All images used with the permission of the respective photographers
‘Never stare into the eyes of the beast’ was surely the mantra of dragon slayers of bygone ages. Wise words, but maybe more difficult in practice! These fearsome creatures have a way of casting a spell that enchants anyone crossing their path. And looking at these recycled beasts, we don't really mind.
Regardless of whether they are made of wood, metal or plastic, dragons resurrected from the trash are a fascinating sight, especially when seen blending into the beautiful landscape surrounding them. Some of them can even change color or breathe fire, making them a true spectacle to behold! Follow us (carefully!) as we take a closer look at 12 recycled and repurposed dragons.
12. Gon KiRin
Gon KiRin is the name of this dragon spotted at last year’s Maker Faire in Detroit, a place where dragons are known to congregate! What's really special about Gon KiRin is its prehistoric-looking skull made out of metal scraps. The fore and hind legs are made out of old rubber tires. Though ferocious-looking, Gon KiRin is not averse to riders: the dragon even provides comfy sofas for this purpose, not to mention speakers that promise lots of loud party fun.
According to creators Ryan C. Doyle and Teddy Lo, this is what Gon KiRin promises: “Sixty four feet x 26 feet of fire-breathing, superbright, couch-covered boom boom steel hydraulic goodness, coming to a city near your mother's...“ Yup, apart from Maker Faire, Gon KiRin has been to Burning Man, the Robot Heart-O-Ween event in Brooklyn and many others. It has even been known to breath fire!
But that’s not all. Gon KiRin is also covered from head to toe in LEDs, making it one awesome sight at night. Here, we can see it in purple at Burning Man 2010. And for those dark desert nights in Black Rock City, Gon KiRin’s changing sequence of colors is perfect. The dragon can also display blue, green, red and even multi-colored lights. A fire-breathing, light-up dragon providing ample entertainment – what's not to love?
11. Red Dragon Car
Can a dragon be ferocious and cute at the same time? Apparently so! Though fierce-looking, the overall impression of this dragon art car, spotted at last year’s Burning Man (where the theme was “Rites of Passage”) is a rather charming one. The red dragon has golden lights, also cleverly used for its eyes, and its home-made look is quite endearing. Whether its wings were once mosquito nets, tennis nets or maybe even used to catch fish, they're certainly put to a good use here.
10. Dragon Train
The annual Burning Man event, held the week before Labor Day in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, is definitely somewhere you’ll surely run into a dragon or two. Maybe they feel more at home in the hot desert and enjoy having some extra space to spread their wings? Appropriately, given that we're talking about recycled dragons, Burning Man is also all about sustainability. Black Rock City, home to the event's 50,000 visitors, is rebuilt each year before disappearing when the festivities are over. Everything that is brought in is meticulously taken out. This motorized dragon train sure did justice to the theme of 2003's Burning Man – “Beyond Belief”. It definitely impresses us beyond belief!
Made up of four separate vehicles and a tail, this behemoth blends well with the desert landscape and was also useful for getting around Black Rock City. According to photographer Scott Hess, this unique vehicle or 'art car' was even caught speeding later in the event (but given that the speed limit is 5 mph (8 km/h), that’s not so hard to do). As this close-up headshot shows, the recycling’s also impressive beyond belief, with various metal parts and other odds and ends thrown in. A clear winner!
9. Prayer Dragon
One of the favorites in the office, this dragon's shiny scales keep it looking cool even in a desert storm. With its dangling trash can, it also urges festival-goers to dispose of garbage in the proper way. Dragons are usually depicted as resembling serpents or lizards, with two or four reptilian legs, claws and a pair of gigantic wings on their backs. They can be good or bad and may or may not breathe fire. This serpent-like dragon with prayer wheels instead of wings seems inspired by Eastern dragon mythology.
The dragon was created by Ryan Mathern for Burning Man 2009, whose theme was “Evolution: a Tangled Bank”. Though the dragon seems to have been put together from odds and ends you may have lying around the garage (are those spade blades for scales?), it all comes together beautifully to form one perfect mythical beast. Inspiring indeed! Next time you’ve got some metal parts, mesh and old cans, you might be tempted to build your own...
8. Driftwood Dragon
This driftwood dragon is the creation of artist and lawyer Osha Neumann and his son-in-law Jason DeAntonis. The duo uses only found materials for their sculptures – like driftwood, metal, and whatever else washes ashore at the Albany Bulb, a peninsula of the same shape in San Francisco Bay that used to be a landfill. Against a clear blue sky, the dragon majestically reclines upon its resting place, looking through a wary eye that may have once been a crate handle. Its wings, body and long tail may once have graced mighty sea vessels, but the secrets of their past lives are now safe in the dragon’s belly.
7. Steel Dragon
It is hard to believe that this wonderful, rusty beast was once nothing more than a pile of abandoned hot water tanks. Yes, that’s right, Detroit-based artist Keith Coleman made this dragon completely out of recycled materials. Each piece was hand-cut with an oxygen and acetylene torch and then shaped by hand. A humongous task, given that there are about 3,000 components!
The dragon was Coleman’s entry for ArtPrize 2010. It was exhibited at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Taylor, Michigan, and became quite a favorite with visitors. The dragon even took some of them under its wings, as we can see in this shot of the magnificent beast’s back. Don’t miss the attention to detail that Coleman put into his creation: just look at that excellent line of dorsal spines! But that isn’t all. To the public’s delight, it would even breathe fire on certain days. Recycling at its best!
6. Dragon Plastique
The French have a reputation for making things fashionable and stylish, and this even extends to a dragon made entirely out of old plastic bags and aluminum cans. Carefully crafted from balls that make up the scales, this dragon glints in the sun as if built from much more precious materials. Should you be in Paris, make sure to check out the sculpture – it guards the Jardin des Plantes in the 6th arrondissement. Just don't get too close to those claws!
5. Playa Dragon
This dragon was found keeping watch at the Playa, the dry lake bed where the Burning Man festival has been held since 1990. In 2006, when this picture was taken, the theme was “Hope and Fear: the Future”. Made of rust-colored metal parts of various sizes, the dragon’s slender body is supported by two wings that keep it afloat, umbrella-like. We don’t know why but the tail’s end somehow reminds us of a bicycle’s chain rings, perhaps inviting anyone daring enough to go for a ride. Looking at the dragon’s fierce gaze and sharp teeth, we wouldn’t even dream of it...
4. Hazina Dragon
Other than being a stunning creation, what's special about this dragon is that it was made out of 100% recycled materials, all found either on the side of the road or at the junkyard. Bradford-based artist Ptolemy Elrington is particular about not wasting anything, and hopes to inspire others to think along the same lines.
He says: “[My sculptures] try to say things about our wasteful society and about our prejudices towards value. Hopefully they will encourage people to reconsider before they discard something which apparently has no purpose.”
This impressive dragon fledgling here, called the Hazina Dragon, certainly seems to support the artist's claims.
3. Scrap Metal Dragon
This fierce-looking scrap metal dragon has a particularly interesting history. It started by accident and then turned into a two-year project that would change creator Jan Steutelings’ life. He recalls: “It all started when I was cleaning out the basement, there was a lot of junk there. I sorted it all out, plastics, metal, wood, etc. so it could be recycled again.”
Fascinated by dragons, Jan was soon inspired to make a dragon head. Once that was done, most of the junk was gone, but the dragon still needed a body. So Jan started asking friends and acquaintances for any metal junk they had spare. Soon, he had collected more than enough to finish the body, including the impressive wings.
Though it looks like the dragon is made from homogeneous pieces of scrap metal,like pipe bends and nails, the truth is far from it. Jan collected anything from old shovels, car parts and even an old gas tank. He sums up the development: “What started out as a quirky idea became a two-year-project. [Now] I try to think what I can do with junk or 'garbage' before I decide to throw it away, to give it another use or recycle it. So my motto is 'think before you toss'; there's garbage enough in this world, there's always place for more beauty.” We couldn’t agree more!
2. Harlech Dragon
This ferocious dragon was snapped guarding the castle in scenic Harlech in North Wales, UK. The beast even has a name – Dewi, Welsh for David, which somehow makes it seem a bit less menacing.
Nevertheless, “Dewi” weighs a mean 1,542 kg and was made from about 2,500 steel scales of different sizes to make it as life-like as possible. It took metal artist Anthony Peacock and his assistant Ashley Bissell 732 hours to make the sculpture, diligently welding the scales onto a solid bar frame. The scales were then polished and made to shine with various coats of lacquer.
The 16ft long, 11ft high and 10ft wide sculpture is an “exact imitation of a Welsh dragon” and was commissioned by caravan dealership Salop Leisure to increase tourism in Mid Wales. After a brief stint in Shrewsbury, Dewi now guards the entrance to Min-y-Don Holiday Home and Touring Park at the foot of Harlech Castle, a World Heritage Site. Stories that Dewi comes alive and happily breathes a bit of fire around the castle at night are, of course, purely fictitious. Or so we're told.
1. Hub Cap Dragon
This Festival Dragon is part of a zoo of hub cap creatures – various fish, wolves, owls and more – created by British artist Ptolemy Eldrige, who you may remember as the artist behind the Hazina Dragon. Eldrige chooses not to remove the material’s ‘scars’ – the scratches, dents and abrasions that bear testimony to their former life. He says: “I believe these marks add texture and history to the creatures they decorate.”
This 10m-beast was a commission for the event management company Positive Productions, who specialize in street music and lay on a show – Dragon Heart Beats – featuring this creature in all its glory. Made out of approximately 200 old hub caps, it now comes with an integrated drum set and can be frequently seen on the streets of Britain – where it certainly adds to public merriment!
By now – seven years after his first hubcap sculpture – Elrington is fond of hub caps of luxury cars like BMW or Mercedes, principally because they are more flexible and rarely ever snap. Still, he can’t believe they (and other examples of his treasures) are worthless to so many people. He says: “I come across many things which have been abandoned and find something more in them than their intrinsic worthlessness. Hubcaps, for instance. Aesthetic in purpose but ultimately of very little use. They’re automatically rubbish when on the side of the road, but with a little effort and imagination I transform them into something which gives people a great deal more pleasure.” We can certainly vouch for that.
Bonus: New Chinese Dragon
It is rare that one sees a dragon more impressive than the one shown here. It winds its way through the landscape in Chilliwack, British Columbia, a 35ft-long creation of metal sculptor Kevin Stone.
Stone worked on the stainless steel sculpture 7 days a week for almost two years, creating his “Imperial Water Dragon” that’s 12 ft high, 14 ft wide and weighing in at 6,000 lbs. Should the coiled beast ever decide to stretch out, it would be more than 85 ft long!
In Chinese mythology, dragons are closely linked with the weather, the seasons and the emperor. An imperial dragon – as opposed to a common one – has five claws and only the emperor was allowed to use the five-claw motif. Anyone else daring to display one could be punished by death.
If the Chinese dragon looks a little odd at times, it is because it is made of nine features taken from different animals. As creator Kevin Stone describes on his website: “The head of a camel, the eyes of a demon, the ears of a cow, the horns of a stag, the neck and body of a snake. Its claws that of an eagle, while the soles of his feet are that of a tiger, and the scales that cover its body are that of a carp.” An interesting creature indeed! And though this one may not be recycled, we simply had to include it.
Dragons are supposed to be mythological creatures, but we can't help wondering why they stubbornly keep coming back into our lives. In these 12 cases, we certainly don't mind. On the contrary, we're glad these creative artists resurrected them from scrap and junk that otherwise would have simply been taken to the dump.