BY MICHAEL SHAPIRO
From discarded water dispensers to rusty wheelbarrows,
sculptor Patrick Amiot can turn anything into fabulous art.
Patrick Amiot’s urban folk art, as he calls it, an apple cannery, went out of business, Amiot was
has transformed his entire neighborhood. In given 45,000 #8 size lids, each about the size of
2001, Amiot was a struggling ceramic a small dinner plate. Hundreds of these lids make
artist in Sebastopol, Calif. Depressed about his flag- up the owl’s body in the Owl and the Pussycat,
ging career, he decided to try something different. a whimsical piece that also includes recycled
Gathering some old vacuum cleaners lying steel and old car parts. The canoe that the owl and
around his house, a used barbecue, and a wheel- pussycat ride in was a decaying boat rescued from
barrow, he fashioned these items into a gigantic the nearby Russian River.
fisherman, finishing it off with loud vibrant paint. When asked how he makes his art, Amiot is
He then displayed his quirky creation in his front virtually speechless. It’s not that he’s secretive —
yard. “I thought the city would come down on me, it’s just not something he can easily explain.
but people came out of the woodwork and told me Pressed about his technique, Amiot waxes phil-
how much they loved it.” osophical: “Making sculpture from raw materials
Feeling inspired, he next created his version of the can be expensive, complicated, and time-consum-
Statue of Liberty, made with junk, including a blend- ing. Just slapping it together is simpler and more
er, car parts, a garbage can, and his wife’s yellow efficient. You have to content yourself with what’s
nylons. He put it on display on Sept. 10, 2001. “The around. If I lived in the middle of the desert, I’d make
next day, after the terrorist attacks, I put a sign on sand sculptures.”
it reading, ‘In memory of all the innocent people The secret to putting all these pieces together is
who died on Sept. 11, 2001.’” self-tapping screws and a welder. “It’s simple to
Next, Amiot built a fireman using a vintage San weld,” he says. Lastly, he affixes everything to the
Francisco garbage can for the body, antique car base with the self-tapping screws.
horns for ears, and water dispensers for both the Part of Amiot’s appeal is that he doesn’t try to
head and helmet. He offered it to the fireman living make his art “perfect.” The beauty is in its imper-
across the street, who happily accepted. Then fection, its uniqueness, its earthy irregularity.
almost everyone on the street wanted a piece. “Some guys can’t help but be anal, but I let the view-
Amiot now has 25 brightly painted, larger-than- ers use their imagination,” he says. “I look back
life art pieces that grace at least half of the houses to when I was grinding metal or chiseling stone
on Florence Street, where he lives. The street is as — all this fighting to control an element. Now I let
surreal as an outdoor funhouse. the elements control me.”×
Almost everything in Amiot’s wildly creative
sculptures is recycled, salvaged, or donated, and MAKE contributor Michael Shapiro was an editor for
O’Reilly’s Global Network Navigator in 1994-95, and is the
much of it has a strong connection to the local author of the award-winning A Sense of Place: Great Travel
community. When Sebastopol’s Barlow Company, Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration.