Mom and I spent a beautiful day out at Silver Dollar City a week ago. It’s time for the fall festival (until October 26th) where artists from all over come to sell and demonstrate their craft. After talking to the people at the Folk Center a couple weeks ago, we were excited to talk to some more crafters at the 1800’s theme park in our backyard.Since there are over 125 craftsmen at the park right now, we decided to wander through the whole place to get an idea of what all was there. Before we had finished the loop, we came across Dennis E. Conner, sculptor, and all around nice, talkative fellow. He jumped right in to talking to us about what he was doing and was so nice to share even more when we told him we were doing a blog post about some of the crafters there.
Dennis started woodcarving when he drew his brother’s name for Christmas years ago. He decided to carve him a duck decoy as his gift. He continued carving wood, but since he didn’t draw and sees art better in 3D, he started sculpting with clay to have something to model his carvings after. People looked at those clay sculptures and thought he should be doing something more with those than just using them as a model for woodcarving.Wanting a way to make the clay sculpture more permanent, Dennis found a foundry that would cast the clay as bronze statues. Each of his sculptures are made into no more than 30 bronze sculptures. After all of them have been purchased, the owners will receive a piece of the original proof of the sculpture to ensure that there will be no more of that one made. This adds to the value and exclusiveness of their purchase.
In 2001, his studio was burned down by a forest fire in New Mexico. He lost everything that he had been working on, and only had a few pieces left that had been in his home. He started fresh in Kansas City, Mo and rebuilt his art by setting up at a Cabela’s with his clay and the few pieces he had left. He sold a couple and that was enough to get him back in the business. He is still in Kansas City sculpting and teaching workshops. You can see more pictures as well as find more information on workshops at his website.
Dennis’ explanation about how he sculpted this little girl inspired me greatly. He starts with a wire frame and then adds muscle structure to give it shape. After the body shape is carved, he then adds the dress and details. Without the muscle structure underneath, the dress would not have the right definition to make it realistic and proportioned correctly. Sometimes there are processes in art that will never be seen but are so important to the believability and structure of the art.
Thanks, Dennis for the wonderful conversation and for sharing your art with us!