since 1965

as a collector of objects since childhood, I have always slowly amassed sets and subsets of objects based on my evolving tastes and, importantly, my whereabouts.  We were frugal growing up, so I always made do with what I found.  living in Kenya for six months during second grade I collected bones and teeth harvested from flattened & sun-dried roadkill, chiefly snakes. In California, I made elaborate tree houses for my miniature bears with abalone shells and rocks, and later fiberglassed homemade skimboards with my friend Sam.  my mom taught me how to sew. my dad had a boat, with all the knots and responsibility that implies, as well as lots of time swimming and fishing. In 10th grade, my father and older brother travelled back to Africa, and from a witch's market in Nigeria brought me a monkey's arm, a dried monkey head, and a spectacular bird head with a curving beak bigger than the rest.
Please note that I am not the Peter Cole born 1957, poet and translator.  Nor am I Peter Cole born 1930, the big wave rider.  If you run into them, or another one, please say hi from me.
I have a more focused professional portfolio at

and now an artist

at seven, while homeschooled that year, I wrote an essay that outlined clearly my future studio as an artist. I described the tables and areas for various disciplines, requiring five separate rooms, and even specified that I would have two children (boys), and that my wife would "do the reptiles". I later planned to drive around america in a Winnebago selling walnut shell boats, with little decks and masts of flat toothpicks.  I had a passion for lighthouses, and learned that an ancestor had been appointed keeper of all the lights and beacons in Connecticut by George Washington. I feel that making and selling objects at the flea market to be a direct corollary to that Winnebago dream.


As a sculptor and a cheapskate, I have always made do with what I found. my entire oeuvre is site-specific in that way, and reflects my location and circumstances and interests in time. please explore and enjoy the tabs above, which naturally can only show a part of the whole.

Eastertime in the vitrine at the Museum of Arts and Design. for more images from my residency, click on new work

maker faire 2014

this year I focused my booth into a commercial enterprise, selling items made of keys indelibly stamped with a variety of fonts and sentiments/symbols. it was exciting to make custom items for visitors on the spot, but next year I am coming purely as a vistor, so I can see all the amazing things on offer. see maker faire for more images of the intelligent merriment available. see new work for images from my booths there.

click on the keys below to buy the keys through my etsy shop Barton Lee

intel photoshoot

some photographers from Intel came by the Real Key booth at maker faire, looking to show the small size of their new processor against an object we all know, hence the following photograph.