Jim Malkowski owns Garden Star, which is a lawn ornament retailer. It is located on the west frontage road of I-94 in Kenosha. He sculpts many of the items for sale on his property there. He has a garage where he makes statues out of clay. Then he makes a mold from his original artwork. Cement is poured into the mold and it is put on display for sale outside. The gargoyle characters and some of the animals on the lot are Jim’s creations. More photos of Jim with his sculptures can be found in a slide show on Associated Content.
“We make molds for other companies because the molds are so expensive. The bigger companies, they get their money’s worth because they sell more productions out of the mold. I make molds for artists where they might want to cast wax to do bronze.” Jim Said
Jim has been at the Garden Star location in Kenosha for about 14 years. They had a store in Oak Creek on 27th Street or the old Highway 41. He said his dad owned the location and he has been doing this kind of work forever.
In Kenosha there are some animal statues near the harbor. Jim made those about twenty years ago for Jockey International. He said Jockey Shorts paid for them. There were five statues Jim created that were based on Beatrix Potter’s children’s books. He said the fish was stolen but the rest are still there.
There are faces on the outside of a building at Ogden and Prospect Streets in Milwaukee that Jim created. There is a replica of one of the faces for sale at Garden Star. “I made all the parts for the building façade all along the front that are about 12 feet tall that look like carved stone but they’re not” Jim said. They were all hand made out of a specialized cement. They were around giant windows on that building.
“I call this one my self-portrait” Jim said as he was holding up a statue of a create that resembled a gremlin. He has quite a sense of humor.
When he builds a statute with rock on the bottom and bronze on the top he builds it in two pieces. “There is a ceramic shell mold around the wax. You melt the wax out and pour the bronze in” Jim said referring to how he makes bronze statues. “I like abstracts and contemporary stuff.” He said he does some of the concrete figures in bronze as well.
He puts some of art in galleries sometimes. “There was a gallery in Rockford, Illinois that sold some of my things and sold them last year” Jim said. He is a very gifted artist.
We went to his garage in the back and a man was working with a deer mold back there. Jim told me there is a rubber liner with a fiberglass shell they use that surrounds the deer that holds all the weight and pressure.
Jim also does snow sculptures. There are several photos of his snow sculptures inside the Garden Star Store. One year Popeye’s restaurant, which is right near the annual competition held in Lake Geneva, paid him to do a sculpture of Popeye out of snow in front of the restaurant.
This year Jim’s snow sculpting team was invited to participate in the international competition in Breckenridge, Colorado. “They are flying us out, all expenses paid, everything but our beer” Jim said. “There are four of us on the team and we are going to do a green man.” The four man team consists of Jeff Shawhan, Brett Tomczak and Gregory Brula.
“Greg is new with us but he’s got background in sculpture. Jeff and Brett were on a different team with some other guys until about three years ago. Then the team I was on fell apart. The other guys didn’t want to carve anymore so I was going to find another team or start a team and we just kind of got together. At each event the carvers all get to know each other, it’s a competition per se but you just do your best and whatever happens, happens and you know we party together. Its not like we’re competitors on a wrestling team or something” stated Jim. “When one or two of the carvers want to do an event and the other guys on their team can’t get off of work some of the teams get interchanged sometimes because they all get to know each other well and they bounce back and forth between teams. “
He brought out the sketches of the green man to show me that he sent in to the competition before they went out. “In Breckenridge, we have a four man team as opposed to the other ones where we have a three man team and we have a whole week to do it.” The event runs from January 25th – February 6, 2011.
Jim participates in the snow sculpture competitions in Racine, Wisconsin Dells and Chicago most year. His team won the 2009 Chicago competition, are two time state champions and have one the US National Championship. They have been participating at the Flake Out Festival held at the Wisconsin Dells since 1998.
The Racine competition lets them use a snow block that is 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet tall. Last year he did a sculpture of Billy the Brownie. Jim’s team may do a practice run there with the Green Man before they go to Breckenridge. This is the second year Racine has held the competition. This year it will be December 17th,18th and 19th in Monument Square.
The United States National Snow Carving championship will be held for the 16th year during Winterfest in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Jim’s team plans to be there again this year on Saturday, February 5th, 2011. The block of snow they have to work with there is about 8 feet wide by about 9 feet tall.
His team also competes in the at the Wisconsin Dells. This is the competition to decide who from the state will go to the national competition, in Lake Geneva, the following year. The next one being held is at the Flake Out Festival on January 22nd and 23rd, 2011.
Jim usually takes an independent study class on bronze sculpting at UW-Milwaukee during the winters. This winter he decided not to take the class. It looks like he will be heavily occupied by snow carving during those winter months this year.