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Humble Beginnings to Art - The Toothpick Sculpture

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 7 12

The Raw Toothpick

A simple thing the toothpick, used for mostly as the name suggests picking ones teeth and variety of other uses, the artful Martini, picking up finger food, connecting scientific molecules , and then you have the all-time voodoo doll where one would stab the poppet with a tooth pick to cause bodily harm to that particular area.

The toothpick dates way back before the official manufacturing. In the Stone Age one would use a stick or a twig to get food out caught between the teeth. In the Imperial Age toothpicks made of silver and somewhat used as ornaments like you would use jewelry.

It wasn’t till the Middle Ages in Portugal they appeared and made their way to Brazil where Charles Forster had an idea to mass produce them. He wasn’t an inventor himself so he sought out one who could find machinery that did something somewhat similar.

In the 19th century Charles found an inventor who used machinery called a ‘chopper’ that made shoe pegs to fasten the tops to the bottoms of shoes. He had a hard time selling them so he used an early viral marketing strategy by hiring students to eat at local restaurants and upon finishing their meal demand to have some of these toothpicks and by co-incidence of course, Charles Forster showed up the next day selling toothpicks.


Toothpick Sculpture

There are two types of toothpicks the flat end and then the rounded kind that are very organic, and almost an art form in itself. Who would have thought that anyone beyond the third grade would further the art, making soap and toothpick sculptures then went on to graduate to the more serious mediums like molecules using clay and toothpicks. We were extremely excited by this feat! The next step was secondary school with the linear toothpick sculpture.

Simple Toothpick Sculpture

Toothpick sculptures are made by using a flat end toothpick, hundreds of liters of glue, many painstaking hours and lot patience. For most, being and artist involves years of study using in different techniques however, for a select few it comes natural. In today’s society the toothpick still has all the common uses except when it comes to particular artists, they took on a whole new dimension of the toothpick and created grand art forms.


Toothpick Artists

Steven J. Backman

Steven was one of the first artists to become known in toothpick sculpture. Steven has created toothpick art since the age of five and is now in his mid to late forties so that’s a lot of hours spent sitting at a table creating sculptures. Steven J. Backman, renowned for his toothpick sculpture The Golden Gate Bridge to mark its historic 75th Anniversary and is now on permanent display at Ripley's Believe it or Not! museum at San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf as of July 2012.

Steven J Backman Toothpick Art


Stan Munro

Stan Munro is my favorite toothpick artist, producing The Empire State Building, which took six months to complete and then nine months and over 35,000 toothpicks for Stan Munro to finish his jaw dropping replica of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia.  This was Stan’s 100th piece and created whilst his wife was in hospital.

'It has been a rough period with my wife being admitted to hospital ill. At points I would often take the model to the hospital and work on it there as I sat by her bedside”.

Stan wishes to further his 100th model by adding forty other famous buildings from around the world to become a city.

Toothpick Art


Nelson Ulysses Pantoja

Nelson had an upbringing that embraced art in every way shape or form. From music such as Janis Joplin, The Beatles, The Stones, and classic movies like Gone with the Wind; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His mother took ill but did not stop Nelson from enjoying an artistic flair in all genres of art.

Nelson uses a different structural method when piecing together his toothpick sculptures and he embodies raw emotion in to his work that really moves you. His first sculpture was the Red Baron from Charlie Brown then produced what we see today, some very moving art like the Fallen Angel and his controversial Domestic Violence piece.

Toothpick Sculpture Guardian Angel


Scott Weaver

Scott produced a sculpture called Rolling Through the Bay, representing San Francisco. This piece is classic after 3000 hours over 34 years and you can see why by the image below. Scott Weaver's passion for San Francisco is because his family lived there for three generations. Scott started toothpick sculptures back in 1968 when he was 8. He produced his first toothpick sculpture and then run a ping-pong ball through it. He did another piece called, The Golden Gate Bridge, and Lombard Street back in 1974.   which set him on his way to making Rolling Through the Bay.

Rolling Through the Bay

Art comes in many forms, but who would have thought a small medium such as the toothpick, and a lot of glue could turn into something spectacular



Jun 29, 2012 8:09pm

Those pictures are *amazing*.

It is very interesting what different people take up as a form of art and that they get so good at it.
Jun 29, 2012 10:10pm
I had no idea about toothpick art. The la sagrada familia is especially impressive. Great article and thumbs up!
Jun 29, 2012 10:31pm
Thanks aguy and claudslewis. Appreciate your feedback and no prob for the double post lol. The time these artists put into it is amazing. I have resubmitted the article so it appears better on the page. My first article, so layout is key with a little tweaking.
Jun 30, 2012 9:00pm
Nice first article. Impressive. Welcome to IB.
Jun 30, 2012 11:19pm
Thanks Tom :)
Jul 1, 2012 8:35am
I have seen the photos but never learned about the artists. Amazing! Thumbs up.
Jul 1, 2012 9:21am
FYI -- this is not "errrrr", as you noted on a comment on one of my pieces.

This is an excellent first article, and is the sort of thing this site needs more of. Good work, and a thumb's up.
Jul 1, 2012 3:24pm
Thanks footloose :)

Lol vicdillinger I was propbably running around like a chook with it's head chopped off in one of my bi-polar states haha.
And thank you for your kind words :)
Jul 25, 2012 2:28am
These photos are indeed amazing. With the right amount of dedication and persistence, people can accomplish fantastic things! Nice article.
Jul 25, 2012 5:36pm
wow. amazing things come from simple stuff.
Jul 28, 2012 1:09am
Wow, that is absolutely incredible! This makes me happy :)
Jul 28, 2012 8:15am
Thank you everyone, I am more in shock that my very first article was featured.
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