It was built by Tressa Prisbrey (better known as Grandma Prisbrey) alone, and the construction spanned 25 years.
Tressa Prisbrey began construction of the Bottle Village in 1956. Initially, her goal was to build a structure to house her 17,000-piece pencil collection…. (my kind of lady 😉 ). She collected discarded beer bottles from her alcoholic husband and pieced them together, one by one, to make the first building. But that was only the beginning. Eventually, her creations grew to include 13 full-size structures, an impressive mosaic walkway, and several shrines and wishing wells. Grandma Prisbrey’s sculptures were made from found and discarded objects, mostly collected on her daily trips to the local dump.
From the early days of the Bottle Village until she was forced to leave the site due to ill health in 1982, Grandma Prisbrey gave walking tours of the buildings and sculptures. From the huge Round House to the Rumpus Room to Cleopatra’s Bedroom, the tours would always end in the meditation room with Grandma Prisbrey playing piano songs for her guests.
It’s a magical place, made all the more impressive when you remember that it was all built by one woman. Sadly, Bottle Village was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1994. Caretakers are still trying to raise the funds necessary to restore the site.
While Grandma Prisbrey didn’t think of herself as an artist, she did some extremely remarkable things. She was recycling and upcycling before those words were even in use. She led a difficult life, yet managed to find joy and beauty in the things that most of us simply throw away without a second thought.
With thanks to www.webecoist.momastic.com for text and images.