Art created from license plates by David Nichols

A road trip with Louisville artist David Nichols must be quite interesting, to say the least. An avid collector of license plates, Nichols has been fascinated with them since he was about 11 years old and now boasts a collection of more than 700.

David Nichols

“It’s funny, because now that I work with license plates, I notice every single plate on every car I see — it’s unavoidable,” he tells Insider.

So what does he do with all the plates? He creates art, of course. And his latest exhibit, “United Plates,” opens Saturday at Revelry Boutique Gallery. The exhibit features 26 pieces of all sizes — some cut into shapes of states, others encompassing the overall theme of Americana and folk art.

Nichols also works in acrylics and with other reclaimed materials, but ever since two years ago — when he stumbled upon his childhood collection — license plates have been his primary focus. He says he picks them up at area antique malls and garage sales, and he also knows a few other collectors who are willing to sell.

“I’ve gotten to the point now, though, where people are reaching out to me saying they still have their old plates, and I’m always more than happy to take them off their hands,” he adds.

Art by David Nichols

Nichols works full time at A+H Marketing, and he has previously worked in the graphic design, brand development and event marketing fields. He’s also active in the arts community, donating his time and art to various boards and fundraisers.

As someone who has noticed license plates for most of his life, the artist says his favorites have a minimal, clean design.

“Over the years, California, Texas, Vermont and Colorado are some good examples,” Nichols explains. “I love the simple blue and white Kentucky plates they had up until the 1980s, but in the past 10-15 years, a lot of states are making the background art complex since they can just print a graphic directly on them.”

Nichols’ prize possession is a vintage Explore Kentucky plate from the ’60s, which he displays proudly on the front of his car. That one he will not be cutting up anytime soon.

Art by David Nichols

But for “United Plates,” you can expect all sorts of designs that show off the Americana theme.

“In the beginning, I was just making various sizes of Kentucky state-shaped pieces, and then had a strong desire to explore other states and some larger designs,” he says. “This exhibit is really a combination of those two things, and I think it works well.”

See for yourself when the exhibit opens Saturday, June 10, with a special artist reception from 7-10 p.m. The show continues through July 5. Revelry is located in NuLu at 742 E. Market St.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."