Sculpture Gail Folwell and her latest work: "The Edge"


Gail Folwell is a Canadian award-winning sculptor currently living in the U.S., who works in different materials such as clay, ceramics, bronze and other metals.

Her art forms include large and small scale statues made of  bronze, clay and styrothane which are now in  public and private collections, as well as in exhibitions including The National Academy of Design,  National Sculpture Society, National Hockey League, Lance Armstrong Foundation, Vail Valley Foundation/Gerald Ford Amphitheater and leading galleries in Denver, Vail, Santa Fe, St. Helena, California, Cannon Beach, Oregon, and Palm Dessert, California.

After obtaining a BFA from The University of Denver she became a successful entrepreneur who owned and operated a design firm.  Folwell has also an extensive university and college teaching experience, including Graphic Design Department Head at Metropolitan State College in Denver.

Folwell was honored as one of the Leading American Sculptors by Southwest Art in 2002.

Folwell’s creations are elegant, slim and almost ethereal, surreal human bodies.  The characters she sculpts usually represent attitudes or emotions of people as well as different roles  in our society such as mothers, daughters and athletes.  She has documented different sports with her artwork, so it’s no surprise that her latest commission is a skier.  This will be one of  her most important sculptures.  Folwell was commissioned by Vail Resorts to create a bronze sculpture of a skier going downhill which is expected to weigh more than 3,000 pounds.  This unique statue titled "The Edge" will be a fitting tribute to Vail’s history as well as to winter Olympians, many of whom have lived, trained and raced in Vail over the past 50 years.

It will take more than seven months to build and it is in construction in her studio at Boulder, Colorado, where she works and lives with her husband, the architect Michael Folwell, and two children, who she says are part of her inspiration.


As an artist, you focus mainly in the human form, creating ethereal and surreal bodies, in postures that show some social activity or some emotional state in such a way that for the viewer is more important than the action represented.   How do you select the topic for the sculpture when you are not working on commission?
I want you to feel it, whatever it is.  I’m interested in the human condition, powerful emotions or experience.  I create sculpture to express that energy by abstracting the human form.  

You use different material for your sculptures.  

I primarily work in oil base clay on an armature which is molded and cast to produce a bronze edition of 9. Working in other mediums, steel or polymers, etc. is just for fun, although for large scale work, plastics would be a less expensive but effective and appropriate option for my art.

How did you make the transition from graphic design to sculpture?

It was wonderful. Design is a fundamental must for any artist. It’s what makes the message work.  Composition, form, silhouette, is a foundation. Then, also a must in good graphic design, concept. It’s easy to impress people with a skillful hand but to affect people with a powerful concept that they interpret, have a dialog with and take away with them, that is art. Otherwise it’s just a fine craft.

But I have to add, the business of design is great. You can always go get the work you want (and I love deadlines). Not so in fine art. It is an exercise in diligence and patience, and I can’t say that’s my forté. I have fantastic galleries, and that’s what makes it work.

You were commissioned to do a bronze sculpture of a downhill skier.  Can you tell us about that?
That’s where a good gallery comes in. I create whatever I’m passionate about, smaller scale work that I can afford to cast. The galleries market, sell and represent me. They pay attention to things that will benefit us all. In this case, Vail wanted a tribute to their local winter Olympians. Claggett/Rey Gallery worked on getting my skier in front of the right people for a year. It was a great piece for this project and Bill Rey believed in it.

It must be very hard for a woman to work on a heavy piece of metal!  Would you like to briefly explain us about the technical process from the image in your mind to the finished sculpture?
Well, it’s mostly only clay I throw around. I do have to move a lot of my work and I have two hernia surgeries to show for that! But producing bronze involves many experts; mold maker, wax pour and chase, metal pour and chase, patina and basing.  (optional...My clay sculpture is molded with rubber and plaster to produce hollow wax originals for the edition. Then another mold, this time ceramic is made around the wax and when fired and the lost wax is replaced by molten bronze. Then bronze pieces are welded back together and chased to recreate textures where the weld seams were.) It’s an arduous but fascinating process. The big piece I’m doing now is cast in 46 pieces. It’s a thousand pound puzzle at this point.

Which one of your artworks mean the most to you?
My favorites switch around but Bereaved is pretty personal and I always have that around. It’s about losing my mom.  Three people who own it have contacted me and their personal stories have profoundly affected me. That is just really what it’s all about. Also Transcendence, not to sound morbid, but earlier work, same theme for Dad. Big emotions make for powerful art. Art heals, teaches, inspires, relates.

Which famous character in history or in our actual times would you like to immortalize in a sculpture?
It would be fun to have the opportunity to do a conceptual portrait.  So, I’d have to say Mother Teresa or Einstein would be both visually and conceptually spectacular inspirations. I’ve thought about Mother Earth a lot– she’s not looking so good these days?!  and Atlas Fell is in the studio now!