You might be wondering who Tom Clark is. Chances are, you have never heard of him. A quick Google search will only show you how common the name is. The Clark in question is Dr. Thomas Fetzer Clark who was a theology professor at Davidson College. But what does a man with a PHD in theology have anything to do with gnomes?
What started out as a hobby is what soon became his life legacy. Clay sculpting allowed Dr. Clark to travel around the world and provide special pieces to home collectors. Inspired by the 1976 book “Gnomes” by Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet, Clark based his gnomes on the drawings in the book which led to his rise in fame. Soon after, he began to sculpt other creatures and named them “woodspirits”. These creatures were often inspired by people the artists saw around his school campus, and gave them a fictional background.
Although Clark made other figurines, collectors have made his gnomes and other woodspirits the most popular items. Woodspirits had a mystical look so they very quickly became popular among collectors. These creations were made to look like antiques and were very common in Western and Asian countries, especially Japan.
Who is Tom Clark ?
American-born Dr. Thomas Fetzer Clark studied theology and religious arts in Davidson College, where his father and other family members previously studied. He was an associate professor at Davidson College for over 25 years. In 1985, he quit his successful teaching career to work at an art gallery (a move that many questioned). Once a passionate craftsman who used to make wood sculptures during his free time, then became successful enough to travel around the world to teach people how to make his sculptures with Cairn Studios.
His clay work is exceptional and has a talent in creating gnomes with a purpose. All gnomes have a backstory that is often inspired by actual characters in his life. His figurines are bought from the likes of the former first lady Barbara Bush and It-author Stephen King. His creations vary from gnomes to real life figurines and has travelled around to teach people how to make them.
Are Tom Clark Gnomes Valuable?
Tom Clark gnomes usually retail between $20 and $60 when they are brand new. If the gnomes are second hand then the price varies more. However when they are sold in an auction it can be sold for $500+. Collectors are willing to splurge when it comes to terra-cotta gnomes or old iron ones. The older the gnome, the more valuable it is as people are willing to pay a few hundreds of dollars in comparison to the newer ones. These collectible pieces can be found on etsy, ebay or sometimes collectible stores.
Tom Clarke gnomes are still quite accessible, as many people are reselling their once very loved pieces. They retail at all sorts of prices depending on the condition and the year it was sold. There are quite a few Facebook groups dedicated to these gnomes with people from all over the world exchanging stories of their gnomes or selling them.
Is Tom Clark alive and does he still make gnomes?
The artist himself is still alive but has long retired from making his art pieces. His gnomes are available online and are still sold on the Cairn Studio website. Tom Clark was born in 1928 and has long retired and has stopped making gnomes. Some are still produced in the studio he used to work at and some have been retired. They are made by people who recreate his work impeccably. At one point he had a staff of hundreds of people reproducing his creations for sale.
Why do Tom Clark Gnomes have coins?
All gnomes have a coin from somewhere in the world to add a more significant story to the individual gnome. They all separate stories and come along with a card that even includes the gnome’s zodiac sign! Each figurine has a serial number and their unique stories is why these gnomes are so well loved.
Can Tom Clark Gnomes go Outside?
Tom Clark gnomes are coated with a UV protective agent so they can be used for outdoor purposes. However, many are quite old and many collectors want to keep the integrity of the pieces, so they are usually kept in glass cabinets within the household. This protects them from dust, soil, rain and humidity so that the gnome paint can last for a longer time. Dr. Clark has often said that if people want to keep them outdoors then it is important to switch them between inside and outside. Cairn Studios made hand cast gnomes in resin or bronze and then hand painted them but the artist opted out and stuck to clay. If you want to maintain the value of these collector items, it is better to keep it indoors.
How do you Clean Tom Clark Gnomes?
It is important to clean these clay gnomes to make sure that they are more durable and their worth remains constant. Most of these gnomes have a special paint color-scheme and it is probably a few decades old so it is imperative that no harsh chemicals and rigid brushes are used to clean these figurines. Take a soft makeup brush or a new paint brush to dust off your gnome and use a sink to rinse off dirt and pat dry with a towel.
If the gnome was placed outside and is covered in soil, then fill your sink with 5cm of lukewarm water and add a few drops of soap. Let your gnome soak for a while and you can add a towel under to avoid scratching or breaking it. If there are some stains or dirt then use a cotton pad or a microfiber towel to gently rub it off. Once your gnome is clean make sure to pat dry it with either a napkin or a towel to conserve the paint well. Repainting these gnomes does not lower the value but it damages the integrity of the original piece.
Tom Clark’s pieces have been commissioned by many businesses across the world. His very successful career spread a deep love and appreciation for gnomes. His approach to personalising figurines allowed people to grow attached to them and gave a warm vibe to people’s homes.