Grandma Prisbey’s Village
Beginning construction in 1956 at age 60, and working until 1981, Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey transformed her one-third acre rural lot into Bottle Village, a fantasyland of shrines, wishing wells, walkways, fountains, follies, plus 15 structures to house her collections – all made from found objects. The name “Bottle Village” comes from the structures themselves – made of tens of thousands of discarded bottles retrieved by Grandma on her daily excursions to the nearby dump.
Appearances aside, Bottle Village began as a practical need to build a structure to store Grandma Prisbrey’s pencil collection (which eventually numbered 17,000) and a bottle wall to keep away the smell and dust from the adjacent turkey farm. However, it was her ability to have fun and infuse wit and whimsy into what she made, which over time became the essence of Bottle Village. Practicality alone would not explain The Leaning Tower of Bottle Village, the Dolls Head Shrine, car-headlight-bird-baths, and the intravenous-feeding-tube-firescreen, a few examples of her delightfully idiosyncratic creations.
Bottle Village was a hobby Grandma enjoyed, and enjoyed sharing with anyone who would pay a quarter for the walking tour. These tours consisted of her guiding visitors from room to room and along the mosaic walk, bordered by glass television picture tubes to keep people from wandering off. After a series of anecdotal stories and other assorted information, the tour would end in the Meditation Room, where she would play the piano and sing risqué songs from the 1920’s
“Anyone can do anything with a million dollars. Look at Disney. But it takes more than money to make something out of nothing, and look at the fun I have doing it.”
Tressa Prisbrey died in 1988. In retrospect, another layer presents itself now that her person is no longer there. Her life was not easy. She married her first husband when she was 15 and he was 52 and had seven children by him. She left him and lived in various places in the country, raising their children on her own. In her lifetime, death struck six of her children, both of her husbands, a fiancee, and all but one of her siblings.
In her book “Making Do or Making Art”, Verni Greenfield discusses in depth what now seems obvious. That on one level, Bottle Village was, literally, a constructive approach to transforming discard and sorrow into something more. Bottle Village possesses many references to both maternity, and sympathetic magic (wishing wells, good luck symbols, religious structures, etc.)
Even the buildings themselves, scaled to children and made through such a compulsory process are a testimony. So Bottle Village is not only a one of a kind, quirky, fun, and brilliant approach to recycling and shed making, Bottle Village is also a bold and personal statement to the importance of the creative act in everyday life. At Bottle Village, art does not just reflect life. Art and life merge, in a 25 year fusion.
Text courtesy of BottleVillage.com