense of history. They could work as my sound makers. I continued down the hill to the cove, where I did not see a single blue heron. On the way back I assessed the little crib. It could be pretty perfect. I decided to take it. As I tugged it out of the pile I saw my neighbor at her door, watching me. I pointed that I was taking it, and she smiled. I know that feeling. It is delight when something you no longer need is desired by someone else.

I carried it home triumphantly, but as I walked, my glow faded. It was in better shape than I had realized. In fact, it was not broken at all. My plan had been to use the four corner posts, and burn the rest. Repurposed and re-used. But this thing was almost pristine. And so my ethical dilemma began.

Should I destroy a perfectly intact doll bed for my project?

Did my sweet neighbor think I was going to use it as a cradle?

Was it her childhood doll toy?

All these questions made me feel guilty.

So, on the flip side:

My neighbor put it out as trash, what does she care what I do with it?

If a picker took it, it would be sold as an antique. Won’t it just be a commodity?

Am I being insanely sentimental, or should I just tear the darn thing apart?

So here it is, in my house. It is pretty sweet, but I really have no use for a doll cradle. I want four wooden sticks, to strike and make noise.

I contemplated putting at back by the roadside, but then I would still need to look for matching sticks for my project. I will feel guilty, but practicality wins. I am going to take it apart, but not today.

If anyone out there wants to save this little doll cradle on rockers that exudes love, it is yours. I just want four sticks to use as sound makers.


Fish made from an old chair back slat by Kathy Winham, of the Englishman’s B+B in Cherryfield. Clearly a good use of something no longer useful.

Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.