When you think of objects like picnic coolers, vacuum parts, ski poles or coffee thermoses the word art normally doesn’t come to mind. Not unless you’re Toby Fraley. This Pittsburgh area artist finds inspiration in vintage objects found at yard sales, flea markets, estate sales, or on eBay auctions. With the objects he finds, Fraley has created a collection of art called the Robot Series. The robots are created from random objects such as vintage picnic coolers, vacuum parts and numerous miscellaneous odd items.
When it comes to finding material, Fraley says he looks for form and material first. Most vintage pieces he uses have nice, clean styles to them and are commonly made from aluminum and steel which will still hold up in the years to come. He says he avoids using some vintage plastics due to their fragileness and discoloration. Rarely will Fraley find items in mint condition so he has to be sure that they will clean up or repair well enough to use before purchasing.
It takes roughly between two to four weeks to build a single robot. Each robot stands approximately 36-48 inches tall and is wired to light up. Robots are named for the numerical order in which they are built. Two of the robots (Robots 3 and 12) are actually in separate private collections of Grammy Award winning musicians. Fraley also has a public art exhibit of robots 31-34 (“Robots in Flight”) permanently on display at the Civic Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Recently, the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital has commissioned him to create seven pieces for entrance corridor in their new hospital.
Toby Fraley has supported himself as an artist full-time since 2001. He began going to school for art but soon discovered that self-teaching was far more beneficial. Today he participates in a local art show (The Three Rivers Arts Festival) and a wholesale show in Philadelphia (Buyers Market of American Craft) and the bulk of his projects come from public art and private commissions.
Last Year, Fraley was a runner-up in KEEN’s STAND contest in the Stand Up (Create) category. He was awarded $5,000 for his creative repurposing of found objects into art, which he put to use by buying more “junk”. To see more of his robots, as well other various works of art he creates, check out www.tobyatticusfraley.com
The Hybrid.STAND contest was a KEEN intiative that awarded $150,000 to fund different innovative ideas centered around sustainability. There were three overall categories, Stand Up, Stand Out and Stand For, each having a $25,000 grand prize and five $5,000 runner-up prizes.