The 18-foot-tall sculpture called "Malin's Fountain" was installed by Thomas Dambo in Pease Park in Austin earlier this year. Courtesy of Peace Park Conservancy.

June 20, 2024

Trolls are typically creatures to steer clear of — whether in fairy tales or on social media. 

But an eco-friendly troll now making her home in an Austin park conjures up a different kind of trash talk.

Malin’s Fountain is the name of the 18-foot tall sculpture installed in Pease Park with the help of local volunteers in March.

Her creator is Danish artist Thomas Dambo, known for his whimsical, nature-themed art made of discarded and repurposed materials.

Dambo was commissioned to design and build the installation by the Pease Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that supports Austin’s first public park.

poem by Thomas Dambo is etched into a stone. Courtesy of Pease Park Conservancy.

Dambo, a self-described "garbage artist," builds sculptures using materials that would otherwise go into the landfill. 

The son of a bicycle smith and a grade school teacher, Dambo said he learned at a young age the importance of recycling. As a child, he collected scrap material and made toys to play with.

Now 45, he has built trolls on five continents. The Austin troll — his 129th —  is his first in Texas.

Dambo said the state's high temperatures influenced the piece. 

Last year, he visited Austin to scout the location during one of the hottest summers on record. The drought inspired him to make water one of the central themes of the design.

In Malin’s Fountain, the female troll holds a water basin. The bowl is not connected to a water source but can be filled by park visitors. Dambo wanted to remind people of their role in helping animals as humans take over more of the planet.

“I’m thinking everybody has a water bottle that they’re jogging or running with,” he told KUT News. “I was thinking this could be like a fountain but it only has water in it if you share the water with the animals.”

Visitors check out Oscar the Bird King, a Thomas Dambo troll in Washington state. Courtesy of Thomas Dambo.

TRASH TO TREASURE

More than 80 percent of the wood for the sculpture is made from recycled, repurposed or found materials.

According to the Pease Park Conservatory, for safety and longevity, the core of the sculpture was made from untreated lumber — eastern red cedar from the family-owned Wampler sawmill in Bastrop County.

However, the exterior cladding of the troll is made from repurposed, sourced wood from Harvest Lumber, a sawmill dedicated to giving new life to Austin’s fallen trees. The boards were salvaged from an old wooden water tank that resided at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The research test tank was constructed in 1976 and dismantled in 2022.

The trolls head and feet were pre-made in Denmark from repurposed materials. The hair for the troll is from Ashe juniper trees and roots collected locally.

Around her neck, the lady troll sports a "junk necklace" made from found and donated materials from Austinites. Dambo crafted the piece with the help of an Austin jewelry maker. (See video below.)

Giant junk necklace in Austin - Trash Talk #11

Watch this video about the making of Malin's necklace with found and donated materials. Courtesy of Pease Park Conservancy.

Dambo hopes people who encounter his trolls will take away a more eco-friendly way of looking at the world.

“I think after seeing my sculptures, people return home with this valuable lesson,” said Dambo. “That something that’s made of something old, can be just as good as something made of something that’s new.”

“We’ve all grown up in this society that’s has taught that trash is dirty, disgusting and dangerous," said Dambo. "But if we want to save our world from drowning in trash, we have to put this upside down. We have to start valuing our trash and praising the people who work with trash as heroes.”

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