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Thomas Dambo Unveils “Malin’s Fountain” in Austin’s Beloved Pease Park

Austin's newest resident is a gentle giant troll who towers among the trees and offers refreshment to thirsty wildlife

"Malin's Fountain" unveiling (photo by Christina Garcia)

Thomas Dambo’s team cut it close. Scheduled to share their finished troll sculpture in Pease Park in the afternoon on Friday, March 15, the Danish artist and his toiling troll-makers could be seen nailing planks onto the paunchy figure’s arm one hour before viewers arrived. By 3 p.m., the friendly ogre stood, or rather sat, surrounded by news crews, photographers, and curious visitors. With a short ceremony, Malin’s Fountain became the park’s most high-profile new resident, nestled among the trees on the Pease Park trail, just past The Treehouse orb and the colorful dragonflies illuminating Kingsbury Commons at the south end of the park. She’s made of trash, a few found objects, and one bronze disk cradled in her hands.

“There are lots of thirsty birds around here,” said Dambo, explaining to a small crowd in the park how he hopes that passersby will pour water into the disk for wildlife. “The fountain only flows when you put water in it,” he said later. Known for building trolls out of reclaimed wood, Dambo envisions the kind-looking giants as an environmentalist, activist gesture to highlight the potential for creating beauty from materials otherwise destined for the trash heap. A prolific creator, the artist enjoys widespread popularity, with over 100 trolls built in locations across the globe, including more than a dozen countries. Without his team and volunteers, none of it would be possible.

“Malin’s Fountain” (photo by Heidi Okla)

Trash to Treasure

The entire construction phase for Malin’s Fountain was complete in 13 working days, according to Victor Zachariassen, one of Dambo’s traveling troll-builders in Pease Park on Friday. Zachariassen told us he’s worked for Dambo for two years and has lent a hand in the construction of around 30 trolls in that time. Volunteers were also close by. Sarah B. and Lauren W. told us they were waitlisted to volunteer but ended up being able to work on the project anyway. “It was kind of a hot position to get,” said Lauren, who said she spent hours wrapping wire around the beads of Malin’s smallest necklace.

Built with wood from a water tower at the Pickle Research Campus, among other sources. Dambo’s piece is projected to last around 15 years, repurposing waste in an enchanting way, to be enjoyed for years to come. Constructed from recycled wood, the massive girl troll’s unruly hair and three heavy necklaces are donated “cedar” root and rock, respectively. A large chunk of blue glass in the center of one necklace came from the guest house of Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge, philanthropists and donors to the project.

Troll build in-progress (photo courtesy of Pease Park)

Troll Crossing

“This guy wants to help us think about trash,” said philanthropist Lynne Dobson of the Tejemos Foundation. “Don’t throw it away. Recycle it.” Dobson said her foundation spearheaded the project after she saw one of Dambo’s trolls in Maine. For her, the work’s whimsy and unexpected delight speaks for itself. In Austin, the Malin’s Fountain project was green-lit by the city, the parks department, and the local neighborhood, Dobson told us. The work with the neighborhood in particular took nine months to reach a consensus on particulars of location, she said. According to Dobson, the troll might have been located at The Wildflower Center but for a few twists of fate.

After Dambo spoke, the Minor Mishap Marching Band roared to life with a clanging, honking contribution to the celebration while children climbed into Malin’s lap. Dambo fans lined up to purchase Trash, Trolls, and Treasure Hunts, a photo book packed with the images of Dambo’s first 100 trolls.

Thomas Dambo

A former rapper and graffiti artist, the Nordic creative studied design at Kolding Design School and found early inspiration in building wooden birdhouses. In Austin, he read a poem he composed about Malin’s Fountain, pointing to the verses inscribed in a rock just to the right of the giant’s feet, inspired by extreme Texas heat and the habit of residents to leave water out for wildlife. The poem is easy to miss, but the troll should stop you in your tracks.

Take the Troll Trek

Pease Park invites everyone to visit Malin. Visit their website for many details including parking options, dining around the park, and a video that offers a view of the process involved in building this troll sculpture.