Plastic Lawn Chair Scrimshaw

A plastic lawn chair isn’t something I thought I would ever feature on this garden blog, but here we are. Ordinarily, these lawn chairs are nothing special. They’re so cheap-both in quality and price- yet they’re found everywhere. Even in the winter they serve a purpose in places like Chicago where we use them to hold parking spots we shoveled out of snow. Captain’s Chair by Michael Dinges is your typical plastic lawn chair that employs scrimshaw and trench art techniques to make a statement.


Scrimshaw is an art form popularized why whalers that carved designs and stories into byproducts of whaling, like bones and teeth. Similarly, trench art is the name given to the same technique used by soldiers and prisoners of war who decorated shell and bullet casings.

Michael used both of the techniques to comment on the changing nature of labor and global trade, and the downsizing of the craftsperson to assembler.

From the Artist’s Statement:

“I want the viewer to imagine themselves sitting in this “captain’s” chair making decisions involving globalization and capitalism. By using an iconic chair that is ubiquitous, but personalized, I want the viewer to question their own responsibility for the presence of everyday objects that surround us.”

If you have a plastic lawn chair in your garage or garden shed and you’re looking for a way to personalize it, why not scrimshaw it and turn it into a piece of garden art?

I came across Captain’s Chair at an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. Back in 2009 in the same location I encountered Deceptive Garden, a really cool concept planter that transformed into a table and had storage space for potting soil and garden tools.

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