Garden Muse
by: Courtesy of Terry Powers, Terry Powers makes art out of recycled materials such as old truck parts. This wine press shows his creative imagination.

Every summer I make an annual pilgrimage to McMenamins Edgefield for the Cracked Pots Recycled Art Show. The lawns are filled with quirky pieces by artists with wild imaginations.

On Feb. 12-14, more than 20 Cracked Pots artists will participate in the Yard Garden and Patio Show ( at the Oregon Convention Center. Their display is sure to give the show a jolt of creative energy.

I quizzed two artists to learn how they got started, and how they turn discarded stuff into garden art.

From trucks to ornaments

Terry Powers originally worked on big trucks and trailers, repairing frames, axles and bodies. If he couldn't get a part, he had to invent it.

'That's what really helped me in my art, figuring out what to make out of pieces,' he said.

Powers' first piece of garden art was a little four-poster Victorian bed that he made for his wife Sue. It held a flat of pansies.

'It was a bed for bedding plants,' he said. After he sold a second bed, Sue suggested he take some work to the nearby farmer's market. Later, he participated in garden shows. Someone on the board of Cracked Pots spotted his work and invited him to join their show. This will be his fifth summer there.

'Getting involved in making art out of recycled materials has taken me into a new world. It's a win-win,' he said. 'Customers love that you made something and want to know what the little pieces were originally.'

Powers uses hubcaps as the centers of metal daisies and lilies, transforms an old sewing machine into a rabbit, makes an owl out of an old-fashioned electric heater. Old tools become windmills, dragonflies and butterflies.

Companies that want to go green save materials for him. Clients also save pieces and call him up to see what he's made. Anything goes.

'A fellow just drove up with an old VW that we're cutting up,' Powers said.

He also gets ideas from his two grandchildren - a plastic toy monkey inspired him to make a monkey of his own. Even their cartoons trigger new inventions. Powers is clearly having fun with his art.

'I just love it when somebody buys a piece and they're happy. The money is nice but the satisfaction of someone appreciating what you made and the smile on their face are more important,' he said.

Powers never dreamed that he would turn the big metal shop designed to work on trucks and trailers into an art studio.

'If somebody would have told me 20 years ago I'd be doing art in 2010, I'd have said 'You're crazy.' It kind of fell out of the sky,' he said. 'I've been blessed.'

Powers also owns , a nursery specializing in Japanese maples and maples and dogwoods.

Plant tags and bee houses

Mixed media recycle artist Brenda Lee Calvert makes garden art out of plastics, wood, metal and glass. She grew up on a ranch where recycling was part of everyday life. A science major and a veterinary technician, she always made art on the side.

In the early 1990s, she took her garden tags to the Vancouver Farmers Market, where they were a big hit. Made of recycled clay and scrap copper wire, you can either hang them or stick them in the ground. Calvert buys mismatched and dried-out clay at rock-bottom prices and patiently reconstitutes it.

She also loves to recycle old windows from buildings being torn down, replacing the original panes with colorful fused glass mixed with copper wire.

'You can hang them as sun catchers,' she says.

Her home orchard inspired her to build mason bee houses out of recycled wood (not pressure treated), with scrap metal pieces for the roofs.

'Mason bees are very efficient; they're our native bees,' she says. 'They pollinate fruit trees - each male can pollinate 60,000 blossoms.'

Calvert recommends placing the houses to face east or southeast. In spring and summer, bees refill the holes with eggs and mud them up. In autumn, it's best to move them to an unheated garage, or anywhere the houses won't get soaked by rain. Mature bees will hatch next year.

Calvert will share a show booth with reclaimed steel artists Mark and Tamara Fountain, who make huge fire-breathing dragons.

'We collaborate; I do the eyeballs for her dragons, so we'll meld our booths together,' she said.

I can hardly wait!

Coming events

• OSU Extension Washington County Master Gardeners and the Tualatin Valley Garden Club offer a Free Pruning Demonstration with hands-on training - learn to prune fruit trees, grapes, blueberries, rhododendrons and other ornamentals. 9 a.m. to noon, Feb. 13, 3850 Minter Bridge Road, Hillsboro. For more information, cal 503-821-1150.

• OSU Extension Washington County Master Gardeners offer a Rose Pruning Demonstration and Workshop, 10 a.m. to noon, Feb. 20, 18640 NW Walker Road, Beaverton, Landscape Garden at the Capital Center, Side Entrance D-1, free admission, open to the public. Please bring pruning tools for hands-on participation. For more information, call 503-821-1150.

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