Open Road

Automotive artist spotlight on Ptolemy Elrington

This is the fourth installment in a series of postings to highlight an Automotive Artist. Each Automotive Artist I have done a piece on has many talents and skills. However, I try to highlight something from their portfolios that is distinctive, and of course automotive related.

For Danny Whitfield I highlighted his drawing ability.
For Hot Rod Jen I highlighted her pinstriping ability.
For Lawrence Gardinier I highlighted his automotive watch art.

My intent on this piece is to highlight Ptolemy Elrington's hubcap artistry.

Several years ago I came across an online article about Ptolemy using his sculpting skills on used hubcaps. Yeah, hubcaps! You know, those covers that occasionally separate from your vehicle and spin off into oblivion. In the years since then he has become so good at taking the escapee hubcaps in his hands and creating animals out of them – impressive ones – that he has had his work featured in many online and print articles worldwide.

Hubcap owl

Why hubcaps? Repurposing them gets his creative juices flowing and also is a way for him to raise environmental awareness. His dedication to repurpose items is not solely limited to the hubcap itself. In fact, the wire he uses for the hubcap to hold its form is reclaimed material as well.

What about the animals? They are impressive in likeness to their natural counterparts. Their sizes are very impressive as well and vary based on the individual or organization that commissioned the work from as little as 10 hubcaps, to as many a hundreds. His choice of creatures to highlight in his work are impressive also because of the variety - Fishes, eagles, owls, boars, penguins, and the list goes on.

I contacted Ptolemy via email to discuss his work. Below you will find my Q&A interchange with him.

Hubcap wolf

How long have you been working with hubcaps? – Professionally since 2002 and as a hobby about three years before that. So, about 14 years.

What drew you to using hubcaps for your pieces? – I started collecting them from a bend near where I lived in Bradford. It seemed such a waste that they were thrown into landfill. I didn't know what I wanted to do with them then – I just wanted to do something.

How long does it typically take to make a hubcap sculpture? – On average about a working week.

How do you clean the road grit off of the hubcaps you find? – Warm soapy water does the trick – it's not very nice grime. So, it's a good idea to clean them thoroughly.

How do you shape, or bend the hubcaps? – Some of them are brittle, in which case I cut out shapes within them for detail, whilst others are much more pliable and I can hold them in the required shape with wire. I don't use any heat in the process.

Your sculptures have included more than just animals. Highlight one of your non-animal works. What is it, how long did it take? – In terms of hubcaps the only one I can remember making that wasn't a natural form was a saxophone which took about two weeks to make as the client who commissioned it wanted a replica of a real one as opposed to an interpretation.

What has been your most challenging piece to date? – Probably the giant bee I made for Ecover a couple of years ago. It was enormous, made out of a variety of materials and had to be in sections for easy transportation. It also had a computer operated light system inside it and was accompanied by a five meter (a little over 16 feet) high flower.

Over the years, which hubcap creature has been your favorite? – I've had two – both fish. One is a Mirror carp which I still have. The other was a Rockfish, which was stolen from the grounds of St. James Palace in London during an eco show there.

What is the newest challenge or inspiration ahead of you? – I've been approached by a client in regards to a six-meter long (almost 20 feet) sculpture towards the end of the year made out of scrap metal. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

What does it feel like to have your work on display by various customers? – It's a big compliment to me and I really like the idea that it gets people talking about re-cycling, re-using and even re-designing products for a more responsible approach to sustainability and our environment.

How would you encourage others coming behind you in the Automotive Art arena? – Art is not only a very rewarding pursuit and as valid a way of earning a living as any other, it's also great fun and very good for the soul. If you enjoy it, then stick at it and one day it may be the thing that makes you a living.

Hubcap Carp

Ptolemy Elrington can be found at the following:
Parent website:
Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram – all under the name Hubcap Creatures

Sources in addition to the Q&A:

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