For the last 25 years, Copenhagen-based artist Thomas Dambo has become an expert at working only with recycled materials. “I’ve done this since building tree houses as a kid — I would go scavenge with a shopping cart.” Dambo, along with his team of two assistants and three interns, source scrap materials from local businesses. They tend to use a lot of pallets, especially on projects outside of Denmark, as they’re easy to come by.
His latest builds, The 6 Forgotten Giants, are located around the world, from Australia to Germany, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Dambo treats it as a treasure hunt, to “give some mystique and adventure” to the experience.
“A lot of people have forgotten to be curious and explore,” Dambo says. “Almost nobody knows what’s hiding in their own city. By putting the sculptures in places people don’t normally go, I give them both the experience of the sculpture but also the nature. I believe this gives them a much bigger experience than if the sculpture was in the middle of the city. You put effort into finding them.” Each of the sculptures is accompanied by a poem engraved on a nearby stone, which gives hints about where to find the others.
Dambo chooses a location, and then lets his materials inspire the type of creature he makes. He brings them to life by making them part of the surrounding environment. They grab trees, lean their back against the hill, and make themselves at home. If he’s working locally, Dambo will construct the more detailed parts like faces, hands, and feet at his workshop, and then drive it to the installation site. It takes him about 2 weeks to make a sculpture with the help of 5–10 others.
In addition to his creatures, Dambo runs a small public school out of his workshop for people to come and build, play, and prototype with his recycled materials. “It has become my work and mission to teach others. I believe we need to take better care of our planet and that being better at recycling is a big part of this. I make big, positive, fun, and interactive projects to show people that recycling can be much more than trash.”