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Featuring You: Meet Artist Thomas Dambo and his Giant Trolls

Why did you decide to make trolls specifically?

That's a long story. I decided to make them because I felt I wanted to create a big art installation that could bring a lot of people together and talk about stories of protecting nature and the forests. At that time, I had been making birdhouses, street art, and birdhouse sculptures in big workshops. I must have made maybe 7,000 to 8,000 birdhouses by now, and I'm still making them. But then I felt like I wanted to do a project where the sculptures were larger than just a small birdhouse. I wanted to create something made from broken pallets and pieces of wood. I set out to find the shape of a sculpture that I could create using a simple hammer and a saw—tools that most people know how to use safely. In my earlier career as an artist, I had seen these tools all over the world, and I realized that I could find broken pallets and wood everywhere. I also learned that people wanted to help me make my artwork. I thought it would be cool to make something that hides in the forest. Since I come from Denmark where trolls are a big part of folklore, it made sense to make a troll. However, I didn't just start building a troll. The first thing I built was a tree made of broken trees, but it had the same aesthetic as the trolls. I also made a couple of animals: a wolf, a snake, a shark, a kangaroo, a spider, and different types of things. But then it was easy for me to build something in the shape of my own body, like a giant troll.

And why did you choose to do Trolls which are giants?

In Denmark, trolls are normally really small, but I thought I wanted to do something very big. Since I come from the street art scene, I wanted to make something that I could hide. Graffiti and street art are something you hide, and then people go to find them. There is a funny contradiction in doing something that you hide and that is really big. You say, "Find the needle in the haystack," but it's funnier to search for an elephant in the haystack. When I started, I wasn't a very talented or trained classical sculptor who could sculpt anything. So, it became clear to me that it was easy for me to create fantasy creatures where I decide how they look. In other words, they would look correct anyway because they were supposed to look the way I wanted them to. Lastly, having the trolls as the protectors of nature gives a beautiful symbolic idea that the trolls live inside the forest and are made of the waste that humans have created by cutting down forests to make pallets.

How do you name them?

I typically name them as a combination of the story that I am telling and then a Nordic name because I come from Denmark. Often, I use a name from someone I know, maybe someone who works with me, or that I have met in my life.

And what is the creation process?

First, I go to a location, visit it, and explore the forest or the chosen area. I observe if there are specific trees, animals, a lake, a big stone, or an electrical fence—anything in the area that I can incorporate into my story. Then, I imagine myself as a 20-foot troll and consider how I would interact with that environment if I were super big. I have become pretty good at it. Next, I take a photo of myself replicating the position of the trolls. After that, I return to my studio, where I build the head and the feet. We then bring it out to the location, and together with local communities, volunteers, or maybe a school, and my team, we build the sculptures. Normally, it takes 200 pallets. I try to find someone among the volunteers who knows somebody who has recently cut down some trees or bushes for the branches or the hair. Over the course of the next two weeks, I build the sculpture. I always try not to have a big opening party, even if partners or clients want to, when we finish it because I want to keep the Trolls a little bit more secret. And I don't like the idea of 200 people coming to the forest, standing on top of each other, being in the way of each other's photos and good experience. I prefer just to tell people, "It's finished; you can go to find it," so that people can slowly come to discover it.

Where do you come from, and where do you live today?

I was born in Odense, Denmark, and now I live in Roskilde in the greater Copenhagen area, where I have a big farm. Now, 25 people work with me. I live there with my wife and my two children. The place is 55 acres, a big farm. Before, I was in Copenhagen, in a 1000 square meters big hangar, but over time it got a little bit small, and then we were kicked out because they had to build a highway, so we moved to this farm with the whole operation and everybody. Now, my goal is to renovate the farm. We are trying to plant a forest, install a big solar system, a big water collection system. We are trying to become CO2 neutral. We have a plan that I hope we can realize over the next 3 years or something.

Tell us about your childhood.

As a child, my teacher told me that I was one of those children who didn't have a good time in classes because I couldn't sit still. I thrived the most in between classes, during breaks, vacations, or school trips. So, my mother took me out of the public primary school, and then I joined a little school in the countryside where every grade had a toolbox and a little place in a forest behind the school. We had a lot of old wood, and we could build a little castle up there, so each grade had its little playhouse. My grade's playhouse was, of course, one of the biggest because I spent a lot of time up there building things and playing. It had a very big impact on my life: I learned that I can create things with my own hands when I was around 9 years old. That's what I still do now, where I have my little world and my little forest in the countryside.

Where does your inspiration come from?

It's a hard question because I´m not the type of artist that goes to exhibitions. Mainly, I am inspired, I think, by a material or a need, and then I try to solve a problem. So, when I'm asked to make a sculpture somewhere, I listen to what people say. People may be saying, "In our area, we have a big problem with an invasive species of strawberry; we always have forest fires." So, I come into that area, and I see that there is a beautiful lake, I see that all the pallets there are red. I try to take those different elements and put them together as my solution to what that sculpture can be.

Other types of art you have created or are interested in?

First, I was a graffiti painter. I painted trains, I painted houses, I made a tag at the police station. I was trying to be a bad boy graffiti painter, but I wasn't really good at it (laughs, e.d.). Then I started to get into street art and I created a bunch of posters, stickers, and stencils. That's what led me to create the birdhouses: I understood that if I made a type of art in the public space without spraying or drawing on other people's properties, they wouldn't get mad at me. If I make birdhouses - my grandmother and my father always had a big love for birds - and I hang them on other people's property, and they think of it as a gift to them rather than me coming and painting their walls, they wouldn't get mad at me. It's kind of a design approach to my art: I try to identify a problem that I attempt to solve.

Your background plays a role in what you do know?

I have been inspired by street art and graffiti, but also by necessities. I think I'm still mainly interested in street art. I see myself in many ways as coming from hip-hop culture. For ten years, I made 10 hip-hop albums and played 300 concerts as a rapper. Before that, I also performed as a human beatboxer. I had been a graphic designer for some time, working a lot with social media. The necessity to promote my rap music led me to do the graphics for my videos, social media, and CD covers. All these things throughout my life led to the next. Now I am writing stories and books, building sculptures, and making videos of that. All the things that I have done in my life are merged into what it is now.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens have several trolls. Please tell us about them. Is this your largest collection of trolls?

No, the highest amount of sculptures in one location is in Belgium, where there are 7. It is one of the biggest. In Maine, there was a wish from the Garden for the Troll to be about trees, which is why I named the exhibition Guardians of the Seeds. Each Troll is made from different types of recycled wood: pallets, willow broomsticks, old floorboards, and so on. Each Troll represents a different part of the tree: roots, trunk, branches, leaves. The idea is for people to find each of these five trolls around the forest, and after having found them, they answer a question from each one, and then they will find the ten seeds, hidden deep in the forest behind the botanical garden. From which the name of the exhibition.

You have recently written a book and been featured in a book. Tell us more.

The book Blueberry and Jam - Adventures in Maine features Roskva, one of the Guardians of the Seeds from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It is an honor to

collaborate with bestselling author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino on this book, which can be found at

My new book is called Trash, Trolls, and Treasure Hunts. It is the story of my first 100 trolls. The book can be purchased on my website here:

Thank you for being here with us Thomas! All of us at The Best Ever You Network wish you much continued success.

Editor's note: Arist Thomas Dambo was recently on the cover of Best Ever You Magazine and a version of this article was also printed in the magazine.

1 commentaire

the artwork by artist Thomas Dambo and his trolls is amazing. I was very surprised with his talent. flappy bird

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