Tattoo Treasures—Amazing Sand Artist Andrew Clemens
WITH DANA BRUNSON
Tattooing always seems to reflect the popular icons of the times. Since my interest lies in traditional designs, I have always loved art and folk art of times long gone. Art containing eagles, ships, anchors and patriotic images have always been favorites of mine. I have collected boxes, carvings, drawings, trench art, etc., all depicting images of early America. Sometimes the art is very crude, other times the craftsmanship is truly amazing.
Out of all the folk artists I’ve seen throughout the years, one man stands out among all others: Andrew Clemens. Clemens is in a category all his own, and his artwork will truly humble you. Clemens was born in 1857, and created paintings inside of bottles, using grains of colored sand. He contracted encephalitis at a young age, and entered the Iowa State School for the Deaf and Dumb at age 13. He collected different colored sand, which he arranged into piles, and, using handmade tools, formed from hickory sticks and wire, he created his amazing art.
To create his bottles, he inserted the sand using no glue or tricks, and created complex works that absolutely boggle the mind. When the art was completed, a stopper sealed with wax was applied to preserve his amazing abilities for eternity. Although he created hundreds of these works in his lifetime, only a few survive today. Some of the designs that he created took up to a year to complete. During his lifetime, the bottles sold for $5 to $7 each,. Andrew perfected this original art that he invented, but his secrets died with him, when he passed in his late thirties. His bottles today sell in the $10,000 to $40,000 range.
Truly amazing and inspiring. So, the next time you do an eagle tattoo or a sailing ship or beautiful rose, think of Andrew Clemens.
See ya in the funny papers and keep your hat on so I’ll know ya.
Photos courtesy of Wes Cowan Auctions, Cincinnati Ohio