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Austin attorney Don Davis has a way with clay. Life-size sculptures of golf greats Tom Kite and Harvey Penick on the grounds of the Austin Country Club each started as 200-pound lumps of oil-based clay that Davis sculpted into the golfers’ image and had bronzed at a Hill Country foundry. The sculptures of Kite and Penick, a world-renowned golf instructor who died on the day the statues were unveiled in April 1995, are among many done by Davis, 62, a partner in Byrd, Davis & Eisenberg. Other golfers he has sculpted include Jack Nicklaus and the late Payne Stewart. Sculpting golfers only seems natural for Davis, who says he typically spends his leisure time sculpting or playing golf. “This is what I do to relax,” he says. But golfers aren’t his only subjects. Davis is working on sculptures of children and animals dancing in a circle for a “healing garden” to be created at the Children’s Hospital of Austin. The garden is “going to be a place for the children to get out of the hospital, get in the fresh air, get the smell of the hospital out of their noses for a while and be able to play a little bit,” he says. A sculpture by Davis, 62, already graces the entrance to the Children’s Hospital. The work features a little girl pulling a little boy in a wagon, with a puppy trying to jump in the wagon. The girl is waving and holding hands with the boy, who is pointing at the hospital. “We just wanted to create something fun and exciting so that when little children come up to the hospital, it won’t be so gloomy,” Davis says. Cyndy Perkins, director of development for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, says Davis took the basic idea for the sculpture from the hospital’s logo, which features children in a wagon. Perkins says the sculpture is used as a landmark, and people often are told that when they see the children and the wagon, they’ve arrived at Children’s Hospital. “That sculpture is a wonderful piece to have at the entry way. It’s such a child-focused piece. … We love it,” she says. Previously, Davis sold his work through a gallery in Aspen, Colo., but says he didn’t enjoy promoting his sculptures. He now seeks only to recoup the foundry costs for a work. “You’re in demand when it’s free,” Davis says. “But it’s fun. I love a cause to do it for,” he says. James Furman, another partner in Byrd Davis, says the sculpting provides Davis an outlet outside the law that makes him a more well-rounded person and allows him to express himself creatively. Furman says he asked his partners one year to donate items for the annual auction held by the Capitol Area Council Boy Scouts of America. Davis’ contribution was a bronze of Penick, he says. “It was the featured item,” Furman says. “It really drew a lot of attention and got a lot of bids.” Art has long been one of Davis’ interests, but it took him a while to discover where his talent lies. “When I went to Abilene Christian [University], I started out as an art major. I very early on realized I was the worst artist in the class, so I needed a day job,” he recalls and chuckles. After receiving an undergraduate degree in accounting and English, Davis went to the University of Texas School of Law and received his degree in 1965. He served as a briefing clerk for Texas Supreme Court Justice Mead Griffin before joining Byrd Davis, where he specializes in products liability cases. Even after he began practicing law, Davis continued to paint but says he didn’t try his hand at sculpting until the late 1980s, after he built a home near Aspen. Davis says some friends presented him and his wife with a sculpture as a house-warming present. The gift provided the impetus for Davis to try sculpting. “My wife said, ‘You can do that,’ and so I started working in three dimension,” he says. Davis says he started working in terra cotta [natural clays] but switched to oil-based clay because it doesn’t have to be kept moist or be fired immediately. He says the sculptures are bronzed at a Bastrop, Texas, foundry, using the ancient “lost wax” process used by the Egyptians about 2000 B.C. The process involves making a mold of the clay sculpture. When the mold is removed from the sculpture and put back together, hot wax is put in it, Davis says. The next step, he says, is either to spray on a thick ceramic coating or dip the mold into the coating. When the molten bronze is put in, it melts the wax, hence the name “lost wax” process, he says. Before he starts a sculpture, Davis usually measures his subject. The “tricky part” of sculpting, he says, is getting the subject’s proportions right. Davis says he also has the subject stand still while he takes photographs from every angle. The sculptures initially are nude. Davis says he has to sculpt the subject’s form first and then add the clothes. “I have to do it nude or otherwise the clothes don’t fit,” he says. “It’s sort of like adding salad dressing as needed.” One of Davis’ most challenging sculptures was a Ryder Cup trophy that he did at Kite’s request. Davis says Kite, who captained the American team in 1997, requested the trophy to present to the team members who competed in Valderoma, Spain. For the trophy, Davis sculpted an American Eagle diving down to grasp the Ryder Cup. Davis says he had to sculpt each of the eagle’s tail feathers individually and weld them onto the tailpiece. “We got blueprints [of an eagle] from the National Audubon Society, so every feather count is perfect,” he says. “The wings are to scale. The tail is to scale.” Davis says that while working on the eagle’s wings, he had to use a large magnifying glass to make sure the details were right. The project took him about two years to complete, he says. On the trophy, the Ryder Cup is coming out of the Rock of Gibraltar. Davis says he featured the landmark because the rock is visible from the golf course where the tournament is played. Featuring the famous rock on one of the trophies turned out to be a mistake, however. Davis says he learned from Kite about three weeks before the Ryder Cup competition that the rock could not be featured on the trophy that was to go to Spain. Spain has fought several wars over that piece of real estate and has never won. “It’s a real sore spot with the Spaniards,” Davis says. To avoid an “international incident,” Davis says he had to cut the eagle off the rock and weld the bird’s wing to a branch.

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