Creators, Makers, and Doers: Lynn Fraley
Posted on 4/26/16 by Arts & History
Lynn Fraley is a full-time artist, entrepreneur and a sculptor whose passion centers on a subject that has inspired and fascinated her since childhood: horses. Her related work reaches a niche audience of collectors locally and internationally who share her appreciation of horses. She derives a vibrant and emotional connection to her work that she creates while managing all components of her business that allow for a successful creative career.
Discover Fraley’s inspirations, motivations, and her place in Boise and its artistic community.
Can we start with who you are and what you do?
I’m Lynn Fraley and I am a sculptor, primarily focusing on horses. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, since I was a little girl. I was the typical horse-crazy kid.
Why is it that you’re interested in sculpture, that you’ve chosen to pursue it?
I’ve always been very three-dimensionally and tactilely oriented. In fact, at one point, I went off to college to study architecture. I’ve always been drawn to form, space, relationships and building. It’s just about using my hands, the tactile element, to make an object. It has always been more natural-feeling to me than drawing. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable drawing. Here I am, nearly fifty-five, and finally starting to draw and not be scared of it. I would much rather build it.
Why do you choose horses as a subject matter? What draws you to horses?
I keep asking myself that and I’m not entirely sure. They’ve just been very vivid in my imagination. Ever since, like I said, as a little girl. The family lore is that we blame it on my grandmother, who told me stories about her little black pony when I was a very impressionable toddler. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I just have always been fascinated by horses, being around them, sculpting them.
I started collecting the model horses when I was a kid, and I’ve been in that community for fifty years—no, not fifty, forty-five years or so. I started as a teenager and I’m still there, and now I’m not a collector but I create horses and figurines for the model horse-collecting community as well as fine art collectors.
I’ve heard a lot of philosophers talk about it. You get into the Jungian representation and the archetypes and what they represent. I don’t know; I just connect with them.
I wish I could figure (it) out—because people ask me “Why horses?” and I don’t know. There’s something about the way they move that is so free, so unrestricted, and so rhythmic. When you start looking at their proportions and coming from a college architectural type of training and background in design, I was exposed to those ideas of the Golden Mean, the Fibonacci sequence and the spirals. And if you start looking at horses in particular, you can put them into a Golden Rectangle and it’s just something I kind of include in my teaching when I teach sculpture.
So, maybe it’s something very deep in humanity, as far as the aesthetic appeal of a horse as opposed to a… giraffe or antelope or bison or other creatures that we’ve grown up with as a culture, horse cultures.
Is there a particular medium that you gravitate towards in sculpture?
Well, in sculpture I now use non-hardening clay, which is sculpting clay. It’s a wax or oil-base, so it keeps it soft. Then my husband, Barry, is a mold-maker, so he’ll mold that original, and from that mold we can go on to reproduce in either polyurethane resin, ceramic, or bronze, depending on what markets we want to hit with what’s appealing.
Would you say sculpting is your full-time job?
Being an artist is my career. Within that career, there are many little jobs. Being able to create as a sole proprietor-entrepreneur, I’m creating it, I’m doing all the business management stuff, I’m doing all the client relations, and I’m the shipping clerk, the janitor, and everything. Creating the artwork is a portion of that whole sphere. I wish it were a bigger portion. What’s really kind of interesting is that I started out going for an architectural degree, which would have been really awesome and cool, but I couldn’t get through the calculus. So, Plan B was a business degree and through the years, I’ve been a self-employed sole-proprietor artist now for twenty-five years, and having that business background was very helpful. At least, it gave me an overall perspective.
Who would you say is the audience of your work? How do you find them?
I’m really fortunate in that I literally grew up in the industry that I now sell most of my work to, and that would be model horse collectors, specifically model horse figurines. I’m sure many people have seen the Breyer figurines or the Stone horses, the mass-produced ones, about eighth-, tenth-scale horses that little girls start collecting and then, believe it or not, adult people continue to collect. Primarily you have to be a horse-lover for my work. That’s the overall, over-arching thing. You’ve got to love horses, got to have some appreciation for their form and their personality.
The model horse collecting community loves horses with an extreme passion and they’re incredibly educated about all the different breeds and the histories and the genetics and which colors are genetically possible and which family line of which breed and, so, there’s also a lot of science and a lot of research that you absorb through the years to create something for this community. It’s been very challenging. I’ve enjoyed learning all about it. You can see I’ve acquired quite the tremendous reference library along the way, trying to keep up. But, model horse collectors are so passionate that there is a circuit, that they show their model horses in model horse shows, sort of along the lines of miniaturists who will have the miniature shows or model railroad people have their exhibitions and conventions. We have model shows and there are national championships.
They’re run like a horse show, so, if you have a figure, if you have a sculpture that is an Arabian stallion, that Arabian stallion will show in a Class Four Arabians, Arabian stallions three years old and over, I mean, set up exactly along the lines of a horse show class list. Awards are given, championship plaques are given out, so some of my collectors are motivated—and this is wonderful for me from a marketing and business side—they want new horses in their show string every year because the judges get tired of seeing the same old horses. You need the latest and greatest.
In the last twenty-five years, there’s been an extreme ramping up of quality and challenging all of my fellow artists within that community to learn more and do more and do better in their new techniques and provide that to our customer base. It’s very interesting that now, with the Internet, it’s an international community. I sell nearly a third of my model horses overseas, primarily to Germany, Britain. I’ve got a few collectors in Australia and New Zealand. I get to send stuff to Japan as well.
Is the work that you’re making personally motivated or is it more motivated by sales?
Yeah, and I’ve noticed in the last few years, there’s a real emotional element to some of the work that I’ve been doing. I can look back to life events or stuff that happens and I say, “Oh, yeah, I was really not in a good place then, so maybe that’s why that mare up there is so not happy.” There’s a really pretty deep emotional, personal emotional, connection with my horses. And, yet, they hit everybody a little bit differently, too. That’s a nice thing about art in general is you can pour a lot of yourself into something and then it’s going to affect everybody else differently.
Are there any resources lacking here in Boise or in the valley that could help you be more successful?
What I find very interesting right now about Boise—and I don’t know that it’s necessarily anything resource-wise that, coming from the public sector—I do find it very fascinating right now, the lack of fine art galleries in Boise. They all seem to be in Sun Valley or someplace else and we have some really great cooperatives in town, but I find it very interesting that that business model has not survived through our ups and downs as well as it has in other cities. Especially with Boise’s growth and people coming in from outside, I would anticipate there might be a few more gallery venues. But I have to back off that a little bit and remember that I moved here from the Santa Fe area, which is one of the fine art gallery capitals of the world, so, I’m spoiled.
What are your opinions of the arts community here?
I love the way it’s grown. It’s cool now that I’ve been here a while and I’ve met more artists and have artist friends. But—it’s like this really cool; I don’t want to say underground. There’s this beautiful vibe that’s not on the surface that people don’t see about Boise, but the artists that are here just make this place really a special place on this planet. So, the more artists we can get to come to Boise, the better.
I love downtown Boise, I love being this close to it. There’s vibrancy about Boise that is—it’s very vivid and energetic, but it’s not crazy yet. Now, mind you, I just spent a week in Phoenix, which is one of the top ten crazy, huge cities in the country. And maybe I spend too much time just in downtown Boise and in my little neighborhood. But there’s a welcoming, open quality about Boise and Boiseans that I know and associate with. It’s a nourishing place.
Do you have any inspiring words or words of advice to other artists who may choose to follow the same path as you?
If you can focus in on a particular passion, maybe some media, for me, it’s a subject. I go in all different media, as far as sculpting, mostly horses. If you can channel your energy into that passion and then have the patience with yourself to persist through everything, then you can do it. And there’s also the sense of, when you commit to it and you throw your heart into it, it’s amazing how those resources start popping up in your life. Also, be open to opportunities and, you know, say “yes” more than “no.” Be brave about it, which is hard.
Creators, Makers, & Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.