When John and I visited his mother last week in north central Wisconsin, we drove to Jurustic Park, four miles north of Marshfield, to visit a sculpture garden. Jurustic Park is located on the grounds of a private residence where Clyde and Nancy Wynia ply their art every day, sharing their creations with anyone who visits them. Next to their 1920s-style Victorian home on Sugarbush Lane sits a sculpture garden where the couple cleared out brush to create space for Clyde’s workshop and sculptures, as well as Nancy’s glass studio that in every way resembles a Hobbit House.
Clyde is a 75-year-old metal sculptor who has dabbled in all kinds of crafts—pottery, stained glass, wood and photography—before discovering his preferred art, metal sculpture. Nancy, on the other hand, is a glass, fiber and textile artist who crafts beautiful glass jewelry, ornaments and kaleidoscopes, in additional to felted wool sculptures and life-sized soft sculpture dolls that Clyde says are her relatives. Although he has been retired now for about 15 years, Clyde used to practice law in Marshfield, and his wife still volunteers her nursing skills locally. The fact that both of them live happy, creative lives is evident from their 52nd wedding anniversary photo, taken almost four years ago.
So, what is Jurustic Park? If you ask Clyde, he’ll tell you that the park is an outdoor museum about the Iron Age creatures that once dwelled in the MacMillan Marsh near Marshfield. These ferrous metal creatures became extinct when farming and industry moved into the area in the mid-1800s. He’ll explain that he is an amateur paleontologist who is resurrecting their memories by creating replicas of them. His Web site explains further:
The creatures were often harvested for their parts that were then used in farm and industrial machinery. Over-harvesting eventually led to extinction of many species. Other species became extinct when acid rain caused them to rust over.
Both inside his workshop and stacked outside it are metal parts that Clyde says are the bones of creatures he has rescued from the local marsh. When visitors ask him where he gets his metal, he says, “Wherever I can find unattended, unattached metal. Lock your car.” He treats the metal with a mixture of salt vinegar and peroxide to give the sculptures their special rust patina. It takes years before this patina darkens, further enhancing Clyde’s tales about the creatures who lived millions of years ago in the MacMillan Marsh.
I discovered this video on YouTube that does an excellent job at introducing you to Clyde and his creatures.
Above all, Clyde is a masterful storyteller and enthusiastic tour guide as he introduces many of the characters in his sculpture garden, infusing each anecdote with his special brand of humor. There are the frogs, for example, who haven’t figured out where the indoor plumbing is located. Behind them stands Clyde’s wife, scolding them with her finger.
Meet Abe Lawbender, a local lawyer who is obviously a scamp. The sign to the left reads:
We are represented by Shysterville Attorney Abe Lawbender with his pair of legals, Katty and Feeline of the Law Firm of Lawbender, Cheetum, Pettifogger and Skumb. Their Motto: ‘Whatever it Takes.’ If your facts don’t fit, they will.
In front of the Hobbit House sits a dragon copter intended to replace or assist local ambulance efforts.
A sculpture of dancing figures, perhaps (below), embodies the spirit of Clyde’s work. A sign reads:
Life May not be the Party you expected, But while you are here you may as well dance. Then again, if life is more than you expected, all the more reason to dance.
Fast Eddy is one of the more popular characters in Jurustic Park. Who is Eddy? A sign explains.
Eddy Biscotti was a Norwegian gunfighter (with an Irish accent) in the marsh in the 1800s. He was fast. Then in 1888 a stranger of unknown ethnicity rode into the marsh and challenged Eddy to a draw. They met in the critter coral at noon. They drew in unison, but Eddy, in the split of a second, was distracted by his challenger’s cleavage. His lust cost Eddy his life. He was shot in the heart and died instantly. Eddy’s descendants still claim that it was Eddy who won. They argue that Eddy was a well balanced man who still stands a century after his challenger was buried.
A number of creatures help maintain order and discipline in Jurustic Park. Among them is this dragon that has a reputation for clearing out riff-raff. Notice the riff-raff speared on the end of his trident. A sign warns visitors, “Visiting riff-raff should keep a safe distance from this one.”
Another sign introduces you to Oxide, a merciless attack dog. “Oxide is independent, mean, tough, irresponsible and incorrigible,” says the sign. “He snacks on cats, lunches on pit bulls and dines on any critter that crosses him. Oxide handles security around here. He doesn’t bite or chew or claw. He just sits on the offender, until it repents. You may wag his tail or bob his head, but do it very GENTLY.”
Speaking of dogs, when I visited Nancy in her glass studio, she was followed everywhere by the Wynias’ dog. Nancy explained that because they acquired him as a rescue animal, someone had already named him Clyde. She discovered, however, that this was a little confusing because both the dog and her husband came running when she called out their name. “We call him Joe now,” she said about their dog.
A photo inside the Hobbit House shows a crow sitting on Clyde’s wrist, with the same crow perched on Nancy’s forearm. I also noticed a child—I assume the Wynias’ grandchild—walking on the porch with a crow hitching a ride on the child’s wrist.
“What’s the story about the tame crow?” I asked Nancy.
She explained that I was looking at the second crow for which they had provided care. The first crow, Jerry, was a baby when he fell out of his nest, featherless. Clyde and Nancy took care of Jerry until he was able to be released, and the bird hung around for four years. The current crow is Eddy, short for Edgar Allan Crow. If I remember Nancy’s story accurately, someone brought Eddy to them because they heard that the Wynias knew how to care for birds. Eddy appears to be recovered from whatever his ordeal was about, and spends his time visiting sculptures and the people it recognizes, alighting on them at will.
When my husband, his mother and I first entered the Hobbit House, Clyde pointed out her kaleidoscopes and life-sized soft sculptures, especially the one he says is his mother-in-law.
Nancy also designed the smaller soft sculpture dolls below, sitting on a shelf.
Although both Clyde and Nancy do sell their art, many of the pieces in both Jurustic Park and the Hobbit House are permanent display pieces. I fell in love with the necklace below. When you look at it closely, the textures in the pendant remind you of the beach, with sea creatures scattered in the sand. Nancy told me that it is actually silver inside the glass that gives it this appearance.
Besides the necklace, I purchased the lovely pen and letter opener set shown below.
Wouldn’t you love to have one of these ornaments hanging from your Christmas tree, or in a window?
Because I also work with fibers, I enjoyed looking at Nancy’s felted wool work. The red vase was created using a combination of wet felting and needle felting.
Nancy has a spectacular collection of felted wool bags she has created, too. None of the bags are alike.
I was pleased to discover, when we drove into Marshfield after our visit to Jurustic Park, that Clyde’s work is appreciated locally. He has donated a good number of his sculptures, among them the turtle shown below. Amusingly, the sculpture has been yarn bombed, which somehow seems appropriate, given that Clyde does metal work and Nancy works with fibers.
If you ever get a chance to visit north central Wisconsin, Jurustic Park and the Hobbit House should be on your list of places to visit. We thoroughly enjoyed the creativity, charm and hospitality of Clyde and Nancy Wynia.
You can read more about Clyde and Nancy Wynia here:
© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.