Denver artist Amanda L. Willshire makes the drunkest art with beer bottle caps
Denver artist Amanda L. Willshire has a unique recycling method that will surely impress any Colorado lush. We spoke with her about the unique and yeasty choice of medium in the hopes she'd get us drunk on all the beer she had to take out of those cans ...
Name: Amanda L. WIllshire
Nickname? Red, Mandy, Hot Pants, Mands, Muffin, Trout Dog, Han Solo
Hometown: Denver, CO by way of Little Rock , AR.
Favorite beer(s): Depending on the setting/mood/weather/food… Two Hearted Ale, Polestar Pilsner, Pliny the Elder, Backwoods Bastard, Trappistes Rochefort 10 and TPS Report. Heady Topper is delicious just super hard to get. And for stouts… Ten FIDY, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti and Uncle Jacob’s Stout.
Dogs or cats? Mr. Cooper & The Fluffinator (Goldens)
What made you want to work with metal specifically?
Several years ago I created traditional mosaics using tile. I’ve always loved beer and after saving caps for a bit I created typical mosaic-style bottle cap tables you see around. Then about seven years ago I was introduced to the amazing works of Tony Berlant who creates large-scale, surreal “paintings” using cut-up holiday tins. This inspired me to see what I could do with a completely flat bottle cap. Experimentation with other metals and materials followed and is very important in my work.
Do you dabble in other mediums like paint or clay?
Painting and photography. I recreate a lot of my photos in bottle caps and metals.
In five words or less can you describe the type of art you do?
Mixed metals collage and sculpture.
Is there another career in your life, or are you an artist full-time?
My background is in graphic design and I have worked in web development for several years, but my art is where I focus my energy now.
Do you have to drink all of the beer to get the bottle caps, or do you have a system?
Ha! I wouldn’t be able to move if that were the case! Several bars and restaurants save caps for me. I provide a cap-collecting bucket to put behind the bar and my assistant empties them every two weeks. Friends from all over the world save them, too. I just returned from Boston with about 30 pounds of caps!
If we volunteer to drink beer to help you out a little, when can we start?
Immediately! Also, I need help sorting caps and host cap sorting parties ... I pay in beer!
How many times do you think you’ve cut yourself on sharp metal edges?
Only a few. Kevlar gloves are key — an important lesson learned after “landing in the trees” ... It was a bottle cap and metal rendering of a photo I’d taken in Banff of a beautiful, frozen Lake Louise with snow-covered mountains in the background. A horse-drawn carriage offered riders a serene journey around the frozen lake as ice skaters practiced twirls in the center. The trees in the art were sharply shaped bottle caps and in a tight fit. The gloves I had didn’t have the best grip so I removed one. As I was manuvering a tree into place, the old needle-nosed pliers slipped, sending my bare hand into the blade-like trees already in place. The ER staff was very curious about how I received such a series of cuts and I was happy to show them a photo of the piece and the trees that bit me. Seven stitches later, I’m gathering my things to leave and a hospital staff member walks in carrying a large box saying, “I hear you’re an artist ... we have this old plaster casting you are welcome to use in your work.” I took it although I’d never used it. I now use plaster casting in all of my sculptures. The piece involved in the incident became “Bloodletting in Banff.”
If you got the opportunity to hang one of your art pieces in a celebrity’s house, which celebrity would it be, which piece would it be, and why?
Oh, I’ve always loved quirky — and HOT — Johnny Depp. I would love to create a large piece featuring elements of all of the characters he’s played. Maybe call it “Jack of all Johnnys.” Okay … that is now on the board in the studio.
How do you think Colorado can be more supportive of the arts?
It feels like we are on the verge of something big here. Denver is such a young city and is changing fast. The influx of people from all over is bringing new ideas, new art, food, music. We all need to keep visiting our galleries, museums, festivals, and parks and take something home with you from these ... It doesn’t have to be material.
What’s some advice you’ve been given over the years that you’ll always remember?
Keep an open mind. Don’t take things so seriously.
What is some advice you’d like to give aspiring artists?
Keep an open mind. Don’t take things so seriously. And if you work in metals, use Kevlar gloves. And a face shield if you use a pneumatic nailer.
Where all can people find your pieces, either to look at or to purchase?
Denver Beer Company is hosting my art until mid-July after which I’ll have a show at Mockery Brewing. Sutty’s Downtown Records and Gallery in Salida also has works for sale. I’ve created some fun commissions for some fine Denver establishments including Highland Tap & Burger, Highland Tavern, Hops and Pie, Old Major, Star Bar, Great Divide Brewing Company, Fire on the Mountain, Bogey’s Beer and Wine, U Lucky Dog, Upslope Brewing Company, Left Hand Brewing Company and Epic Brewing Company. Bartolo - a life-sized burro made of metal, caps and vintage cans - resides in Boston’s South Station. And I just completed a 12-foot, can-eating man for Oskar Blues. His name is Crush and he was at Burning Can here and will make an appearance at Oskar Blues in Brevard, NC in July. Oh! And I’m currently working on a fun project coming to 16th Street Mall in July!