Just six months ago, we introduced our readers to the intricate sculpture work of Cindy Chinn, an artist whose chosen medium is a common object most people take for granted. Chinn created a detailed sculpture of a train from the lead of an ordinary pencil, and we have now learned of her latest masterpiece. The sculpture, titled “Elephant Walk,” was commissioned by the California-based Epiphany Elephant Museum, and it is just as awe-inspiring as Chinn’s tiny train. This work depicts a miniature family of elephants, exquisitely carved from graphite.
Many great things spring forth from the tip of a pencil, including beautiful sketches, thoughtful prose, and scientific equations. In all those instances, the graphite running through the pencil serves as a tool for expressing an idea formed in the human mind. Chinn’s work is similar in that she carefully shapes the pencil’s graphite into representations of familiar objects (and now animals). The big difference is that Chinn’s sculptures require considerably more skill and accuracy than using a pencil as a writing or drawing tool.
To create the minuscule pencil sculptures, Chinn hand carves the graphite with the help of a magnifying lamp, trinocular microscope, and surely a metric ton of concentration. She plans each piece carefully and the design of the elephant sculpture evolved from her client’s initial request, all before the sculpting started. “I added some grid lines to help me scale the carving on the pencil lead,” she wrote in a blog post. “The client requested a single elephant, but then I turned it into three… then I wanted to add trees… then I wanted to add grass for them to walk on.”
The artist, who lives in Nebraska, regularly creates commissioned artworks such as this, but also sells sculptures via Etsy. If you are enamoured with Elephant Walk, she will even create a custom version of it for you, ranging from $200 to $800 in price, depending on how many elephants you’d like. Made-to-order versions of her famous train pencil carving are also for sale, as well as other items created using a plasma cutter, such as a handsaw depicting a cowboy and horse cut out of the blade.
Images via Cindy Chinn