Man and dog on a bench
Art,  Friendly Friday,  Just One Person,  People,  Washington State

Recycled Spirits of Iron (Ex Nihilo)

I do not form shapes, I collect shapes to create my forms.

Dan Klennert

Dan Klennert is on a one-man crusade against today’s throwaway society, creating beauty out of objects others have rejected as no longer of use. An artist, he works with junk metal and driftwood to create amazing and fantastical sculptures.

We visited his sculpture park, Ex Nihilo, in Washington State (near Mount Rainier National Park). It’s a treasure trove of amazing pieces. He calls his creations ‘Recycled Spirits of Iron’.

We spent quite some time walking around the two paddock areas where the sculptures stand, and also enjoyed meeting Dan and his dog Lola. He told us how his passion for recycling old metal objects into art began, when as a mechanic he was first taught the skill of welding. Needing to practice he picked up some bits of discarded iron and turned them into a sculpture. More – many more – followed.

As he says on his website:

My love is preserving older pieces of metal that contain some history and were made by the hands of man. I feel I’m giving new life to the tools and machines that made America what it is today.

Horse created from scrap iron etc
Horse created from scrap iron etc
Horse created from scrap iron etc
Scarecrow figure created from scrap iron etc
Sculpture created from scrap iron etc
Skeleton on motorbike created from scrap iron etc
Easy Rider?
Horse created from scrap wood
Sign on a tree calling for art and music in schools
Food for thought

In his own words

Here’s a longer extract from Dan’s website, explaining where this love of upcycling originated:

“I got started in this career when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I was living in Seattle, and I’d take my red wagon and search through neighborhood junk piles. I found great stuff that way and fell in love with ‘scrounging’, or as we now know it, recycling. In school, I went to class mostly for art on Friday. It was great! I just loved it.”

By age 22, Klennert was working as a mechanic and fell in love with old gears, worn out sprockets and various other bent metals. Nothing could suppress his creativity. “The shop foreman showed me how to glue two pieces of metal with a welder, so I practiced welding by creating forms of art out of junk,” Klennert says. “I found a way to put together the two things I loved, scrounging and art.”

Klennert gets his material for his sculptures from recycling bins, abandoned farms, junkyards and sometimes from fans. He refers to it as “rusty gold”. “I visualize my sculptures from the shapes of the rusty junk and go into a kind of creative, emotional trance when in my studio. I have been known to work two days straight and it felt as if only eight hours had gone by.”

Dan has realized a dream in the last few years at his four-acre sculpture park located 3 miles east of Elbe, Washington. About this dream come true, Klennert says, “It is a place where my metal offspring can run free and my creative spirit can hang out long after I’m gone.”

Dan is Just One Person from Around the World, following a passion and realising a dream.

EDIT 28 July 2021: I’m adding a link to Marsha’s Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays post about excitement and being exciting. Like me, she found Dan’s enthusiasm for what he creates very infectious.

EDIT 10 September 2021: I’m really getting my money’s worth out of this post as I’m adding a link to Sandy’s Friendly Friday challenge about art in found objects. I know no one who has perfected this better than Dan!

I visited Washington State, and Dan, in 2017


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