Master Upcycler Series: Douglas Walker

This is part of an ongoing series, we are doing to feature all the amazing Master Upcyclers out there. Have someone we should consider writing about, then please Email Us! Follow the Master Upcycler Series here. Whimsical, eclectic, and humorous, award winning Canadian artist Douglas Walker blends and forms ordinary objects into finely crafted garden sculptures. Douglas crafts unique water features and kinetic garden art sculptures using, among other things, discarded musical instruments, recycled copper, silver, brass and glass collectables. WaterWorks Garden Sculptures can be found in collections throughout Canada, United States, Europe and Australia. Douglas says that his designs are whimsical and eclectic, and although he is a very serious artist, his vision always leans toward the humorous. We recently learned more about Douglas and his upcycling inspiration, here is what he had to say.

What inspires you to upcycle?

I am inspired by the beauty I see in things that I find. Most of them are normal everyday things, but to me they are treasured art supplies.       

How long have you been using upcycled materials in your art?

I’ve used upcycled materials for a very long time, but just twelve years ago I began to use them as my art supplies.

Do you remember your first upcycled art project?

I recall the first fountain that I made from upcycled copper. It was twelve years ago. I found a coil at a garage sale made from half inch copper pipe that had a wonderful patina on it. The coil was likely used as a water heater in a wood stove. I poked some holes in it, attached a pump and presto; a water feature appeared in my pond!  By the way, the pond was actually a rubber container made from upcycled tires.       

What materials do you prefer?

I love to use copper, brass, silver and glass. There are all easy to solder together…excluding the glass. I use steel and iron for sculpture mounts.

Where do you source your materials?

I source at many different places but I like thrift stores the best. Many of them support social programs so the money I pay for materials get upcycled as well.  I also like buying used instruments from schools, who in turn use the money to buy new (working) instruments for their band programs.  I have received a lot of support from the local schools that way, and have occasionally donated some of the instruments back to them, in the form of a sculpture, to be auctioned off with the proceeds helping to support the schools music department.   


How do you balance regular life with sustainability in mind?

We are very active recyclers. Vegetable waste ends up as compost for our gardens. I am not a fan of packaging but it’s hard to completely avoid so its recycled at our local recycling bins. While there we drop off and set aside any bottles that have a refund value. They don’t sit around long.  We have people in the neighborhood who depend on these refundable bottles that many of us leave at the community bins.  When my unrepairable musical instruments come with cases I give the cases away.  It seems there is often somebody needing a case.

Do you have simple, helpful advice for eco-artists or upcyclers?

Collect! collect! collect! Art supplies inspire and if the materials are there they will get used.   


What is your view of the upcycling industry and how it is evolving?

Upcycling has been around forever but more as a necessity than an industry. It’s really incredible what people and industry have done over the last twenty or thirty years but what I have noticed over the past few years is astonishing.  Consumers have demanded that industry upcycle and upcycling has now become the norm.

I love the idea of making upcycled art, so promoting it is ‘way up there’ for me. Upcycling and sustainability are in the public eye now, and being able to show people different ways to upcycle is fantastic. “UpcyclePost” is a great resource and a wonderful service to the online community.


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