Rain leaves no rust on Recycled Arts Festival

Annual event draws 12,000 people despite soggy Saturday

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



Did you know ?

The festival was sponsored by Clark County Environmental Services with support from Waste Connections, Columbia Resource Company, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Columbia Credit Union.

For information on vendors at the fair, visit Recycled Arts Festival.

Freya, the smoke-belching metal dragon complete with scaly tail, was a star of the weekend's showcase of trash turned into treasures.

And Freya had so much company, as some 130 artists showed where their imaginations led them after mining junkyards.

Despite Saturday's explosion of precipitation, the two-day seventh annual Recycled Arts Festival in Vancouver's Esther Short Park attracted an estimated 12,000 people, said Sally Fisher of Clark County's Environmental Services Department.

Freya comes from a family of metal dragons, said artist Tamara Fountain of Cheshire (near Junction City), Ore., who works full- time with her son, Luke.

Many of the creatures -- they all are girls -- are much bigger and breathe fire, Tamara said. There are about 18 of them in the Northwest and California. she said.

Freya was for sale for $5,300. No takers yet. She is 9 feet tall, has an 8-foot wingspan and is 7 feet long. The piece won the People's Choice award, gathering more than 1,300 votes at the festival.

Where does all that metal come from?

"I have a scrap yard," Tamara said, laughing. "Twenty-plus years of collecting cool stuff that has a nice radius."

Vancouver's Bob Alexander stood by Freya as his wife, Leslie, snapped a photo. He called the festival "awesome."

Leslie Alexander said she found herself looking at pieces and wondering, "Where did that come from?"

The park was jammed at 2:30 Sunday afternoon as the Pagan Jug Band of Portland launched into "16 Tons," the Tennessee Ernie Ford smash-hit from 1955. It seemed appropriate, as most of the art and crafts were old-timey.

In their booth, the Scrapblasters of Seattle were touting sound systems made mostly of reclaimed Hoover vacuum cleaners.

John Brink showed off the replica Space Needle, which stands 61/2 feet tall. The structure is made of electrical conduit and pvc pipe. The circular top with speakers is a 1972 Hoover Celebrity 2 vacuum cleaner and the base "is a table from an estate sale."

Twenty to 30 products are used in most stereos, said Cory Lobdell. "We're just Frankensteining them together," he told customers at the booth.

The Scrapblasters finds speakers in excellent condition, Brink said, including those by Harman Kardon and Altec Lansing.

The Space Needle at $1,000 a bit too much for you?

You could buy the turquoise Hoover Constellation for $600. The men also use luggage and even a doctor's bag to create sound systems.

Vendors reported good sales, and Caroline Ketman and Mel Erickson found what they were looking for at Kimberli Matin's booth.

"She's a woman of power," Caroline said, as she admired her 5-foot metal sculpture, priced at $140. "I'm very excited. I spotted it first thing. Of course, you've got to look at all the things, check everybody out."

She said she the sculpture will get a prized spot in her flower garden. The couple live on 5 acres in Amboy with eight llamas.

Many of Matin's pieces use gas tanks for the heads and bodies of her creations. She is a welder who teaches the skill in Portland. Her work includes images of cats and fish and odd-looking little people she calls "wonkies."

Explaining her pieces, she said, "This is an old bedspring. This is a wire grinding wheel. These are lug nuts. The hearts are made of recycled shelving material."

She's been at it for 20 years and says she is a regular at local scrap yards. She's an author, too, with the book "Ready, Set, Weld!"

Did the rain hurt sales?

"We were soaked (Saturday). We were floating away over here but people were buying like crazy," she said. She reported at least 25 sales.

Clark County's Fisher, a sustainability specialist, said she was overwhelmed at the popularity of the festival. And she said the free fair will return in 2013, the last full weekend in June.