Penny mosaics bound for border

Kamloops artist creates portraits of the Queen and Abraham Lincoln

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
April 4, 2013 01:00 AM

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln made with U.S. pennies

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what can you say about a picture made from a thousand pennies?

Or, in the case of the mosaics created by Kamloops artist Bill Frymire, two pictures made from some 8,150 pennies.

"I've been doing these mosaics out of tiles for years now and I'm always looking for new materials, something that looks a little different," Frymire told The Daily News.

The mosaics - one of the Queen, the other of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln - make two sides of the same 170-pound aluminium and copper coin crafted out of Canadian and U.S. pennies.

Frymire's creation will be part of an exhibit at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash., that runs May 1 to Oct. 1.

He was inspired by a picture he saw on the Internet of a bathroom floor tiled with pennies. Frymire thought the variation in tone that the pennies created would make a great mosaic.

Each year he submits a piece to Revision, an annual Vancouver art exhibit. Organizers decided not to hold Revision this year, but suggested artists apply for the exhibit at the Peace Arch.

"It was a sculpture thing, so I thought 'what can I do?'" said Frymire, adding he usually creates work designed to mount on a wall.

Then he remembered the penny bathroom floor, and the idea of a penny made out of pennies was born, he said.

"Because it was on the border, I thought I'd do one side out of American pennies and one side out of Canadian pennies," he said.

This required Frymire to collect a lot of pennies - about 20,000 or so. His mother in law lives in Seattle and contributed 5,000 U.S. pennies to the project. The oldest penny of the bunch is from 1914.

Each penny was washed, sleeved and photographed so it could be rendered in a computer. A graphic artist, Frymire designed the mosaics in the computer first, sorting through the 20,000 pennies to find the ones that would create the best image for the mosaics.

"The computer treats each penny like a pixel. If you need a bright pixel, you pick a bright penny," he said. "The computer can tell you which penny will go where."

Once applied, Frymire will cover the mosaics with an Epoxy. He said this protects the pennies and prevents people from prying them off with a screwdriver.

Frymire enjoys creating art like this, saying there's something satisfying about crafting a work that will exist long after he is gone.

The mosaics are for sale at $5,000 per side or $9,500 for the whole piece, he said.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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