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Failed products artfully recycled

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By Cindy Simpson

The charred remains of a toaster, hairdryer and curling iron cast a sinister look on what at first looks like a normal doll house.

The house, made of three stoves representing the bathroom, kitchen and garage - where most consumer product failures occur - was created as part of a project by University of Tennessee art students.

The Field of Failures project paired students from the metal fabrication class of professor Jason Brown with failed consumer products investigated by Diversified Product Inspections in Oliver Springs.

Heather Hutton, part of the 2006 class that did the projects, created the dollhouse using three failed stoves and decorated the at-first cheery-looking home with failed appliances.

Hutton said the work is supposed to represent someone's dream home destroyed by faulty appliaces.

"I felt it was a strong enough story worth talking about,"Hutton said.

DPI vice president Warren Wankelman approached the college about doing the exhibit.

His company primarily investigates the role of failed appliances for insurance companies.

His appreciation for art came from his father, who he said founded the art department at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He said the UT students were shocked after a tour of DPI.

"They were amazed there are so many products that fail," Wankelman said.

"It was a mind-opening experience for them. I think this made a major impression on them," Brown said.

The art work involved welding and other ways of working with the metal.The projects had a not-so-subtle message about the dangers of failed products and their impact on consumers.

Some students were troubled that the pieces they were working with may have caused injury or death.

Drew Dudak dismantled to the insulation layer of a faulty coffeemaker in his project, titled Transparent Failure.

Dudak then made a transparent box for it to sit in that had the maker's packaging screenprinted on it.

Another piece, Inferno by Todd McAdoo, used a computer casing to make a large slot machine.

Instead of cherries or dollar signs, the slots read with different warning labels.

The payout is a pile of small failed appliances.

Brown said the students often get opportunities to do community projects that teach - such as a cast-iron fence project recently built for a park.

Many of those projects, however, have guidelines and to follow.

DPI's offer was refreshingly different.

"They didn't come asking us to make soaring eagles and dancing bears out of a toaster," Brown said. "We are going to continue this partnership."

Many of the projects can be seen in a field beside DPI headquarters on Hwy. 61 in Oliver Springs.