A group of new residents recently arrived in Boothbay, Maine. Among them is a shriveled troll named Birk, who sports a beard made from the roots of fallen trees, and RÃ¸skva, whose thatch fur is made of bark tiles.
These giants, the work of Danish eco-artist Thomas Dambo, have been commissioned by Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens as part of a new exhibition, âGuardians of the Seedsâ. The aim is to give visitors an emotional connection with nature which will encourage them to become its stewards.
Why we wrote this
How can a childish worldview help the environment? Danish eco-artist Thomas Dambo combines a flair for recycling with a fairytale imagination to bring people around the world closer to nature.
Since 2014, Mr. Dambo has built unique trolls across the globe, including China, South Korea, and Puerto Rico. Each is built from recycled materials. âI like to show people that garbage doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a beautiful thing, âhe said in an interview.
On a recent visit to Maine Gardens, it begins to rain on Shaad and Andrea Breau and their daughter, Eidi, as they admire RÃ¸skva. They take refuge under the vast circumference of the statue.
“Luckily, that troll was there to protect us,” Mrs. Breau tells kindergarten-aged Eidi as she climbs on the tennis racket-sized fingernails. The girl looks and shouts: “Thanks, troll!”
Call it a troll safari. In the woods of Maine, a family of three searches for creatures from Scandinavian folklore. Shaad and Andrea Breau examine a trail map as their young daughter, Eidi, leaps past them. They won’t need binoculars to spot trolls. This species would eclipse a Mack truck.
âLook, mom,â Eidi exclaims, pointing to a 20-foot-tall wooden sculpture of a troll standing between several pine trees. It’s like a scene from âWhere the Wild Things Areâ by Maurice Sendak.
“Is it made of a tree?” Eidi asks.
Why we wrote this
How can a child’s vision of the world help the environment? Danish eco-artist Thomas Dambo combines a flair for recycling with a fairytale imagination to bring people around the world closer to nature.
Danish eco-artist Thomas Dambo built the spiky-haired troll named RÃ¸skva from discarded pieces of wood. It is one of five trolls commissioned by Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for its 323 acres of resplendent riverside forests. The âKeepers of the Seedsâ exhibition aims to give visitors an emotional connection with nature which will encourage them to become its keepers.
Since 2014, Mr. Dambo has built dozens of unique trolls around the world, including China, South Korea and Puerto Rico. Each is constructed from recycled materials from junkyards and dumpsters. The key quality of his work? Its playful character. For example, one of his trolls in Denmark sits astride a real car on a hill, seeming to be driving it happily like a sled. Mr. Dambo wants to rekindle a childlike imagination in adults so that they begin to see trash as objects that can be reused in practical and even picturesque ways. And, yes, he also likes to entertain the kids.
“Thomas’ origin story is to be a child and to ride a bike, climb trees and search for materials to build treehouses,” says Angela Del Monte, a graduate of Copenhagen Business School. who spent time with the artist for his master’s degree 2020. thesis, “Using your strengths: a case study of the artist entrepreneur Thomas Dambo”. “Thomas said he never stopped playing,” She adds.
But Mr. Dambo also discovered early on that some adults are interfering in the world that children dream of. A schoolteacher punished him once for sitting in a window frame and looking out. He was forced to sit under the teacher’s table for the duration of a class. When Mr. Dambo’s mother learned of what had happened, she transferred her son to a “hippie” school in the countryside. The boy quickly found a soul mate in one of his new teachers, Mogens Sigsgaard-Rasmussen.
“He would always sit in the tree in class and read fairy tales to us,” Mr. Dambo recalled in a phone interview from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he built his 81st troll. âWe would only spend two-thirds of the time doing school stuff. But we learned a lot doing it, so we would go out and build things out of wood. ”
Melanie Stetson Freeman / Staff
At lunchtime, Mr. Sigsgaard-Rasmussen passed around a tray to collect any leftover food that picky kids didn’t want to eat because they thought it looked funny. Then he demonstrated to savor leftovers such as sandwiches filled with smelly cheese.
âHe also showed us that there was nothing wrong with the cheese,â recalls the artist. âA child would be afraid that another child would think that there is something wrong with me if I eat the cheese, because someone else might say, ‘It smells bad.’ So the reason I love this story is, of course, because it touches on a lot of the issues we have with our waste and recycling.
Nowadays, Mr. Dambo enjoys diving in the trash cans. In 2018, for example, he visited several recycling factories in Mexico City to find things he could turn into a plastic botanical garden called âThe Future Forestâ.
âI like to show people that garbage doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a beautiful thing, âhe says. “I think it will solve a lot of our problems if we could just share things more and not just think of new items as good items.”
To challenge himself creatively, the artist allows a certain degree of improvisation on the spot. For “Keepers of the Seeds,” he gave a shriveled troll named Birk a beard made from the roots of fallen trees. RÃ¸skva’s thatch fur is made of bark tiles. Gro, who sits with her eyes closed in a serene yoga pose, has a copper tongue made out of a planter.
The artist said that this family of trolls hid 10 gold seeds to protect the old forest. Using a map provided, visitors follow clues to find a secret place where these seeds are hidden.
âThomas wants people to interact with these trolls,â says Gretchen Ostherr, President and CEO of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. âHe really wants this to be a journey of discovery where you walk and all of a sudden this great magical being appears in front of you. They are friendly and happy trolls. They are not scary, evil trolls under a bridge or on the Internet. “
The Danish craftsman hopes that ‘Guardians of the Seeds’ will give viewers the same joy that comes with a job he compares to a hobby. He says too many people lose their playfulness in the rough treadmill of adulthood.
The Breau family, local members of the gardens, said they wanted to join the 150 volunteers who helped Mr Dambo erect the trolls. But that did not work. While they admire RÃ¸skva, it starts to rain. They take refuge by rushing under the vast circumference of the wooden statue.
“Fortunately, this troll was there to protect us,” Mrs. Breau tells Eidi, a kindergarten child, who climbs on RÃ¸skva’s tennis racket-sized fingernails. The girl looks and shouts: “Thanks, troll!”