Jeffery Fouke, Jr. likes vintage art and design. He also likes – no, loves – Coca-Cola.
Out of those merged passions has come a cornucopia of structures and artistic creations, all built from Coca-Cola packaging. Over the past four years, the Ohio teenager has constructed a model biplane with crushed cans, a lightshade made out of pull-tabs, and – most recently – an electrified and lighted replica Eiffel Tower with glass Coca-Cola bottles (516, to be exact) and 179 feet of LED lighting. It standing more than nine-and-a-half feet tall.
Dubbed “La Tour Eiffel de Coca-Cola”, the structure took Fouke more than a year to build. It currently resides at the public library near Fouke’s home in Oregon, Ohio.
Fouke, 18, is working at a tool and die company in Toledo while studying mechanical engineering at the University of Toledo. We team recently caught up with him to chat about his unique brand of Coca-Cola-inspired art.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you build this Eiffel Tower? It looks like something that could take over social media at some point.
To get ready to build my Eiffel Tower, I bought more than 900 bottles of Coca-Cola. I drove to every single Meijer, Target and Kroger grocery store in the Toledo area twice to stock up and get the bottles I needed. I once spent $300 in one day. The managers got to know me pretty well! I ended up using 516 bottles for the tower.
So, do you drink all the beverages yourself? All the Coke has to go somewhere, right?
I actually sold the drinks at cost at my high school. I’d ice them down and people would drink them and then hand the empty bottles back to me. My friends, family and teachers were a big help. Later, I put the names of people who helped me with the project on the inside face of the tower, behind the bottles. The top bottle, up on the pinnacle of the tower, is a “Share a Coke with Jeff.” I thought that was pretty cool.
Did you end up with extra supplies?
I have about 300 bottles left over in my house. I would like to start building chandeliers. I’ve seen some on the Internet that are like 10 feet wide. I’m in the process of working on them. They’re not that hard to make; I just need to find customers.
Where did you get the idea for the tower? Or the other projects, for that matter?
I created artwork during my four years at Clay High School. And I love old stuff. I have old bottles, old cans, and all kinds of antiques. I thought, “Hey, I can do projects with this stuff.” For my senior capstone project, the idea came to me of trying to build an Eiffel Tower.
What’s your favorite Coca-Cola project so far? What have you learned as you try new things?
Oh man, that’s a tough question. Of all the Coca-Cola projects I’ve done, I’ve never thrown one out. The biplane was the first thing I ever did with cans. And after I finished, it looked like I had taken a razor blade to my fingers. I was rolling the materials and it gets really sharp that way; kind of dangerous. That was my first project and I didn’t really know what not to do. But I learned fast; I learned to put bandages on my finger when I was working.
When I was assembling the Eiffel Tower and doing the wiring and drilling, three bottles broke in my hand. I put my blood, sweat and tears into all my projects – literally.
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