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Rockin' the stones

How hard would it be for a painter to put down his brush, step back from the canvas and take the leap to carving patterns in stone? For Marc Clements of Minneapolis, it was as natural as following his muse.

Cooper crop circles
Marc Clements' works include copper crop circles on cairns.

How hard would it be for a painter to put down his brush, step back from the canvas and take the leap to carving patterns in stone? For Marc Clements of Minneapolis, it was as natural as following his muse.

"My wife and I have a studio called Follow the Muse," Clements said. "It's named like that because that's the way we operate. You take the step you were inspired to take, and that takes you to the next step. And, like me, you can be a painter who becomes an artist carving in stone."

Clements and his wife, K. Daphnae Koop, will be among the 140 artists showing and selling their work during the Grand Cities Art Fest on Saturday and Sunday in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. The festival, including art, music, food, children's activities and more, will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Koop is a painter and jewelry artist. Clements does surface applications on rocks and creates cairn rock sculptures, garden stones and memory rocks. His work was chosen Best in Category for mixed-media 3-D objects at the show.

Working with stone means elemental designs, organic textures and art that's like the rock of ages. Rock is also heavy, so there's not just the work of the creative process, but of moving the stones from place to place.

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"So far this spring, I've moved 32 tons of rock," Clements said.

Shapes untouched

Clements leaves the natural shapes of the stones untouched as he applies patterns ranging from antique wallpaper to contemporary tribal patterns to crop circles. He stacks his detailed rocks into simple cairns, a form of human expression as ancient as Stonehenge.

Among the most charming and poignant of his designs are his memory rocks. Clements was looking for a way to generate extra income through his rock designs when, as a gesture to a friend, he carved a rock with a brief epitaph in memory of the friend's beloved departed pet. When other people saw the rock, they asked Clement to make memory rocks for them, too.

"It's a very, very sad way to make a living," Clements said. "I make some really, really beautiful stones for people and they cry and cry when they come to pick them up."

S.D. ties

Clements grew up in Cleveland, but spent every summer of his childhood in Mitchell, S.D., where his mother had grown up. He settled in Minneapolis as an adult and earned a degree from Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

He planned "to set the world on fire" with his painting. The rock thing just sort of happened, he said. And even though he hasn't touched a brush to canvas in about four years, he still considers himself a painter.

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The first rocks he worked were ones he and Daphnae picked up on Minnesota's North Shore during their honeymoon. After a time, their yard boasted a big collection of rocks. Artists are inclined to want to "do something" with the materials they have on hand, Clements said, and so he began working with the rocks.

Clements first stacked the rocks in cairns. Then, he thought, "Why not get some tools?" A drill, a tumbler to polish the rocks and a wet sander were just the start.

Today Daphnae uses his smallest rocks to make jewelry. Bigger rocks are carved with leaves, flowers and other designs and gilded with copper.

He's also branching out with his memory rocks to create rocks for weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions that can be passed from generation to generation.

Clements' decorated stones range in size from those that can be held in one hand to those that weigh 100 to 150 pounds. He's made designs for indoor galleries and museums, for outdoor gardens and everything in between.

Following dreams

Clements and his wife always intended to be artists, but over the years, they had day jobs, too, to help pay the bills. Clements has worked as a bartender and in catering. But last year, he and Daphnae decided if they were going to become full-time artists, it was the time to push for their dream.

"So now, in the worst economy of my life, we are out here putting our product in tents and trying to sell it," Clements said.

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Moving all that rock from show to show is hard work, but events such as the Grand Cities Art Fest are necessary to market their work, he said.

"People have to see it, touch it and feel it, to see how special it is," Clements said. "This is something that never will be mass produced in China."

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com .

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