Urban Ashes - Picture Frame & Furniture Company, created intentionally simple and timeless designs, crafted from salvaged woods, featuring rich organic textures integrated with raw modern and industrial materials. By empowering our citizens with felonies and mentoring our youth who had contact with the justice system, we provided them the opportunity to repurpose their lives with meaningful employment. This dynamic combination of resources, all too often discarded, created the unparalleled quality behind our hand-made goods that told a uniquely human story to pass down through generations. This was not a simple concept that ran it’s course over ten years, it was the start of a new blueprint on how we must do business now and moving forward. This was and continues to be an ongoing process, carried forward and perfected by all we touched. Tag… You're IT!



  • The Start

     In 2008, Furniture Designer Paul M. Hickman set out to design a product that would increase the utilization of urban salvaged wood while drawing from Michigan's transitional or disabled workforce.  The answer was right in front of him.  Since 2005, Paul had been working with his two young sons creating collaborative prints, framing them and selling them.  The frames that they used were ready-made frames but were made out of the country and from who knows what kind of wood.  It occurred to him that these very frames could be made from "urban" woods and engages this under-utilized workforce.  Out of this concept, along with the blight of the Emerald Ash Borer, a whole new line of picture frames was then added to Paul's existing furniture and Urban Ashes was formed.

  • Our Crew

    Someone once told us, “you’re reclaiming lives along with trees”. We felt we are giving people the opportunity to reclaim their own lives. We strongly believed that everyone, when given the chance, would strive for and often achieve their best. When people are believed in and given the opportunity to prove themselves, they can do amazing things. We chose to provide these missing opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged workers, our returning citizens coming out of the prison system and our youth who had contact with the justice system. We found that most of these individuals have extreme potential and dedication. At Urban Ashes we believed it is critical to employ a diverse and dynamic crew, featuring a balanced blend of our returning citizens, our youth and those that have not have not gotten caught up in our justice system, ultimately bringing out the best in them all.

  • The Process

    Each stick of moulding was hand-selected for its character unique to urban wood as well as the story it carried from the neighborhoods from which it came.  These came from trees that grew on our streets, in our yards, in our parks and in our urban areas.  The wood's character was then enhanced when finished and rubbed out by hand using petroleum-free finishes.  In this process we were able to revive the hand-made art form seemingly lost from our culture.

    To complete this Made-In-Michigan product, the glass, the paper insert, and the backer were also made in Michigan.

  • Wood Variations and Character Marks

    The Urban Ashes esthetic was founded upon the concept of Wabi Sabi, or the beauty of natural imperfections.  Therefore, all of the wood utilized by Urban Ashes wore the random character, which rendered each frame and furnishing unique.  To maximize the utilization of the wood and the variegation in each piece, we did not grade for high character nor for what is typically grade A wood.  Instead, we strove to provide frames and furnishings that embodied our concept of consistently inconsistent.

  • Finishes

    Each frame and furnishing was hand-finished using age-old petroleum-free finishes.  The process always took the innate qualities of the finish, the wood and the hand application into account; therefore we embraced and enhancde the imperfections that arose within each piece to make them truly unique.

  • The Emerald Ash Borer

    Since 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed between hundreds of millions of Ash trees in at least 35 US states and 5 Canadian provinces.  The blight threatens to destroy most of the approximately seven billion Ash trees growing throughout North America.  While the Ash tree is the impetus behind the Urban Ashes name, the frames and furnishings were not limited to Ash wood alone.  We utilized a wide variety of domestic urban salvaged wood and reclaimed deconstructed species that are often discarded as waste wood.

  • De-Nailed™

    Urban Ashes® transformed the raw reclaimed de-nailed timbers, carefully deconstructed from abandoned homes and buildings across Michigan, once slated for the landfill, into fine picture frames and furnishings. While absorbing countless stories and rich histories for decades, these old growth timbers quietly provided the shelter for their Michigan families and companies. We gave these rare woods another life. “Re-born” as the De-Nailed™ Collection.

  • Lisa Wozniak - Executive Director - Michigan League of Conservation Voters

    In 2013, we began what has now become an annual tradition: we held a grand gala event in the City of Detroit to celebrate exceptional elected leaders and community activists working to address the threats of climate change, water pollution and environmental injustice.  We wanted everything about the event to exemplify our commitment to a more just, equitable and sustainable future, and that included the gifts we presented to the awardees. We were delighted to find Urban Ashes, a company that used salvaged materials and hired and provided second chances to individuals who had had run-ins with the justice system, Urban Ashes embodied a mission that aligned perfectly with ours. Our gratitude for their exceptional work--in relation to our gala and far beyond--cannot be overstated. 

    Lisa Wozniak - Executive Director - Michigan League of Conservation Voters

  • Mary Cambruzzi - Owner & Finder - FOUND

    We’re so grateful we had the opportunity to be part of the Urban Ashes story.  Over the years, Found in Ann Arbor sold thousands of UA frames, plus dozens of beautifully designed tables. The wood reclaimed from fallen trees and demolished buildings lives on in the homes of our customers – and will be enjoyed for generations to come!

    Mary Cambruzzi - Owner & Finder - FOUND


  • Michael Gordon - Social Entrepreneurial Studies Director - University of Michigan

    Urban Ashes married two noble concepts — giving returning citizens a much needed second chance and sustainable manufacturing — to create a much admired business that served the community and, in fact, the country for the last decade. Where government and nonprofits are increasingly reluctant to step up, we need businesses like Urban Ashes to act as the creative force to address our pressing societal problems. 

    Urban Ashes showed it was possible to produce gorgeous wood products using a business model that stuck fast to its social mission. Obtaining the raw materials used in its products — wood salvaged from abandoned houses or from diseased trees destined to become sawdust — was a constant challenge. Employing only those who had spent serious time in prison or who seemed destined for such a path was equally challenging: When workers’ everyday needs, from renting apartments to obtaining a car loan, aren’t easily met, you have a workforce that needs more attention, and personal allowances, than most do. In both ways, sourcing materials and using a non-traditional workforce, the “easy” way would have been to compromise the mission.

    But mission is what Urban Ashes was about. With a few more breaks, Urban Ashes might still be turning out its beautiful picture frames and furniture. But, when a business has so thin a margin for error, and when a few things don’t go right, it can become impossible to keep a business going.

    We should not look at that as our main take away — that Urban Ashes has closed it doors. We should look both at what the company did and how it did it for the last ten years. Rather than being a quirky outlier, Urban Ashes should be regarded as ahead of its time, even studied for what it means to create a business that is built on social impact before profit. Not every business that aims to “do good” will look exactly like Urban Ashes. But we should hold the company up as an example, which other companies can model and build on. We will see more and more businesses following Urban Ashes’ example. We need them to, and they certainly will.

    Michael Gordon - Arthur F. Thurnau Professor - Social Entrepreneurial Studies

    Faculty Director, Center for Social Impact - Ross School of Business

    University of Michigan

  • Bill Hall - Former Head of Sustainability, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

    Upon learning about Urban Ashes, I quickly became impressed by their vision and fortitude. They truly practiced the business imperative of “creating societal value” as a means for achieving commercial success. Urban Ashes' business goals focused on a unique blend of environmental stewardship and social well-being. Their dedication to these principles will continue to inspire us all.

    Upon meeting Paul through a colleague at the U-M Ross Business School, I quickly became impressed by Paul’s vision and fortitude. He truly practices the business imperative of “creating societal value” as a means for achieving commercial success. Urban Ashes' business goals focused on a unique blend of environmental stewardship and social well-being. Paul’s dedication to these principles will continue to inspire us all.

    Bill Hall

    Principal, Hall Partners LLC

    Former Head of Sustainability, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

  • David Radparvar - Co-Founder - Holstee

    We are so proud to have partnered with Urban Ashes for the production of our frames. Their dedication to training and employing for formerly incarcerated individuals was a model for a socially aware business done right. Coupled with their focus to reusing materials and sustainable production made them a an unparalleled partner. From their unique model we are able to give both the wood on our frames, and the craftsmen and women who created them, a second chance. Through their pioneering practices, Urban Ashes has created the blueprint for how we need to do business now and into the future.

    David Radparvar - Co-Founder - Holstee

  • Bob Lambert - General Manager - Detroit Foundation Hotel

    Urban Ashes was integral in bringing the Detroit Foundation Hotel to life. As one of our original partners, their business model aligned with ours from the start. Aside from their impeccable products, they focused on their contribution to community and individuals at every turn and that is why we are proud to have Urban Ashes products throughout our operation. Urban Ashes used the powerful platform they created in ten years of business to better the lives of the people who worked with them along with the people they served. We could all learn a thing or two from how Urban Ashes put its positive contribution above all else.

    Bob Lambert - General Manager - Detroit Foundation Hotel

  • Andrew Kruszewski - Former Production Worker - Urban Ashes

    Urban Ashes, to me, was groundbreaking. The idea that wood that had been thrown out, discarded, and ready for a fire could be made into the frames, tables, cabinets and other items we made was entirely new to me. The thought of not only repurposing wood, but helping ex-offenders rebuild their lives was also foreign to me. I’d hardly heard about anyone honestly caring not only about returning citizens working towards a better future, but how they get to that better future. These two ideas corresponded so well, and appealed to me so deeply that I felt honored to work at Urban Ashes. To learn there, to grow there, and to look beyond what was right in front of me.

    I grew in so many ways in my time at Urban Ashes. Ranging from this being my first job, the first place I learned fabrication and woodworking experience, and it being a place I connected well with others to a place I learned about more than that. Here, I also learned other insanely important things. A few being specifics on my tax position (W-2s, W-4s, how to go about getting them filed), motivation for going back to college and what I want to go for, having a sense of responsibility and confidence, and how and why I can take confidence in what I do.

    I would like to say to other companies that may be on the line deciding between the ideas of hiring returning citizens and related topics, that many of returning citizens are hungry for honest work. In my experience, many people I've met in those boats are desperately trying to get back to the shore, to solid ground, to reaffirm their lives with meaning. It’s quite difficult to do that out on the water, adrift and possibly more alone than ever. Urban Ashes helped me understand something that I plan on taking everywhere, “Loyalty goes both ways with a company. I’ll work hard for them, if they don’t turn their back on me.” Many of us have had hard times, and I believe it’s safe to say no one wants more hard times. So why would we possibly condemn those who’ve been through so many to many more?

    ~ Andrew Kruszewski - Former Production Worker - Urban Ashes

  • Kara Cable - Owner - Cat’s Meow - Pine Mountain

    I first stumbled across Urban Ashes in January 2013... reclamation is IN... reclamation is EVERYWHERE... but not this kind of reclamation and reuse. Urban Ashes creates or redevelops heirloom quality materials from both materials and labor capital, which might otherwise be discarded or disregarded. Urban Ashes’ products revolve around finding depth and beauty where many folks will never look. We've had many opportunities to work together and notably a very large project for our local state park. Urban Ashes was the perfect choice for a myriad of social, historical and aesthetic reasons. I'm proud to have Urban Ashes well represented in my two frame shops. There is simply no product in the moulding market anything like Urban Ashes. The product transcends what is IN. Urban Ashes is timeless.

     ~ Kara Cable - Owner - Cat’s Meow - Pine Mountain, GA

  • Joel Heflin - Owner - Mainframe - Seattle, WA

    Urban Ashes moldings have made some of our more memorable and important framing projects this year extra special. The quality and uniqueness of each frame are always consistent and convey the care and values of the individual craftsman. It's a pleasure working with Urban Ashes and their mission of craftsmanship and human responsibility is one we support and aspire to.

     ~ Joel Heflin - Owner - Mainframe - Seattle, WA


  • Bob Lambert - General Manager - The Detroit Foundation Hotel

    The quality and craftsmanship in unmatched! I am always blown away by the final product and the creative approach to design decisions is both collaborative and fun. As we continue to add design elements to our hotel, Urban Ashes will be a center piece.

    ~ Bob Lambert - General Manager - The Detroit Foundation Hotel and The Apparatus Room, Detroit, MI

  • Mikki Kavich - Owner - Mikki’s Frame Shop

    I enjoy the unique one of a kind frames from the gang at Urban Ashes, the only company I can call and get a really great, truly unique frame with as much character as I want. I recently called UA and asked " What do you have for an art project I am working on?" They made me 5 frames from an old gym floor that are showstoppers! Truly unique company that makes moulding as special as the art that they surround.

    ~ Mikki Kavich - Owner - Mikki’s Frame Shop - Crossville, TN

  • Micah Ruiz - Manager - Underglass Custom Picture Framing, Inc.

    Our clientele in San Francisco have a great eye and are really drawn to unique and interesting designs. Urban Ashes provides more than a frame, it's a conversation piece. The Urban Ashes story alone is enough to make you want to support them for all they are doing in their community. On top of that they provide a much needed service and create a stunning product. Every frame we receive is different and unique to itself and that is the beauty and the charm of the reclaimed frame. I have enjoyed every experience I have had with Urban Ashes and they make me feel more like a friend than a customer and that is huge for me and that's how I run my shops. They have passion for their craft and it's evident not only in their frames, but also in their willingness to do whatever it takes to help you out with an odd, over-sized or rush order. I'm proud to carry Urban Ashes in my shops and I know I will be designing with and selling their frames for years to come.

    ~ Micah Ruiz - Manager - Underglass Custom Picture Framing, Inc. - San Francisco, CA


  • Paula Sorrell - Director - Economic Growth Institute - University of Michigan

    We love our gorgeous conference table, that Urban Ashes custom made to fit our odd-shaped space.  It was also a pleasure to go to the shop to view the final product, and the pride the staff took in their craftsmanship. We continue to receive compliments on the table from visitors, as it is the best feature of our entire office.

    Paula Sorrell - Director - Economic Growth Institute - University of Michigan

  • Mary Cambruzzi - Owner - Found Gallery

    At Found, we love a good story! And the story of Urban Ashes founding, reclaimed materials and workforce all resonate with our customers. As one of the first shops to carry ready-made photo frames, we've worked with Urban Ashes from the beginning. When Found expanded, they responded with poster frames for our letterpress collection - and the "Rancho Deluxe" table line - which have quickly become best sellers! The design and workmanship of every product is top notch. We're proud to partner with Urban Ashes.

    ~ Mary Cambruzzi - Owner & Finder - FOUND - Ann Arbor, MI


  • Kristina Simmons, Store Development Coordinator - Busch’s Fresh Food Market

    We partnered with Urban Ashes to help furnish our new barbecue restaurant, J.B.’s Smokehouse. They were able to produce line drawings quickly and worked within our timeline. When Urban Ashes delivered all of our custom-made tables, the personality of our restaurant came to life!

    ~ Kristina Simmons, Store Development Coordinator - Busch’s Fresh Food Market - MI

  • John Busch - Chairman - Busch’s Fresh Food Market

    The creativity and craftsmanship attracted me to Urban Ashes as a possible partner. When they shared their two-part mission, reclaiming trees and lives, I knew I had found a great company who truly cares about our community.

    John Busch, Chairman - Busch’s Fresh Food Market - MI

  • Henry McCoy - Owner - Fine Line Supply Co.

    When I decided to add framing to the business, I knew I wanted to offer something different that I had not seen around here.  I found Urban Ashes while browsing Instagram and I'm glad I did.  My customers love Urban Ashes.  I watch them browse the frame selections and they keep coming back to the beautifully reclaimed wood.  While we are picking out moulding and mats, I tell them the story of Urban Ashes.  They love to see what type of character the wood will have when they pick up their order.  I see more repeat customers ordering Urban Ashes.  I even have a client that moved from Louisiana to Colorado that sends me items to frame and ship back.  It's safe to say that I found a great company to work with to build my business and make my customers happy.

    ~ Henry McCoy - Owner - Fine Line Supply Co. - Ruston, LA

  • Henry Daniel Gatlin - Gatlin's Framing and Photography

    Urban Ashes is a great company with a fantastic product and an amazing social mission. I am always bragging about them to my customers, who are impressed not only by the beautiful mouldings, but also by the idea of reclaiming fallen trees and salvaging wood from abandoned houses, all the while putting people to work in a place where so many were put out of work. They understand what this means to Detroit, and how it is a model for others around the country recovering from economic disaster. I am proud to offer Urban Ashes and will continue to do so as long as they will have me!

    ~ Henry Daniel Gatlin - Gatlin's Framing and Photography - New Bedford, MA

  • Letha and Mike Drury - Owners - South Hill Gallery, Ltd.

    We were one of the early retail partners outside the Michigan area.... once we saw the photo frames we knew they were something special.  We ordered a few to try and they didn't move right away.  I saw Paul months later at a trade show and he encouraged me to stock up on sizes and styles and have a large display of frames.  I took his advise and have never looked back.... the photo frames are a consistent seller for us.  Shortly afterwards we got the set of corner samples and have found that these mouldings create the perfect package for many styles of art.  Our clients love the product and the back story - we never tire of telling about the wonderful job that Urban Ashes does in repurposing wood and reclaiming lives.  Paul Hickman is a visionary businessman that we are happy to do business with and call a friend.

    ~ Letha and Mike Drury - Owners - South Hill Gallery, Ltd. - Lexington, KY

  • Sondra Quatraro – Manager - Frank's Hang Up

    Urban Ashes is a beautiful, sustainable product made in the USA by American employees, which my customers love.  They enjoy hearing the story of Urban Ashes and knowing they are supporting locally produced products, is a plus.  But the best parts are the beautiful finishes and the great woods, they as so finely finished.  I just had a customer purchase a cherry photo frame and she said,  "I may skimp on many things but not my frames".  The photo of her son and husband on a fishing trip was now suitable for any room in her home.  We are so glad to be able to offer Urban Ashes to our customers and proudly display the "Made in the USA" label.  What a wonderful product and absolutely great people.

    ~ Sondra Quatraro – Manager - Frank's Hang Up – Vero Beach, FL

  • Randy Parrish - Owner - Parrish Fine Framing & Art

    For my store, Urban Ashes is a no brainier.  Consumers now days, love social causes and urban salvaged wood, UA is the real deal.  The wood and how it's made, tells a story that customers support. Unlike other salvaged wood, UA brings a modern design aesthetic that can appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes.  Urban Ashes is my most poplar line of custom frames and photo frames. I love to sell it!

    ~ Randy Parrish - Owner - Parrish Fine Framing & Art - Ann Arbor, MI

  • Rosalin Anderson - Chief Branding Officer - Just Salad LLC

    Just Salad has worked with Urban Ashes since 2014 and we love the craftsmanship, quality, and attentive customer service. They have always been helpful meeting our tough deadlines, and store budgets. We will continue working with Urban Ashes on more projects as they do such quality work for reasonable rates. You can see frames and tabletops from Urban Ashes in our NYC and Chicago store locations.

    ~ Rosalin Anderson - Chief Branding Officer - Just Salad LLC -  New York, NY


  • Aaron Ballard - Owner - Ballard's Framing

    Urban Ashes was initially very attractive to us, not just because of the moulding's rich ascetic & obvious care put into preserving wood with history, but because of the hiring model Urban Ashes has employed that fits with our deep desire for a better world.  We at Ballard's have enjoyed our on going relationship with Urban Ashes over the years and our customers cherish the look & story behind the frames.

    ~ Aaron Ballard - Owner - Ballard's Framing - Los Angeles, CA


  • Rachel Parikh - Partner - Leaders' Quest

    Beautiful products made by beautiful people. This is the story of Urban Ashes. A story of hope and possibility. The shadow side is a story of waste and abandonment,  a reminder of devastation we cause when we throw away stuff and we throw away people without giving them a second chance. At Urban Ashes, they have created a space where at-risk youth and returning citizens have an opportunity to find their feet as they return to society, where they can contribute and grow. It is a place where they feel seen and appreciated, which allows them to transform their lives. And in this place of welcome,  they create exquisite furniture and frames out of reclaimed wood. Beautiful products made by beautiful people.

    ~ Rachel Parikh - Partner - Leaders' Quest


  • Doug Pyke - Owner - UNI-ART Distribution Ltd.

    Uni-Art Distribution Ltd. owns the license for Frank Lloyd Wright metal wall art and we have been professionally framing our FLLW metal designs for over 15 years. Uni-Art only wants the best quality craftsmanship possible and we have always sought it out but until we found Urban Ashes and their great team we had nothing but issues with framing. The quality with Urban Ashes and the community service Urban Ashes provides is a great selling point for our products.

    ~ Doug Pyke - Owner - UNI-ART Distribution Ltd. - Dallas, TX

  • Erin McBride - Owner - McBride's Framing Gallery

    My frame shop in Tucson Arizona has a good customer base that are winter visitors, here for half the year. Many of which have their primary home in Michigan. I love watching their eyes light up when I mention Urban Ashes, tell them where the company originates from, and tell them the story. Urban Ashes puts out an amazing product. I love opening an UA box and smelling the wood and oils used in their finishing. The Urban Ashes Crew believes in their product and passionately stands behind it. They have had me send pictures to ensure I got exactly what I wanted and the owner, Paul, has helped me personally more than once. I hope to continue hanging their samples on my wall and design with them for years to come.

    ~ Erin McBride - Owner - McBride's Framing Gallery - Tucson, AZ

  • Dave Radparvar - Cofounder, Holstee - Brooklyn, NY

    In 2013 we meet Paul and the team at Urban Ashes and were inspired by their work with reclaimed wood, as well as their approach to training and working with formerly incarcerated individuals. We are proud that through our partnership with Urban Ashes, we are able to give both the wood of our frames, and the craftsman and women who assembled it, a second chance. We look forward to many more years of working and growing together!

    ~ Dave Radparvar - Cofounder, Holstee - Brooklyn, NY


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