After spending 32 years in the high-pressure world of law enforcement in Illinois, Windsor resident Doug Ivins sculpts away any stress that comes his way.
Ivins, 64, discovered the hobby of sculpting in the 1980s. When he retired 10 years ago from his position as the Bureau of Investigations deputy chief for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Ivins moved to Saratoga, Wyo., with his wife Christine. He had visited Colorado and Wyoming with his parents ever since he was a little kid.
Ivins’ parents retired to Windsor almost 25 years ago, and he moved to Windsor seven years ago. He actually flew out to Windsor to investigate a case in 1984, so he was well aware of the town.
“Interestingly enough, my first time in Windsor was actually before my parents moved here,” Ivins said. “I came out here on a case and looked up a guy at the Kodak plant to interview on a big embezzlement case. He wasn’t guilty of it or anything, but he was tied with it. I flew out here, me and another guy. We rented a car. Back then, it was Stapleton Airport and we drove up to Windsor, which was a little bitty town then. I couldn’t believe the huge Kodak plant in this dinky, little town.”
Ivins is so skilled at sculpting his clay caricatures that take on a Western theme such as cowboys, American Indians and the current one he’s working on — a bareback rider on a horse with a guy opening a gate — that he could turn his hobby into a profitable business if he chose to.
Ivins, though, isn’t ready to take that step where he has to worry about sculpting pieces for some art gallery or selling his pieces at an art show. He did an art show in Jackson, Wyo., one time in the 1980s and hasn’t set up for another one since.
“I don’t want to sit in a tent for three days, and I got this stuff out there and the wind comes up and I’ve got to figure out how to get rid of it,” Ivins said.
He did admit that he could get $2,000 or more for each piece.
“That’s the thing maybe kind of holding me back from selling. If it becomes a job to where you’re got to produce these things to sell them, it may not be fun anymore,” Ivins said. “That’s why I’m kind of hesitant, and they’re not easy to make. They do take a lot of time. It’s not something that you sell at a craft fair. They would be expensive. Any one of these would cost at least $2,000. I don’t want to work for somebody else. I’m just doing when I want, how I want. I might put one or two in a gallery sometime where I don’t have to worry about it. But I’m not going to ... ‘Hey, we need another piece. We sold this one and we need another one.’ I may not want to make another one.”
Christine, 61, who has been married to Ivins for 39 years, said she thinks he’s in love with his pieces and that’s why he doesn’t want to sell them.
“He also makes these dance horse sticks and they’re absolutely gorgeous, too,” she said. “It’s a horse that he’s carved out of wood. They’re painted and decorated and they have horse hair on them and beads.”
People who have seen Ivins’ work marvel at it.
“He’s got so much talent he doesn’t know what to do with it,” Christine said. “It always amazes me the projects he comes up with. I wish I had half his talent. He just enjoys doing it. He’s such a creative thinker in he way he puts things together. I can’t tell you how many art galleries we’ve gone into and he just gets ideas from that.”
Ivins is humble when talking about his sculpting skills.
“People think I’m a good artist, and I just call myself a piddler,” he said. “I’ve always been artistic. When I was a little kid growing up I wanted to be a cartoonist or animator for Walt Disney. I got sidetracked. I went to college to be a history teacher and wrestling coach, and I got sidetracked once again into law enforcement. Now, I’m back to where I started. All my life I’ve drawn cartoons just as a hobby. I’d draw cartoons for ads for guys for their newspaper ads for their bars or whatever. I’d draw greeting cards for my buddies in college for their girlfriends and moms. I’d draw for my wife and save money. I decided somewhere along the line to make three-dimensional cartoons sculpting out of clay.”
Ivins uses polymer clay that he bakes in an oven.
Ivins’ first pieces back in the 1980s were of cowboys, Indians, mountain men and trappers. Those are the pieces he took to Jackson, Wyo., for an art show.
“That’s the only time I’ve ever been in an art show, but I sold some after the show to different people,” he said. “I just didn’t piddle around with them because I worked the whole state of Illinois and I was gone a lot. I planned when I retired to start getting back into making these things and that’s what I kind of did. Now that I’m retired and when I’m not mowing the yard out here, I piddle around with my art work.”
Ivins also sculpted two flying machines, or hanging pieces, from different pieces of junk and plumbing parts like toilet floats and gas valves he found at hardware stores. He’s sculpted a cowboy in a bathtub, and another cowboy eating Cream of the West breakfast cereal with a vulture looking at him. He also sculpted a self portrait.
The pieces vary in size from 16 to 18 inches wide to 18 inches high. Ivins starts by sculpting the head and then he works with the body.
Ivins said he likes to have fun with his pieces in his home studio.
“They’re not serious art,” he said. “I don’t take myself that serious. You have to have a sense of humor to be around me for a while, and I guess this is part of that. I just put some music on and I work on them. You don’t have to think about any problems or anything.”