Yeah, what you said about the bigwig - mind-blowing, right? Pretty darned cool. My customer is quite chuffed about it!
Okay, sequence of events. The party started at 1 PM and went until around 7 PM. As we were driving to the farm from Appleton, about about ten minutes to one, I got a call from my customer. "Where are you?" I told him where we were (just a few miles from the farm) and he sounded relieved and said, "Oh, you'll be here in ten minutes." Yeah, that's when we'd planned to be there, LOL!
There weren't a lot of people there when we arrived. The across-the-road neighbor was kindly allowing his nice flat yard to be used as a parking lot. He was out there with an umbrella (it was sprinkling) giving directions to where to park ("Go around the silo and park on that side." "Okay, thanks!")
We walked across the street laden with cameras and umbrellas and I had some business cards in my pocket "just in case" - I only gave out one, but who knows? That could be a job!
At first people just milled around visiting. My customer (Scott) introduced me to the photographer who'd taken the photo I based the sculpture on; to the lady who designs his ads and designed the mosaics around the sculpture; and to a lady who he said was 'a big Nanning supporter" (Nanning's the horse). The four of us were to unveil the piece after Scott made a speech at 3 PM. He asked if I wanted to say anything, and I said no, it sounded like he had all the bases well covered. He wanted me to be on the plinth with him for the majority of the speech (which wasn't a long one).
After those introductions, his wife gave a tour of the barns and introduced us to the horses in residence there. Lotje was the mare they let me ride at the World Championships in 2008 so I could say I had finally ridden a Friesian. She's a lovely mare. Tyg, or "Tiger" is a talented young gelding who's just getting started showing under saddle. He was one of the demo horses. Anton is the grand old man of the farm, a very famous stallion whose mane literally drags the ground when he's standing still, and blows back to his tail when he's moving fast. He's older and only used for demos now - his black face is going gray on the forehead. I can't remember or spell the other Friesian's name - it's Dutch and I just can't remember how to spell it. They also had their first two horses, a palomino racking horse and a black Tennessee Walker.
The farm is called "Fenway Farms" because they're big Red Sox fans, so two walls inside the barn were painted to look like part of Fenway Park. The second wall had metal signs (I guess that's what they were) showing all the Red Sox championships - like pennants that might be hung at the stadium or something. They also have two seats from Fenway Park by the door to one of the other buildings. There are two adorable Sicilian (miniature) donkeys in the fields too.
After a while, Tiger was ridden by their trainer, Jamie, in the indoor after she explained a bit about him and so on. Then the famous and beloved Anton came in. Here's a video of Anton from 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBQlu7TPIPI
The couple in the dark jackets with light sleeves at the end of the video are my customers. Anton was long-lined for us at the farm like he was here in this video. A guy runs along behind a horse that's moving FAST - this weekend, the guy running him took turns with another man who was wearing cowboy boots! The guy wearing boots (instead of sneakers) got a huge round of applause because that is NOT easy!
Anton's mane drags the ground when it's loose and he's standing. It flows all the way back past the top of his tail when he's moving. His forelock is about twice as long as his head is, if I recall correctly. Both forelock and mane are kept up in braids to protect the hair - that's the way it's been his whole life. He's a lovely horse and very sweet.
I wish I'd gotten to know Nanning in real life as much as I have Anton, but I only got to see him at a distance once and then again when he was hitched to a carriage, that's all. I've done all the pieces of him strictly from photos.
After the horses were displayed and various speeches made about them, we stood around chatting for a while longer. Finally, it was time for the unveiling.
Nanning was draped in a light cloth that had a blue clip (like a big clothes pin) holding it together under his head. Scott (my customer) got up on the platform that surrounds the plinth and recognized all the dignitaries who were there - and there were a lot of them, from all over the country as well as Canada and The Netherlands! All the FHANA board members (FHANA = Friesian Horse Association of North America, based in Lexington KY at the KY Horse Park) were there as well as various other important folks. The one who won the "distance prize" (a round of applause) was the president of the KFPN (the Friesian horse association in The Netherlands, home of this breed of horse). He came all the way to Wisconsin from The Netherlands in order to watch the unveiling.
Scott told a bit about Nanning, how he was gone too soon and how he touched so many lives. Then he explained that he and Shelley (his wife) had made a promise that the world would never forget Nanning. (The new issue of the Friesian breed magazine has the bronze on the cover and a two-page spread about it inside that says "Promise Fulfilled" with a small article explaining what that means - and yes, my name's in there along with the photographer and the name of the guy who did the mosaics, Richard Moss of Florida).
Scott had me come up on the platform when he got to the part about asking me to sculpt the horse for him. He talked about that, then invited the photographer, Cally Matherly, the designer of his ads and the mosaics, Laura Z - rats, I can't think of her last name, sorry - and Beth somebody, who he said was one of Nanning's "biggest supporters" up as well. The four of us went up to the bronze with Cally and me closest to the audience and me at Nanning's head (according to Scott's directions). Beth removed the blue clip and started pulling on the veil along with Laura while Cally and I lifted it in front of the horse. There was an audible gasp from the audience before they broke into applause and cheers! And there were a lot of tears shed too, not all by Nanning's immediate family, either. Even men were crying.
I had no idea when I got the first Nanning job that he was so famous, so beloved by so many people. Wow, what an amazing response he evokes in people!
After the unveiling, Scott had me stand with him and various other people for a LOT of photos by a LOT of people. Thankfully, my husband was right there in front and people were very considerate about not getting in his way (they knew before the unveiling that he was my husband, and that I was the sculptor). John got a video of the ceremony - I can't wait to see it!
After that, it was a whirlwind of photos! Of the crowd of over a hundred folks there, I'd say more than half of them posed alone or with friends with the bronze. One little girl had her mom's phone and was taking all kinds of detail photos of the horse, including my signature inside the raised hoof. Some people took pics of the details, but most took pics of the whole horse.
Once the crowd thinned out, I got my hands in his mane and wept. Dunno why I needed to do that, but I'd gotten misty when I raised that veil and got seriously misty when John (my hubby), Nanning and I were finally alone. John took a few pics of me alone with Nanning both before and after the veil was removed. I'm getting misty now thinking about it. Not crying outright, just misty . . .
I grabbed the big camera and took the "interesting angle" shots I'd taken during the installation that were "spoiled" by the blanket and strap being around the horse's middle (holding him up via the crane). I'll be adding those to the website soon!
Then people started coming back. It was a long walk from the big tent that had been put up for shade over our dinner (roast pork, wonderful salads and cookies with Nanning's picture on them!) I got asked a lot of detailed questions, some not so detailed questions, and heard a lot of really nice compliments on the piece.
Dinner was after that. They had red velvet cupcakes and carrot cake cupcakes as well as the delicious cookies with Nanning's picture on them. I kept a cookie to bring home that has the photo on it I based the sculpture on. Dunno if I'll keep it or wind up eating it, but I really felt a need to bring that home for some reason.
Later, I had a chance to talk to Scott and told him "well done" on his speech (he was having misty troubles too during his speech). He told me the president of the KFPN (the Dutch guy) said the piece was "historic" and "captures the spirit, fire and passion of the Friesian horse." WOW!
This bronze is only the second life-size bronze of a Friesian in the world. The other stands in Holland and is a standing pose, not an action one like Nanning. Wow.
Scott took me to the house where he gave me a couple of copies of the "Friesian" magazine (I'd already given him a copy of the Soutwest Art magazine with my ad for Nanning in it). Then he pulled out his "mule" and gave me a ride back toward the barns. His feet were tired and so were mine! We picked up John on the way and Scott drove us out to our Jeep. We hugged goodbye and then John and I left. I waved at Nanning as we passed him on the road and got all misty again.
And that, dear friends, is the story of the unveiling of "Nanning 374: Spirit of the Friesian." Pics to come when I get them out of the camera!