Tom Player has always been an artist, but detoured for most of his professional life to practice law. Retired since 2009 from Morris, Manning & Martin, Player molded his truest passion as a sculptor into a second career.
Originally carving in limestone, sandstone and marble, Player now creates most of his works in bronze casting. He has exhibited his work in Highlands, N.C., and Atlanta and his works can be seen at the Edward Dare Gallery in Charleston, S.C.
One of the highlights of his artistic career was in 2007 when he went to the Florence Academy of Art in Italy where he rented a studio and studied under Robert Bodem, the academy's director of sculpture. It was there he created one of his favorite works, Reports of Her Day.
Player spoke with the Daily Report about his latest profession, his favorite works and his time in Italy.
How was your experience in Florence?
It was unbelievable, and it was also probably the hardest work I've ever done. The work I'm talking about is Reports of Her Day. It's a father with a daughter standing on his leg, and she is just chattering away. He's dead tired, and he's trying to get his shoe off.
I had the studio for 30 days and when I told the head of the sculpture school that I was going to do a life-size of a father and daughter, he said you will never finish. So we basically worked seven days a week. Sometimes we took Sundays off, but basically we had to get it done so that the mold makers could come in and make the mold. I had that piece molded and cast in Florence. … I had a marble base made for it, and it is now in a courtyard in my gallery down in Charleston.
What first attracted you to sculpting?
I was an artist to begin with. I guess I've always been an artist from the time I was in elementary school. My mother saw something in me and so she got me private lessons when I was 12 or 13. I began doing oil paintings and watercolors back then. Pen and ink sketches were something I really enjoyed and then in college I took a lot of applied art. I was an English major at Furman (University). It was a good program and I did some painting there. I first started fooling with sculpture about 23 or 24 years ago.
Unlike a lot of people, I could really see things in three dimensions. It came very easy to me. I now do a fair number of commissioned portraits, and I think that's probably one of the most difficult things to do is to get an image captured in bronze.
What made you decide to change to bronze?
I'm doing a big ol' stone piece in the mountains now, six tons. It's going to be four foxes and if I make a mistake it might be three foxes and a bulldog (laughs).
It's a different kettle of fish. I would say my ability with clay and bronze is above average. I would say my ability with stone is probably a little below average. And the reason is that it takes years to be a really good stonemason, and I don't have that many years left.