Artist brings smiles with animal sculptures

TAMPA, Fl. - It is astonishing to see the fun Betsy Bowers can create with a simple lump of clay. She sculpts wonderful , whimsical animal figures – elephants, rats, bears, rabbits, fish, pigs, you name it. 

But Betsy does it with a twist. She uses not only her passion for sculpting, but her training as an illustrator to bring forth such personality in her little characters.  She'll create a rat so smug to have stolen the cheese, a mirthful pig or a dancing bear. Her characters are impish and joyful, and you simply want to keep them around, just for the happiness they create.

“I feel like there’s a lot of art out there that’s very serious and has a lot of heaviness to it, you know? Where’s the fun in it? What makes people smile?” said Betsy.

Betsy has been making things out of clay since she was a little girl in her play-doh days.  But these days, her creations are the talk of the art shows.

Betsy gets her ideas from lots of places. It may be a family memory, or perhaps a great movie, or a compelling book.  Her process is interesting, in that she doesn’t start with a sketch.  More like an idea, really. Betsy will have an animal and a particular gesture in mind, and then she’ll just get busy sculpting. Eventually, the animal’s personality will reveal itself.

“Their facial details, their smiles, and open mouths and all that, kind of unfolds as I’m working on it, for me that’s what exciting,” said Bowers.

The artist begins the sculpture as a solid piece of clay, but to fire it in the kiln, she has to first hollow it out.  Once the piece has hardened, she’ll begin to work on the intricate details—the hair or fur, the mouth, nose and eyes.

The sculpture has to be free of moisture before going into the kiln. The firing takes about three days, then she paints with acrylics. Betsy creates some limited edition casts, but she loves to do originals for people, and see the smiles on their faces.

“ I think they’re very joyful. I think that’s probably what I'd want somebody to walk away with. I'd like them to laugh about it and really enjoy the character,” said Bowers.

You can see Betsy’s whimsical animal characters on her website,

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