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Using Pallets for Art

15 Sep 2017

Wooden pallets have revolutionised the storage and transport of many heavy goods and are often regarded as items to dispose of in landfill or possibly recycle once their industrial life has ended. There are around two billion pallets in current use in the US alone, so finding alternative uses for these used pallets can benefit the environment. One of the most innovative ways of using pallets is the art projects produced by Nashville teacher Troy Fears, with some of his pieces being showcased in small exhibitions in Nashville throughout the coming months.

How it all started

Fears only came into art in a major way around three years ago when he noticed a clean discarded pallet by the side of the road and thought he could use it for something. After creating his first pallet artwork, Fears began to hunt out more discarded pallets around the neighbourhood and even collects them if he is simply driving past and happens to notice a likely one. He has become more discriminatory as time has gone on and prefers used pallets that are close-boarded and do not have gaps between the stringers or slats. The ideal pallets for Fears’ artwork are heat treated and do not have the traditional one-board gap between the slats.

Method

The used wooden pallets are first sanded down to create a smooth surface for the design. Fears leaves some in the original rectangular shape; others are cut into different designs, such as a matching pair of Coca-Cola-shaped bottles or a sailing boat. The designs are sometimes sketched freehand before being painted, with Fears also using an overhead projector for some of his creations. The image is shone onto the pallet and can then be traced before the colour is added.

Subjects

The subjects that inspire Fears are very diverse. There are the traditional American flag designs but with added interest, such as the red, white and blue 1860s flag with 33 stars and a bust of Lincoln in the centre. There are images specific to an area, such as symbols connected to Indiana State University, the Indianapolis 500, and pickleball paddles representing a popular sport in the city.

Birds also feature in several of the designs, including a crow, a parrot, an owl, and the silhouettes of four birds on a branch entitled ‘Birds of a Feather’. Famous people such as Edgar Allan Poe and brightly-coloured images of a guitar, Indy cars and various other subjects are included in the portfolio, which currently numbers more than 30 pieces.

The exhibition at Clabber Girl Community Art Gallery will run until 30 September. There is also a smaller exhibition of these decorated heat treated wooden pallets at Nashville’s B3 Bussert Gallery, which will run until 10 October. Anyone interested in Fears’ work can find out more about it on his website.

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