My daughter collects things, as I collect things. We get along like that. We began collecting stuff together when Morgan was old enough to walk but young enough not to have the sense God gave a squirrel. In the art world, they call the process Found Object Art. We call it collecting sea shells.
We started with bottle caps. I'd like to say we began by collecting sticks and shiny stones like most Tennessee children, but no. Morgan's mother worked at the Good Shepherd Health Food store. The timing of our day created a 30 minute wait in the parking lot. A crushed bottle cap caught my eye. I picked it up. I liked it. Morgan could see that I liked it, she picked up a bottle cap. She liked it. We filled our pockets.
Bottle caps are easy to collect. They remind me of quarters. I'm a Slacker, so quarters register in my subconscious as video game machine money. Morgan and I filled jars with bottle caps. We collected 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day. We built a fine collection. The idea of bottle caps as a seashell collection prompted me to begin making fish sculptures out of bottle caps. We got good at it.
Morgan's mother left, and with her my daughter. I found myself lonely and dejected. I called it the brain flu. Without Morgan or the need to wait 30 minutes for her mother to get off work I had empty time. I walked the gutters of Cookeville Tennessee. Up Willow Ave, I found wonderful car parts and household items crushed by trucks. My favorite find, a WD-40 can – one of the big thick ones – smooshed and scared by a long drag down the road. At Spring Street the search went up hill and was worth it. The Mexican store has the best bottle caps. People go there to get real sugar coca-colas. The bottle caps end up in the crush and run gravel between the front door and black top. Cars crush and scrape the caps to a nice texture. I refresh myself there. I adore the wide verity of tasty Mexican Soda's and keep the bottle caps – the best is the rare Manzana Verde.
Another great location, was the fraternity houses by the University. Their bottle caps were more predictable. When I wanted to make a blue fish bottle cap sculpture, I knew to go to the fraternity houses. Bud Light caps are a shiny blue and Coors Light a dull silver – great for fish scales on the art. At the frat houses, I also would find a spent shotgun shell or two. The discovery turned me into a detective.
I was getting good at spotting bottle caps on the ground. At one point, I could guess the type of bottle cap when it was face down 8 out of 10 times. I'm making that statistic up – painful college class for me, statistics – like a war zone memory. I began making up stories about things I found. In the parking lot of a bar, I found Corona beer caps on the left side of the white parking line and on the right I found a Mike's Hard bottle cap and black hair tie. I surmised, the pair was on a date and getting a pre-buzz on. When I added the findings from the street, the shot gun shells from the fraternity with the bar finding I began to day dream about murder stories. The dark state of mind was not healthy for a recently single man. I turned my imagination back to making other types of bottle cap art.
Today, I make fish, cars, maps of the world... and hula girls out of bottle caps. I enjoy making the art, but finding the parts does me the most good. I make walking and collecting meditation. I don't do it as much as I'd like – I'm a photographer first and people need me. My daughter still needs me, but not for very much longer and not to collect bottle cap sea shells. My bottle cap art has settled into that place where unfinished art projects go and are stored with the hope of one day being complete – kind of like the Island of Lost Toys.