Not only in its craftsmanship did Andy Hamilton’s 3-foot piece at the Hillsborough County Fair’s Recycled Art Show speak for itself, but also in its title: “Junkyard Dog,” a creative and masterful design with materials that otherwise would be labeled trash.
That Hamilton’s piece earned the People’s Choice Award didn’t surprise Verna and Bob Dickey. On the final day of the 2013 Hillsborough County Fair, the pair manned the booth that displayed the work on behalf of the Hillsborough County Extension Service in partnership with the University of Florida.
Made with such things as golf-club heads, tanks, tire irons and springs, the piece also included gauges for eyes, wrenches for the mouth-clasped bone and a hanging chain — which, one might surmise, is how the dog escaped the junkyard to flash into the fairgoer’s imagination.
“I like the ingenuity of people coming up with all of this stuff,” said Verna Dickey, whose husband, Bob, earned the People’s Choice Award at two prior recycled art shows at the Hillsborough County Fair. “I love how you can take what you would normally throw away and make unique and artistic things out of them.”
Also earning a prize this year, in the Middle School Group Category, was the recycled “leaky aquarium,” presented by Susan Ferrell on behalf of students at Dowdell Middle Magnet School in Tampa. “Fish Tank” features, among other things, water bottles made into colorful fish, packing peanuts as aquarium gravel, bubble wrap for the aquarium’s background and Easter eggs used to make famous scuba divers.
Additional ribbons went to Jack Lynn of Plant City for his “Cock-a-doodle-doo Metal Rooster,” in the Adult or Post- High-School Individual Category, and to Blyss Bolger, a student at Winthrop Charter Middle School, for his “Can Flowers” entry, in the Middle School Individual Category.
Other pieces at the fair included Myrtle Cail (mosaic watering can and stand), Sheri Ray (country pumpkin basket and porch decoration), Kathy Hatten (stacked plates), Nicholas Fernandez (potted “flowers” made out of soda cans) and Ethan Fernandez (“Gru’s Minion” yellow rain barrel). Hamilton also presented a “Flying Pig Helicopter.”
“The creativity of these individuals was spot-on,” said Julia Palaschak, the water-use program coordinator at the Hillsborough County Extension Service in Seffner. “The scale was perfect, the materials used were perfect.”
Show organizer Lynn Barber, who works with the extension service’s Florida Friendly Landscaping Program, said she is a “big supporter” of the annual recycled art contest. “Every year I try to buy a piece from an artist and it decorates my house or my landscape,” she said. “When you see something that makes you smile, you should buy it and look at it every day.”
To that end, she added, “People are reusing common things that they have in their garage or in their house and they’re re-creating it into a piece of art that is fun, funky and fanciful.”
Hamilton said he crafted his pieces through his garage-based company, Twisted Mind Rusty Metal. “I used to build hot rods and dune buggies but it got too expensive,” he said. “So I sold everything and bought a welder and a cutter.”
He wasn’t too surprised his “Junkyard Dog” took home the People’s Choice Award.
“That’s probably about the fifteenth dog I’ve made; they’ve been real popular,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a good piece to make and everybody seems to like them.”
Count among his satisfied customers Curtis Rogers, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon, who flew small planes and helicopters for the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. At the fair on its last day, Oct. 20, Rogers said he bought the “Flying Pig Helicopter.”
“What do I like about it? It’s Hog News 13,” Rogers said, noting the inscription on the piece. “I’m a former helicopter pilot and I’m an old soldier. It’s very realistic.” The body, he added, “looks like an old butane bottle.”
Hamilton said the piece contains, among other things, a recycled Freon tank, “a screw-in anchor used to keep a dog on its leash,” a “front bicycle hub used for bearings to spring the propellers” and “golf-club heads for its feet and Chevy rocker arms for its ears.”