The Shipping News

Jose Avila's furniture designs are out of the box

Avila:I really think what I've done is art. I've had a request to have one of my pieces displayed in a touring museum exhibit. In fact, I'm in the middle of getting real furniture so that I can part with a couple of these pieces for that.

NT: Have people offered money? Have they offered end tables?

Avila:No, but I've had people offer to buy these pieces. They're not for sale.

NT: What about pity money from people who feel bad that you don't have furniture?

Avila:At one point, I was taking donations through the Web site, but I took that off there because this isn't really about the donations. The reason I don't take the whole Web site down and give in is because if I do, it will show big companies that it's okay to go out there and toss legal stuff around and try to censor information. The case is called FedEx vs. Avila, but it's really about corporation censorship vs. freedom of speech. Which the TV media has completely missed. They don't really want to get into the controversial aspect of the story, which is what made the whole story blow up in the first place.

NT: Maybe you should sell the domain name to FedEx. They could sell your furniture designs!

Avila:I was offered $16,000 for the domain name, because of how much traffic we get daily. Someone just wanted to take the site and use it to redirect traffic to overseas poker sites or whatever.

NT: Whoa! Sixteen grand! You could buy a lot of furniture with that.

Avila:At first I thought, "Wow, that's a lot of money. I could get out of debt, buy furniture, donate a bunch of money to the Stanford Law Center," which really helped me out. I tossed the idea around for a couple seconds and I thought, What impression will this give to other companies? I decided that it would send the message that principles can be bought. I decided not to sell the domain, but to blog about what happened. A lot of people have [written to say] "You're stupid for not selling." I feel I've done the right thing.

NT: What's the shelf life of furniture made from boxes?

Avila:I don't know. The bed's not going to have as long a life, because of the number of people who want to see me jump up and down on it.

NT: I'll bet. How comfortable is that bed?

Avila:More comfortable than sleeping on the floor. The padded packs help out a lot.

NT: You're essentially sleeping on bubble wrap. How do you clean furniture made from chipboard boxes?

Avila:I haven't figured out how to clean it yet. It hasn't really gotten dirty. I suppose if you puked on the couch, you could just squeegee it off. I've got no idea. You'll notice on some of the pieces of furniture that there are pieces missing. The couch is missing half a cushion, and my bed is missing a couple of structural pieces. My desk is missing a corner. That's because whenever I have to ship something now, I pretty much have to pull off a hunk of the furniture to get a box.

NT: Because FedEx canceled your shipping account.

Avila:I can't have them pick up stuff at my house anymore, either. I go to the mom-and-pop shipping center around the corner from here. I've been investigating other shipping options. I just opened an account with UPS.

NT: What's next? Clothing made from Target bags? A car made entirely of empty Mountain Dew cans?

Avila:The next thing is to replace my furniture with real working furniture. I've got a bunch of software projects I've been working on. I've got an air-compressed powered Ping-Pong ball that I've been toying with. Things like that. It's not furniture made from boxes, but maybe people will still think it's cool.

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