upcycled cardboard

back in the early 90’s nic & sloy began dumpster diving. we’d take our big green 78 ford econoline van, boldly lettered nicholsloy studio, out at dusk and case the back alley dumpsters. we were cherry picking for colorful cardboard from booze or other vividly colored dismantled boxes. free art materials. we felt furtive & more than a little foolish but we persisted. here is the story or how nic came to creating art using this most common of materials.

ouch, 7 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/8″, 2.21.91

at first nic made free standing cacti & other small exploratory forms. above is ouch. it is a two sided free standing silhouette of a nude. at one time we had 18 or 20 such cardboard cutouts of nudes, each unique. we displayed them as friezes on shelves above our studio windows. only ouch remains because sloy (that’s me) kept it for herself.

x box, 3.12.1993

x box has a companion piece y box. nic’s largest pieces reclaimed from dumpster diving. if you look closely you will see that the scalloped & zigzagged tops of the X come off and open up hidden drawers to the inside. another hidden drawer can be found in the blue leg, that red curving form on the left side. all the inner sides of the hidden boxes he finished with poetic & colorful cuts from cardboard graphics in our collection.

murder hat & hat box, 12.2.02 (dimensions unavailable)

yes murder hat can be worn. it once resided in the ruth & marvin sackner archive of concrete & visual poetry in miami beach, florida. marvin would don it when visitors came to see the archive. nic began to use the covers of cheesy paperbacks we would find in thrift shops. both the insides and outsides of the hat and hat box & lid sport linings. after ruth died marvin found a permanent home for the sackner archive now in the permanent collection of the university of iowa library.

don’s guitar, cardboard, silk string & metal rod, 28 1/4 x 9 1/2 x 1 3/4″, 9.13.2007

a romantic story. don’s wife wendy sneaked the cardboard from the original packing box don’s newest axe arrived in to our studio & commissioned nic to make something from it for don’s birthday. nic created this cardboard guitar reminiscent of don’s actual new guitar. he made a guitar packing case for it, also out of the packing box. don’s guitar was exhibited in the hallie ford museum of art’s side by side show of nic’s & sloy’s art in 2017-2018.

side by side, 60 x 36 x 14 1/2″, 2017

no longer dumpster diving nic begins buying sheets of cardboard meant to be used for packing from big box stores. an evolution in the use of cardboard for art emerged from using these ubiquitous & inexpensive materials. from them came a great many painted & sculpted cardboard wall hangings, vases of flowers, art boxes, inlaid cardboard mail art & small sculptures.

for two years we rented a downtown studio that allowed nic to work large & in those years he designed and sculpted cardboard into side by side, out of 4 x 8 feet cardboard sheets. side by side became the name piece for our museum show.

side by side, seen here in the hallie ford museum of art, now resides in the museum’s permanent collection.

thirty seven years, 13 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 4″, 2.15.2018.

not your usual pretty bouquet. made from various cherished vintage paperbacks in our library. sloy taught world lit for 10 years, but the vase’s paperback homer’s covers reach back to the early 60’s before she knew nic. before she knew one day she’d be so lucky & regale students with her favorite stories from homer’s, the illiad & the odyssey.

the other side. each flower stem can be plucked from the vase. & that rippled & layered base, made from black & white picasso illustrations, is also removable. underneath in pencil nic’s inscription , “for my soulmate sandy zettle aka sloy xoxoxo nic.”

nicholsloy studio table of maquettes (small cardboard sculptures meant as scale models for large sculptures)

here is a work table in our studio with some of nic’s latest cardboard work. not every piece is there, but each one sketched and sculpted with a dream of fabrication in mind. o where o where is our fabricator? below a few up close to bring to an end this post.

out of round, 20 x 13 1/2 x 7 3/4″, 5.31.2020

XX-XY, 13 1/4 x 17x 7 1/8″, 6.22.20

cross course, 24 x 15 1/2 x 5 1/8″, 7.28.2020

counting on reason, 15 3/4 x 16 3/4 x 17 1/4″, 8.8.20

we imagine this piece fabricated large scale in cor-ten steel, which naturally rusts to a color somewhat akin to this. as you can see above it changes shape depending upon which side is being viewed. however, it is lovely as it stands, as are the others, brought to life in humble cardboard.

thanks for looking.

sloy & nic

our pen & ink life

1981. let it be told this way, nic & sloy ran away to be artists. in an old sunset beach storefront on camano island & later in a ragged cottage planted against a cacti hillside in the hillcrest area of san diego we give it a go.

1984. the teacher’s manual. under contract to holt, rinehart & winston to bring out a book of readings for college composition classes sloy’s “the writer’s voice” is published in 1985.

here are two ink illustrations nic drew for the accompanying teacher’s manual.

above in my favorite vest and here looking closely at words. an ink drawing & collage piece.

i wonder how many of these teacher’s manuals still exist? we have only two aging copies in our own library.

from the same year nic’s “woman looking in a mirror”. (disclaimer: this woman is not me. my nose is not flat & i never pose nude period dot dash.) lines drawn quickly, sparingly & assuredly. nic always discovering his own hand at drawing.

april 87. an ink wash. me at my desk back in salem, oregon with my selectric typewriter and bruce the stuffed elk head salvaged from the gilbert house children’s museum’s castoffs at my back. almost no lines…the image of me created for the most part by filling the space around me.

june 87. nic & i go on the road to san francisco & then to los angeles. here i am reading the los angeles magazine in our room at the sunset plaza hotel on sunset boulevard, next door to the mondrian. we are there to enjoy art at the los angeles county museum, but we also swim in the hotel pool, relish burgers & fries at the habit burger grill on santa monica & make excursions into funky melrose avenue with its punk stores. there at the retail slut i buy my skeleton dress, a red tank dress with skeletons cavorting on it. très chic!

in the drawing i am wearing a vintage silk dress & a pair of canvas earrings dave made with painted nudes on them. i have a collection of mini canvas earrings made for me through the years. the ink work is both delicate and strong.

october 87. an ink wash of negative space (all the space surrounding a band performing) from which the guys emerge as the real subject. we videotaped many gigs of our musician friends. this is the well known oregon band “the dharma bums”. from left to right, jim talstra, bass, john moen, drums, eric lovre, guitar & jeremy wilson, singer. live onstage.

1989. 3 drawings from a mailer created to drum up a living painting exteriors and interiors of houses & offices as well as by videotaping. the camera nic is holding is a heavy early VHS PV-300 panasonic. when taping he would lug it on his shoulder for several hours at a time. i worked as his muscle protecting him from wildly enthusiastic kids digging the shows he taped.

& from the same mailer a densely marked house sketch advertising his house painting biz. the mailer had original ink drawings but didn’t cough up a single taker.

1990. a minimalist sketch, quickly drawn in squiggly indelible lines. it’s named, “mother & child”.

1992. we tour and videotape a weyerhaeuser sulfite paper mill in everett, washington. we still have the tape of the workings of that now defunct mill. most american pulp mills have been torn down or sold to countries with cheaper labor and fewer environmental restrictions. the process from digesting wood fiber, lime rock, lime kiln, chemical slurries, to paper is a formidable eye popper.

here are a few of nic’s drawings of vintage parts boxes from the stockroom of that mill: “continental screw”, “renewal parts” and “14” mill bastard”, all believe it or not, parts names.

continental screw
renewal parts
14″ mill bastard

and lastly two ink portraits, sloy & nic, undated. as with the pulp mills in the early 90’s, most of nic’s ink work largely ended in our 1st decade together.

in bold strokes the artist of our pen & ink years.

early digital art

so in the mid 90’s we had a hand-me-down pc. with microsoft’s “word” ’95 as the “drawing” app. it was actually a way to draw lines or boxes in ones documents but dave took it up as an artist’s minimal toolbox & began to work with pixels and lines. 77 of these pre-1999 drawings were saved. here we are opening the door. come on in for a sampling.

one of our early art tools was a panasonic VHS PV-300 camcorder nic carried everywhere. when we showed up with it he had it on light blinking. here he is recording a band concert.

drummer jonnie studer, AKA the dagger, wailing on his minimal drum kit.

…and the rock and roll club packed with partying rockers the band onstage

we went everywhere in our ’78 ford econoline van we made into a camper…across the country high and low, new york city, new orleans, san francisco…and we still drive it around today with 356248 miles on its odometer.

in 1998 nic filmed our steep and arduous desolation climb in the high cascades to visit a fire lookout jack kerouac once manned. here is ross lake seen from our ascent at the time.

and here is a view of the fire lookout. we didn’t quite make it to the top as storm clouds were approaching so we slept on the ground in a little encampment 1 mile from the trail head. snow fell all over us that night and a big buck in rut kept vaulting up from a cliff side and leaping over us, one time attempting to steal a fellow climber’s boot. we ended up with our boots in our sleeping bags with us. that snaggle-toothed white mountain is hozomeen.

on a road trip across the country we stopped in vinton, iowa where dave’s family, the nichols, had their law office and the cemetery where relatives are buried. nic is john david nichols V. the previous four had tombstones with the same name as him. unnerving.

earlier, in 1993, we drove the van to laguna beach through devastating scenes of one of california’s fires, to see and film Kustom Kulture at the laguna beach art museum. “big daddy” roth’s beatnik bandit, von dutch’s hand sculpted tools, and much more including this car…

it’s difficult to imagine how it was drawing with a word processing program’s tools in those days, but you can imagine it by looking at the results. nic hasn’t enjoyed doing digital art work since. he liked the simplicity and the challenge of working in this primitive way. thanks for looking. sloy & nic

as it is unnamed

taped and yellow hansa ground

what nic devised to hold “unnamed” to the wall while being painted


the colored pencil drawing that inspired the acrylic painting. 2 X 2′

and at the same time another sloy book is at last typed and home printed. nic’s prismacolor drawing cover for it above.

10 covers for the limited 1st edition of 10 coming out of the printer. takes 7 minutes for each one.

the cutting and creasing begins

the “dummy”, writer’s proof, is placed in its cover, glued and weighted


“eye of the interstate” typed, printed, cut, folded, glued, sewn and pressed. how each copy looks before it is wrapped in its cover.

as it goes

this is pretty much it…

studio nights late afternoons


darning & hemming

cutting bricks

line up the canvasses

roll up the rug

make up the room & bed

time to read… then goodnight.

happy new year from same ol’ nicholsloy studio

ART GALA (OAS) 2nd nov

the crowd

rob being honored with a cunningham print

talking about olbrantz & hallie ford

harcourt after photo of rob

olbrantz being likewise gifted with a cunningham

a blurry but sweet hug

be-bearded rob looking on

wide angle

8. san & carol
carol & yours truly

11. san & maureen
maureen & yours truly again…dave is the photographer.

michael hernandez & dave
michael hernandez (new gallerist/designer) in our studio