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Sculpture

"When Wild Geese Call", Bill Ohrmann, 1990

   Prior to 1996, Bill Ohrmann’s primary artistic expression was in sculpture, mostly wood carvings.  His early pieces were blocky, using the methods one sees in the wood carving magazines; get a thick piece of wood, cut out a silhouette with a band saw, then round out the shapes.  In about 1960, he began to experiment with a more free-form approach.  At some point, he discovered that green cottonwood cut very cleanly, did not splinter, and took stain easily.   The his sculptures improved and soon reached a high level of complexity.  Although he also enjoyed painting, he once commented that there are many thousands of good painters, but very few good sculptors, so that is the route he took.  By 1972, his sculpture sales were enough to warrant adding a studio to the house.  Having a dedicated space, rather than grabbing time when the kitchen was not being used, helped his production.  While ranching full time, he still managed to create several dozen sculptures a year for many years.  Eventually the physical work involved with wrestling the hundred pound blocks of cottonwood got to be a problem and he put his chisels away in the late 90’s.

    Bronze sculpture also was in Bill’s repertoire.  Because of the cash outlay involved in making molds and casting, these were primarily made for the market.  He mainly stuck with the Western/Wildlife genre.  In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, bronzes were very popular in home design, and Bill

produced dozens of small, affordable sculptures.  He partnered with the Kiwanis on the Homesteader series on some money raising projects. 

    Polymer clay became available in the ‘70’s.  This was a great medium for Bill to do his more whimsical pieces, or for a donation to a local fund-raiser auction.  They did not take a big dedication of time, and they could be colorful.  And they didn’t take the physical work of the wood carvings, so he continued making them into his later years.

   Another sculpture medium Bill was involved with was cast porcelains.  For a number of years he worked with William Ukranitz, a marketer who promoted decorative liquor bottles for the Huffman Distillery.  Bill made a number of models which were then cast in Japan and marketed through out the United States.  After Huffman went out of business, the two Bills partnered on several porcelains, including C. M. Russell sitting at his easel.

   Perhaps the most impressive sculpture genre Bill undertook was large welded steel.  In 1995, at the age of 76, Bill decided to try his hand at making a life sized standing bear.  With the old P&H stick welder and an oxy-acetylene torch, he soon had a realistic bear standing in the shop.  Since that time, he got better tools for working with thin steel plate, learned how to form the pieces, and has created a menagerie of steel animals, from owls to a woolly mammoth.