Sean Collins’ front yard on Pacific Beach is a plant lover’s dream.
Large, handcrafted wooden pots house a range of succulents and foliage plants, each with their own story to tell. Beyond his garden, Collins’ home is filled with refurbished furniture and artifacts, another indication of his creative side.
A real estate agent by trade, Collins’ interest in the arts was paramount from an early age. Collins said he was inspired by Disney cartoons and comics growing up.
A few years later, reconstructions of furniture, painting, surf-related art, and plants have become Collins’ current art forms of choice.
After attending San Diego State University, he dived headfirst into real estate while furthering his creative expression. For Collins, it’s limiting to only define himself through a single career path, he said, so he chooses to engage in art projects of all sizes.
“I believe that people are dynamic and you don’t have to say, ‘This is the only thing I do,'” said Collins.
Collins explained that selling a home and creating art aren’t as different as many might think. In this way, he can combine his two hobbies into a varied everyday life.
“I think art helps open the mind, and there’s a lot of creativity in real estate, too, in terms of getting clients and working with clients, doing business and coming up with creative solutions,” Collins said.
In the alley behind his office, abandoned goods are a daily occurrence, something that initially caught Collins’ eye for potential. Tables, bits of wood, planters, and partially dead plants lie on the street, but Collins sees their value.
“About seven years ago, I started driving and commuting across Pacific Beach,” he said. “I would just see stuff being left out, it would look like a whole dorm room had been thrown in the alley. I started snagging pieces of furniture that were thrown away and started sanding, finishing, buying materials and tools, and getting creative.”
After finding furniture he likes, Collins typically works with it as needed to achieve his specific goals for that piece. If he wants it a different color, Collins said he’ll sand it and paint it. If he wants to embellish the existing, he adds his own accents such as drawings or sticking on kick-cracks. Sometimes sanding off old paint is enough to reveal a piece’s original wood color to make it feel like a brand new item.
As he learned how to create something from scratch, Collins said he was instantly addicted to searching for free items and regularly browses platforms like eBay and Craigslist. He recorded pieces and added his own accents to spruce up items that would otherwise be wasted.
“I started to get an eye for certain things,” he said. “I got into it like an obsession. Besides that, I always keep an eye on the market and get notified if something comes up for free.”
Along with creativity comes the ability to connect with like-minded people, Collins explained. Walking through his Pacific Beach neighborhood, buying furniture online, and talking to other artists has opened his mind to the many planes of creative expression.
“I started talking to neighbors and I got to know people in Pacific Beach,” he said, talking about one particular neighbor whose juicy exhibit caught his eye.
“He showed me his front yard and I took some clippings and then he showed me his back yard and it’s just gorgeous,” Collins said.
For the future, Collins said he hopes to remain involved with art.
“I always have a few projects going,” he said.
Collins said he uses art primarily as an outlet for imaginative expression and gives most pieces away to friends and family. But he also said he’s always interested in commissioned art and collaborative projects.
For more of Collins’ work, visit his Instagram @themerchmerch where his furniture pieces are posted and exhibited.