Just like his famous figurine sculptures, Dr. Thomas F. Clark reached his final Retirement Tier Friday, January 14, 2022 at 9:26am.
Dr. Clark was a great teacher. He taught and performed and challenged and charmed us in the classroom at Davidson College, and then parlayed that experience and knowledge into his sculpting which won him international acclaim. Although small in stature, in reality, he was larger than life. Even in the very first year of his career as the “Gnome man” he was acclaimed by one of the most prestigious publications in the figurine industry to be “Already bigger than Norman Rockwell – an American Treasure”.
At prestigious Davidson College he was very simply one of the most popular professors ever to walk the halls and enlighten the classrooms of the iconic Chambers Building. In the classroom his performances were the eclectic mix of William Shakespeare, Don Quixote and Woody Allen. For some it was pure academic delight; for others a life changing experience, but for all it was more entertainment than anything else AND it was Great Entertainment. He knew every student by their full name and quite a bit about each individual. And more than anything else wanted to be your friend as well as your mentor. He always had impeccable manners and always knew the right thing to say – never condescending – and was always positive and encouraging in his associations with students and later the collectors of his artworks.
Dr. Thomas Fetzer Clark, a.k.a. Tom Clark, a.k.a. T-Bird Tommy, spent his life entertaining and enlightening literally millions of people, first as a kindly sought-after professor of religion, then as American Artist extraordinaire, producing thousands of sculptures and hosting hundreds of artists appearances worldwide.
That he retained his generous, courteous charm and charisma through such dedicated expense of his time is a great tribute to his selfless devotion to his Art and his Public. No one worked as hard as Tom Clark. He was a demanding task master. His labor of love brought him to collectors during the weekends and to a sculpting table during the week. Friday through Saturday, meeting collectors, signing statues; Monday through Friday (with a rare week off here and there) at his easel creating hundreds of artworks. “I work very hard.
Sometimes I feel the collector doesn’t quite understand just what it takes to do what I do – the sculpting and the personal appearances. But that is OK. I have often said it has taken me a lifetime to create any one sculpture. I am very pleased that in my life, I have been able to give something of myself particularly my philosophy that basically we are all part of the same world and ALL good at heart. To be aware that so many people are pleased to receive my work is the most reward in life I need. For people not to know what it really took to get here, it doesn’t matter.”
The least self-promoting individual ever encountered, it is like him, no it is him to be generous sharing his success with Cairn Studio and his adoring collector following. To be gracious and generous was as integral a part of Tom Clark as was his great talent. He would have it no other way and every wonderful sculpture he produced was a reflection of the attitude, the art, and the man.
Dr. Clark had more registered collectors and a larger following than probably any other sculptor in the world today, and, as a lasting and fitting tribute to his great talent and success, was featured in literally thousands of newspapers, journals, magazines, and other periodicals as well as, numerous radio and television features.
As far as accomplishments and accolades are concerned there are far too many to list here and they never were that big a part of this very humble man.
We are all going to miss Tom Clark, his warm and gracious attitude, his spirituality and his self-deprecating wit and humor – But the legend lives on!