July 7, 2011 in Washington Voices

Locally made T. rex leaves small environmental footprint

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Peter Thomas, 21, is an artist who creates dinosaurs from recycled material.
(Full-size photo)

There’s a new toy in town but its origins are positively prehistoric. The Recyclosaur, a Tyrannosaurus rex model kids can decorate, made its retail debut in April at Whiz Kids in River Park Square.

Made entirely in Spokane from 100 percent recyclable and recycled materials, the Recyclosaur is the latest creation of 21-year-old Peter Thomas.

The Lewis and Clark High School graduate began creating dinosaurs from recycled materials as a fourth-grader. It’s an art form he doesn’t plan to outgrow.

However, Thomas didn’t intend to make a “green” statement when he started creating his models from newspaper, cardboard and packing tape all those years ago. “It was recycling born out of necessity,” he said, smiling. “I just used what we had available.”

Area residents may already be familiar with his work. Several years ago, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture commissioned Thomas to create a large-scale T. rex in honor of the visiting T. rex Sue exhibit. That dinosaur resides in the lobby of Mobius Children’s Museum.

Thomas credits First Night director Chris Martin for the inspiration for his current venture. “Two years ago, I was invited to display some dinosaurs at First Night,” said Thomas. Last year Martin suggested that Thomas create a hands-on project for kids, and the prototype for the Recyclosaur was born.

The 28-inch-by-12-inch cardboard models were a huge hit with kids. Thomas said, “We went through a couple hundred!”

He watched as kids grabbed markers, crayons, feathers and glitter and decorated the easy-to-assemble T. rexes. While Thomas enjoys the science behind his work, he relished the creativity and imagination the kids employed. “Since they’re all dead, who knows what color they were,” he said of the fierce T. rexes, adding, “but they probably weren’t glittery.”

The kids’ enthusiastic response prompted Thomas’s venture into retail. He found all the support he needed to produce the Recyclosaur here in Spokane. Sonderen Packaging does the packaging and die-cutting, Inland Bindery provides the finishing for retail, the product label design was created by graphic designer Mike Emenegger, and the printing of the label itself is provided by Johnston Printing.

Whiz Kids owner Jan St. George said the Recyclosaur is a perfect fit for her store. “Dinosaurs are really big in Spokane,” she said. “Peter is so talented, and I love supporting local (industry).”

She found the hands-on, interactive quality of the model especially appealing. In addition, the Recyclosaur packaging features educational tidbits about both dinosaurs and recycling. Though the instructions say the model is for ages 6 to 60 million, St. George said it may also be appropriate for kids under 6.

The Recyclosaur has also been picked up by another local company, GreenCupboards.com.

If the model takes off, Thomas plans to expand the line. He said, “I’m working on a prototype for an Apatosaurus (long-necked dinosaur) and maybe I’ll include raptors.”

He’s also working on his next, even more ambitious project for First Night – a walk-through- the-dinosaurs room. “A darkened room will be filled with my art – like a bad Disneyland ride,” Thomas said, laughing.

The centerpiece will be a huge Ceratosaurus (horned lizard) which will later be displayed in the Whiz Kids store window.

It’s the combination of art and science that keeps Thomas enthralled with creating prehistoric beasts. He said, “The best, most realistic dinosaur art comes from scientists.”

In fact, he plans to study paleontology at Montana State University. Referring to ongoing research, Thomas said, “There’s always some cool new thing. It’s fascinating.” He grinned. “I’d like to discover a dinosaur.”


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