|Dung Bunnies and artist Susan Bell were a feature story on 'Off Beat America' on HGTV|
WHAT ARE DUNG BUNNIES?
Dung Bunnies are the ultimate GREEN product. They are produced, and
The Denver Post (CO) article October 2, 2005
Manure dolled up as art for the garden
October 2, 2005
Special to The Denver Post
Bell, a Denver artist who specializes in traditional wildlife paintings, was thinking about what to do with the copious quantities of manure produced by her two horses when she and a group of fellow artists met several years ago for a kvetch session about the state of modern art.
Then-New York City Mayor Giuliani had just spoken out against an elephant dung-encrusted sculpture of the Virgin Mary, and "we were laughing about how all the shock art today is just (manure) anyway. And I got an idea," Bell says. "I thought, 'I'm going to do some (manure) art of my own."'
Dung bunnies were born.
Bell crafts the small bunny, duck, pigeon, frog and cat sculptures entirely out of horse manure. They're designed as functional garden decorations - not only do they look cute, they decompose slowly over a period of a year or so, fertilizing nearby plants.
Horse manure is a particularly effective fertilizer for roses, Bell says, but one of her clients notes that the dung bunnies work on everything from bushes to indoor plants.
"They make all the difference in the world to my plants. My roses absolutely love them. Their blossoms are brighter and last longer," says Virginia Potter of Oklahoma City. Potter bought a dung bunny a few years ago when visiting her daughter in Colorado, and since has purchased another dozen for herself and friends. "I even put them in my house plants because they don't have an odor, and they're attractive. They draw attention."
Potter says scattering a few dung bunnies throughout her yard makes gardening easier. "We have clay soil here, so it's hard to fertilize. The dung bunnies save a lot of trouble and time."
Bell worked for months to develop a dung-bunny prototype. Although she's an artist, her medium is paint rather than sculpture. She researched sculpting techniques and finally developed a plasticine mold that would work with manure. Then she had to find the right manure consistency to fill the mold.
Because horses digest only about 20 percent of the grass they eat, their manure contains so much plant material it's like adobe, Bell says. But she discovered fresh manure is too hot to mold well.
And, of course, there's the smell.
Her solution is a set of wire mesh compost bins on her 2 1/2-acre Greenwood Village property. She fills the bins with horse manure and turns the mixture a couple times a year. After about two years, the compost is odor-free and ready for sculpting. Any longer and it's like dirt, Bell says.
She takes the composted manure and deposits it in a cement mixer in her garage. She adds water to form a slurry and lets the mixture dry for a week. It's then ready to be fitted into the molds.
Bell makes about 30 dung sculptures a week. She even has a "dung couple," modeled after a traditional wedding centerpiece.
"People buy it as a divorce gift," she says. "It's kind of a metaphor for a marriage - if you leave it out in the rain, it will decompose much faster than if you keep it protected."
Bell sells her "art" at her gallery on Denver's South Pearl Street and at an occasional farmers market. "I'm a painter, so I can't do it full time, but it's a different kind of creative outlet for me," she says.
``I'm proud of the dung bunnies because it's one of those stupid ideas you get but you never do, and I actually got it accomplished. And there have been a few slow months here where they've helped pay the rent."
Dung Bunnies can be purchased via Order Form
in person at the Bell Studio/Gallery
1560 So. Pearl St, Denver CO 80210