Today most of the collectible figurines in the marketplace are actually produced in factories located in China, Taiwan, Korea and Mexico. More often than not, the works of competing lines are injection molded or mass-produced in the exact same factories. These statuettes are then bulk-shipped to warehouses in the U.S. where different competing companies contrive their own domestic marketing programs. It is through these channels that many products become associated with a “hand-crafted image” that is usually more fiction than fact. This is not the case with a Cairn Studio Creation.
The creation of the original artwork is the first of many steps involved in producing a fine quality Cairn artwork. Our original artworks are created out of the different mediums preferred by our various artists and these mediums range from clay and wax to stone and wood. Once the original artwork is approved by our studio staff, it is placed with one of our skilled mold-makers. Mold-making is an art within itself and our particular mold-making technique is somewhat of a hybrid process between that of porcelain molding and the lost-wax process usually associated with bronze casting.
After each individual mold is made, (a process that usually takes several days), we hand-cast each piece in mediums that consist of either clear based resins, crushed pecan shells and wood chips OR pure bronze powder and resin. These mediums, which are much more expensive than the standard “porcelain or hydrocal slip”, generate tremendous heat as they begin to cure. It is our special ingredients along with the slow curing process that allows us to capture the very intricate detail which has become the hallmark of all Cairn Studio artworks. Since our artworks possess what we call “green strength” when they are gently hand-cast from the molds, we are able to cast figures with sculptural detail and severe undercuts that are far beyond the capabilities of most other studios. For instance, when you compare the detail of a Cairn Studio Creation to a porcelain casting, you will realize the tremendous difference between our intricate detail and the simple, smooth look of porcelain reproductions.
Cairn’s mold and casting process severely limits the artwork’s mold-life and it is this mold-life limitation that makes our offerings so very limited. Since our original creations are usually destroyed during the initial molding stage, and since each mold produces limited castings, each Cairn artwork is one piece of a limited edition of approximately 35 castings. In order to create the second edition artwork, the artist must either start completely over or “resculpt” a reproduction from the first edition casting. Second editions, then, can be different from their first edition counterparts, and it is left to the artists’ discretion to decide when to retire a Cairn artwork.
After our artworks have been hand-cast, each piece is carefully inspected by local artisans in accordance with specific details laid out in advance by each artist. Next, the mold seams are carefully sanded and the parts, now all signed, numbered and dated, are washed in a special solvent to prepare them for painting.
Our painting procedure is done by individual artisans who are responsible for the total painting of each creation. There is no decal or mask painting associated with a Cairn Studio Creation. All painting is done free-hand with specially blended paint that is compatible with our antiquing stain. Once the part is painted, it again goes through a drying process as the cast and now painted part still continues to cure. When the part has fully cured and dried, it is ready to be antiqued.
The antiquing process is a very lengthy process. Each part is individually submerged in a special stain, hand-wiped and then hand-brushed until the proper finish is obtained. Next, each face is buffed with damp rags (dipped in a special thinner) to insure that the laugh lines, wrinkles and all the intricately sculptured detail “jumps out” of each distinct personality.
After the antiquing process is complete, the parts are again inspected and then hand-lacquered with a special sealing agent. Finally, the artworks are individually felted and wrapped in plastic bags and placed in individual boxes with their respective hang tags and collector registration postcards.
We welcome you to visit our museum in North Carolina and see for yourself what is involved in making a truly hand-crafted American Collectible.
Cairn Studio’s registered collector base includes such notables as Barbara Bush, Bob Newhart, Stephen King, William Manchester, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, Alan Alda, Ed Harris, Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Lauch Faircloth, Governor Jim Hunt, Governor Jim Martin, Candice Bergen, Dean Smith, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Willie Shoemaker, Joe Garagiola, Charlie Daniels, the members of “Alabama”, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, the late Lucille Ball, Lloyd Bridges, Jimmy Stewart, Jim Henson, Bo Schembechler, and Bear Bryant.
It is not unusual to find collections that number in the hundreds, and there are many Collectors who have over one thousand of Dr. Clark’s statues. There are many reasons why people collect Tom Clark’s creations. The statue may celebrate a special occasion (such as Our Wedding), or remind them of a loved one (Anne), or celebrate one’s hobby or occupation (Boxcar Willies or School Marm). Many of Tom Clark’s Gnomes are simply sweet and gentle companions and Collectors tell us that just looking at them brightens their day.
Working in his Davidson, North Carolina studio, Dr. Clark has sculpted over 1,000 different artworks, which are recreated for Collectors in Cairn Studio’s Mooresville, North Carolina studio. Each Cairn creation is a limited edition collectible. Dealers are responsible for registering each Collector’s purchase. Collectors then receive by mail a Certificate of Authenticity direct from Cairn Studio.
Dr. Clark and Cairn Studio have been commissioned to create artworks for a wide variety of businesses and organizations, including The Easter Seal Society, various NASCAR drivers, Lance Corporation, The Boy Scouts of America, The Cub Scouts of America, The National Shriners and Mason Charities, Xerox Corporation, Hospice, QVC, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, We’re Hear For You, Michigan State, and many, many others.
Dr. Clark, a former theology professor at prestigious Davidson College, imbues every creation with his personal philosophy that “the universe is basically friendly”. His Gnomes and Woodspirits “show a dignity that comes from a life of worth”, and he feels that his creations are successful if they make you smile!
Dr. Clark travels more than 47 weekends a year, traveling around the United States and abroad to greet Collectors and sign his artworks. His “weekend” may actually last from Thursday to Monday as he travels to cities from east to west coast for the scheduled Artist Promotion events, which can last anywhere from several hours to all day.
Dr. Clark shares his sculpting studio with Tim Wolfe, a talented wildlife sculptor. Together they create collaborative sculptures known as “Kindred Spirits”, that depict the interaction between the gnomes and animals of the forest.
Together, these artists combine their skills and talents with the universal “everydayness of life” to create meaningful artworks that seem to reach out and touch a special place in the hearts and souls of all those who come in contact with these amazing works of art.