Joe Manus got into designing modern furniture "through a serendipitous alignment of [his] experiences and surroundings." Growing up in rural Georgia with no exposure to design theory and trends until he was in his 20s, he might be considered an "outsider" designer, but he emphasizes that this underexposure has given him a raw and uninfluenced voice in the design world.
Manus also grew up with little money and resources, but both his father and stepfather were good at making things, passing on their spirit of ingenuity and hands-on creation to Joe. He feels that ambition drives him forward, saying "my confidence has always eclipsed my skill set; this has opened many doors for me."
Manus calls himself an "accidental environmentalist." He started using found materials--discarded wood, metal and cardboard--not out of an interest in upcycling per se, but out of necessity because he couldn't afford newly minted materials to work with. He also relies on the found forms inherent to upcycling, inspired by shapes and silhouettes and the opportunity to repurpose them in new contexts.
Manus believes that people are attracted to things they are unaware of at first, finding "something so sensual and familiar" and "part of their own story" in his work. The common materials he uses are things people see their everyday lives, but when assimilated into a new product, they become something rich.