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‘CAPtivate’ repurposes bottle caps in OSU Faculty Club

“Shaky House” by John Taylor-Lehman incorporates a gradient of bottle caps to create a sunset, a technique that was new to him at its conception. Credit:

The Ohio State Faculty Club is now decorated with what many would consider trash: bottle caps.

OSU alumnus John Taylor-Lehman uses bottle caps to make art for the feature exhibit, “CAPtivate.”

The exhibit will be on display through March 10 in the main hallway and member’s lounge of the club.

Curated by art coordinator Lisa Craig Morton, the OSU Faculty Club’s art program serves the local art community while filling the halls with works that have ties to the campus.

“Some of the pieces are really akin to paintings,” she said of Taylor-Lehman’s works. “But when you get up close and actually look at it, it’s made of beer bottle caps.”

Crushing the caps for his art used to be a labor-intensive process that required flattening each cap with a hammer, Taylor-Lehman said. Since then, he collaborated with engineering research scientists at OSU to modify a log splitter in order to produce more flattened bottle caps so he could turn out more pieces.

A Master of Science in botany from OSU, John Taylor-Lehman is a former public high school teacher and current biology lecturer at Zane State College. He said he is entirely self-taught in his bottle cap art. Though his last art class may have been in grade school, he said he was exposed to many things that inspired him to make art while growing up in Cleveland, such as exhibits in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Taylor-Lehman has previously dabbled in painting, silk screening and wood carving, but decided in 2014 to devote his time and energy into crafting one-of-a-kind mosaics constructed entirely of repurposed beer bottle caps and other materials.

“I needed to pick something to be known for,” he said. “I don’t draw particularly well, but I like to construct things, and I have a bit of color sense.”

In fact, Taylor-Lehman’s workspace is arranged with many bins of color-coded bottle caps that are saved by him, or donated to him from friends and family.

Taylor-Lehman doesn’t shy away from integrating different artistic concepts that are unfamiliar to him in his pieces. He said for his work titled “Shaky House,” which features a gradient sunset, and rippling caps to render shingles on a roof, he looked to the realist works of Edward Hopper, but wanted to add some perspective and a little bit of his own flair.

Taylor-Lehman’s talent and willingness to go outside of typical mediums are what made Morton bring his work to the faculty club, she said.

“I can say, with certainty, that I don’t think we’ve ever had any art made of beer bottle caps before,” she said.  

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