Today most of the collectible figurines in the marketplace are designed, created and mass produced in factories located in Southeast Asia. More often than not, the works of competing lines are injection molded in the exact same factories. These items 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. Traditionally, Cairn set the standards by which handmade American collectibles were judged, and still today, Cairn's quality reproductions are just as true to these time honored standards and traditions as they were 25 years ago. All of Cairn's artwork offerings (whether reproduced in North Carolina or elsewhere) follow both a proven Cairn reproduction formula, as well as, a detailed quality assurance program. More particularly, Cairn Studio has been designing and implementing molding, casting, painting, antiquing, highlighting and other finishing processes for over a quarter of a century. In addition, Cairn has been an innovator of new and improved production techniques as well as new and improved raw material components (i.e. casting mediums, paints, stains, antiquing solutions and lacquers), and is proud to pass these same techniques, procedures, and formulas to select facilities who may reproduce their original artwork designs. For instance, selected Cairn artworks which are finished abroad are first designed and sculpted in North Carolina. All the master casts as well as the master epoxy casts are made in North Carolina. Next, the first maquettes are completely finished, i.e. handcast, sanded, painted, stained, highlighted, antiqued, lacquered and packaged in North Carolina with Cairn's own handcasting compounds, mediums, paints, stains, highlighting solutions and lacquers. These finished figurines along with all of Cairn's specific reproduction process instructions are then uncompromisingly communicated to the source as the Cairn standards that must be followed. Thus, and unlike any other competing artworks in the market place, Cairn artwork reproductions are completely and painstakingly controlled by the Cairn artists, the Cairn production process formula(s), and the Cairn quality control standards.
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 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 master cast 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 master mold is made, (a process that usually takes several days), we hand-cast each artwork or prototype to be sourced in mediums that consist of either filler and clear based resins 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 their molds, we are able to offer 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 typical 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 standards 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 offering whose total is determined by the life of the individual mold.
After our artworks have been hand-cast, each piece is carefully inspected in accordance with specific details laid out in advance by the 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.
The painting procedure is done by individual artisans who are responsible for the total painting of each creation. There is no 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 sprayed or 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 Certificates of Authenticity 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 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. Each Cairn creation is a limited edition collectible. Dealers are responsible for registering each Collector's purchase.
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.