As both an ancient and contemporary art medium, wood has been used to create sculpture, crafts, and functional objects of art. An extensive array of wood types has been used in the creation of artistic objects. Wood finishes have ranged from natural to painted or stained ones.
Thomas Dambo, a talented artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been building giant wooden trolls and then hiding them throughout forests and wilderness areas in Belgium, and all around the world.
Dambo relies on recycled materials to craft all of his masterpieces. His goal is to highlight the potential of materials that often go to waste.
“By doing this, I hope to lure people away from concrete cities and computer screens, into the wild and reconnect them with the natural world,” says the artist. In addition, Dambo strives to reduce discarded waste that threatens our natural world.
His massive trolls hidden in the woods are part of a fairytale project called “The 7 Trolls and The Magical Tower.” Keep scrolling to see his incredible work.
Thomas says that part of the reasoning behind the giant sculptures is because he would like to encourage people to visit out-of-the-way areas of the forest and town that they might otherwise overlook.
“It invites the viewers to go on a treasure hunt, not only to see the sculptures but also to discover hidden gems in nature.”
His plan seems to be working. More people are visiting the area to discover his works of art.
Even those who cannot make it all the way to Copenhagen are still leaving positive comments on images of the sculptures online. His giants are a giant success everywhere!
The massive wooden trolls measure anywhere from 23 to 59 feet (7 to 18 meters). The tower is an impressive 56 feet (17 meters).
The “open-air sculpture treasure hunt,” as he calls it, takes wanderers through Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Ishø, Albertslund, and Høje-Taastrup to expose the curious to stunning scenery.
The sculptures, which sit tucked away underneath bridges, behind trees, up on hillsides, and hidden within the brush of the forests, can only be located using a treasure map provided on Dambo’s website or deciphering poems engraved in stones near the sculptures.
“As humans, we often have a way of choosing the beaten path and the main roads,” Dambo said in a video regarding his project. “So when the municipalities of west Copenhagen contacted me about a project, it seemed natural to make something which could get people out and explore the beautiful nature in the hidden outskirts, which you usually wouldn’t see.”
It’s not just Thomas working on his oversized creative projects. He also has a team of volunteers to help speed up the process and bring in supplies.
In fact, each giant is named after one of the volunteers to show appreciation for the effort they have put into the project.
The volunteers bring a variety of skills with them. They also bring their time, energy, and dedication. It takes a large amount of all of those to build giants!
Together, the volunteers work to find and recover salvaged wood, including over six hundred pallets, fencing, and even an old shed. These materials go into bringing Thomas’ forest giants to life while staying true to nature by not producing more waste.
Each piece interacts with the environment. For instance, Teddy Friendly, which was produced in conjunction with a local activation center and provided work for four unemployed people, sits next to a lake. His arm extended, he actually helps people across the tiny stream that feeds into the river.
Sleeping Louis is taking a nap on a hill, covered in trees and nature, in a secret place in Rødovre outside of Copenhagen. People can crawl into his gaping mouth, and play or even sleep inside of him.
Sleeping Louis is made solely from local scrapwood scavenged by the Thomas Dambo team. To build the sculpture the team had help from a group of young volunteers from an organization helping young unemployed people get work experience before reentering the work market. Thomas’ old assistant Louis from Bristol, England came back to Copenhagen for a visit and worked hard to help finish the sculpture, why Thomas and the team decided to name the sculpture after him.
Largely based on folklore and fairytales, his sculptures cause the mind to wander to fantastical places.
“Since I was a child, I always loved to hear different fairytales and folklore stories, and dream myself away into magical worlds filled with dragons and trolls,” the artist writes.
When he was a teenager, he started writing raps, releasing records, and touring. During which time, he was creating his own universe filled with his own unique stories.
His latest project combines all of these talents and more – “Recycling, Rapping, Nature, and Sculptures.”
“It’s a fairytale, told through sculptures and words, hidden in a forest, all made of recycled materials.”
If you ever find yourself wandering through any of the Copenhagen forests with resident giants, you will discover engraved stones near each of the sculptures. Each has a poem that acts as a clue for discovering other sculptures as well as interesting and unique aspects of the nearby forest.
If you aren’t quite ready for unraveling the mysteries of a potentially cryptic poem, Thomas has also created a map to help those interested in art and nature to discover his sculptures and the area surrounding them.
Armed with both, you could spend all day on a treasure hunt to discover the wonders of nature and art.
The large sculptures do more than simply adding a new presence to the forest. They also give back to the areas that they occupy.
One sculpture, Teddy Friendly, has an arm outstretched across a small stream. His arm serves as a bridge to help people cross the water while keeping their shoes dry.
Another sculpture includes more than two dozen birdhouses to provide a home to the local feathered residents.
Each sculpture seeks to serve a purpose beyond pure aesthetics.
The tower took Dambo, along with a crew of fifteen people, a total of 25 weeks to construct. At 59 feet tall, it was no small task!
The tower, and some of his most impressive creations, can be found by traversing through the Belgian forest.
All of the wood is recycled and largely comes from supermarkets, pallets, and fallen trees.
He finds most of his materials in city dumpsters. He hopes this inspires more people to do the same, and to see trash as a resource.
He doesn’t just make massive trolls and towers hiding out in forests. Dambo is commissioned to make all types of beautiful things, from furniture to big and small interior designs. His work is inspired by his surroundings and the people around him.
He has a variety of projects around the globe – like The Future Forest (pictured below) located in Mexico City.
Over the course of two months, Dambo and a team made up of 700 students, 100 volunteers, pepenadores, and their children, an orphanage, and an elderly home transformed 3 tons of plastic waste into a colorful 500m2 forest bursting with trees, plants, flowers, and animals.
In addition, he has another troll installation in South Korea titled “Mountain Trolls,” it features 5 trolls and is the second chapter of Dambo’s ongoing recycled troll project.
Happy Kim (pictured below) is one of the five trolls. If he were standing upright he would measure over 42 feet (13 meters) tall.
As for the trolls of the Belgian forest, the story begins…
“They were seven good friends both together and alone
By the river in the valley in the forest they had home
They had seen the sun set and rise a million times
The seven trolls stood as tall as the pines…”
The artist acknowledges that it might sound a bit confusing at first, and so he’s created a video to help highlight the nature of his artwork. You can watch the video below.
The story goes as follows…