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Elephant follows grad home

July 12, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

The 8-foot elephant that Katie Paul brought home with her from college in May is now ensconced in her front yard.

Passersby might do a double take when they approach 20207 Lebeck Drive, a residential street off Jefferson Boulevard, and see the elephant sculpture in the yard.

A recent graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Katie, 21, was one of eight graduates who majored in sculpture, one of the smallest departments at the four-year school.

A 1995 Smithsburg High School graduate, Katie learned of the institute during a summer program during which she was tested and did very well.

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Four years later, Katie created the lifelike elephant for her senior show project. An elephant was a natural choice for a number of reasons, Katie said.

"Last summer I spent three months in Thailand," she said. While there, Katie rode elephants as often as she could.

With the trained eye of a sculptor, she began creating elephants, at first on a smaller scale.

Her first foray was a wax sculpture which she later cast with metal. Then there was an abstract 2-foot elephant shaped with coated metal rods.

The senior project elephant was first fashioned from pencil rods into a stick figure of the elephant.

"I wanted to be able to climb up on it and sit on it so I had to make it stronger," Katie said.

To that end, she used one-inch piping to give the sculpture the sturdiness needed to support her weight.

She left four small squares open on the elephant's side to serve as footholds and to give a view of the construction.

The outside "skin" of fiberglass was applied and coated with polyester resin in a process that resembles papier mache.

"You take pieces of the fiberglass webbing and then spread the resin over it until it hardens," Katie said.

The finished project, which weighs between 300 and 400 pounds, was painted elephant gray and detail work was done.

Katie said she worked on the project night and day at the rear of the sculpture division at school in an area that was near railroad tracks.

"The same guys would come by in their trains day after day and watch my progress," Katie said.

The next challenge was getting the elephant home from Baltimore to Hagerstown.

"My dad drove a red truck with the elephant standing up in the back, facing backwards, " Katie said. "I was behind him in my car."

The wind was blowing on the trip, causing the elephant to sway back and forth. Some travelers weren't quite sure what they were seeing, she said.

In addition to elephants, Katie makes lifelike monkeys, using a product called Sculpey, metal or wooden bones and wool for fur.

Katie is working part time for United Parcel Service in Hagerstown, honing her artistic skills and waiting to be discovered.

"In 10 years, I'd like to be showing my work and selling it," Katie said.

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