May 24, 2024


The task of loading once-loved but now unwanted pianos into a van and carting them off to the recycling centre is a disheartening and melancholy one. So a music shop in Bath that scraps as many as 300 redundant and unfixable pianos a year has launched a project to repurpose the thousands of parts that make up each instrument into pieces of art.

The Piano Shop Bath is inviting artists to take their pick for free from the varied materials that make up each piano – wood, cast iron, brass, felt, copper, steel wires and so on – and turn them into pieces that can then be hung in its showroom.

A first selection of works that has been produced in the “Played and Remade” initiative goes on display at the shop and on its website this week.

A window sculpture by Julieann Worrall Hood. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

“There is a constant barrage of old pianos coming out of circulation,” said the owner, Jon Kelly. “Far too many redundant pianos are being sent to landfill, dumped, abandoned or even burned. Knowing what to do with the steady stream of old unwanted pianos is a real issue for the piano trade and for owners. Responsible disposal is expensive, time-consuming and a tragic waste of materials, as well as an environmental burden.

“Played and Remade is our creative and collaborative solution to the problem. It enables artists to make something magical and new by giving them free access to materials that would otherwise end up on a scrap heap.”

This deer sculpture is made by Marc Hackworthy. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Several of the first works that have been created so far have an animal theme. There is an eagle, an owl, a bird’s nest, a spider and deer’s head. One artist, Kirk Andrews, has reproduced a famous image of Elton John using an old piano lid as the canvas, on to which he has fixed hundreds of repurposed bits of piano workings. A local maker is planning to turn a piano into a beautiful guitar.

The shop, a family business established 40 years ago, has a history of doing interesting things with old pianos, including working with the band Coldplay to create pianos using parts of pre-1900 instruments that might have been scrapped.

An owl sculpture by Marc Hackworthy made with old piano keys. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Kelly said: “We all recognise that pianos hold a story of the people who have lived with the instrument, often over very many years, and of the instrument’s makers. Through Played and Remade, we can keep the story going and forge a special bond between music and art.

“The feedback from artists is super positive, they really like it, they like the challenge of working with the material.”

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Fiona Campbell, who has produced a sculpture of a bird’s nest using old strings and keys, said: “The project appealed to me as my work is about reusing waste materials, making do. One of my favourite materials is copper wire, so I was particularly drawn to the copper springs. I enjoyed playing with these, unwinding, annealing, reforming, teasing and weaving them into organic structures.

“I tried to use the piano keys in unexpected ways, suggestive of branches, from where they originated.”

This eagle sculpture is also made an old keyboard, by Marc Hackworthy. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Another artist, Séamus Moran, who often creates works of art based on casts of knots from dead trees, said: “Using piano parts gave me a new palette to work with. The first piece I made is called Footnotes and uses the pedals and other metal parts of the piano. I wanted it to look like music. The second piece, First Movement, uses the keys and is all about the movements within the piano whilst being played.”



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