Molding Children

“Molding Children,” Ensign, June 1995, 69

Molding Children

In his Loveland, Colorado, ward, Primary teacher and sculptor Blair Muhlstein balances his three great joys: sculpting, teaching children, and living the gospel.

Twenty years ago, Blair served as Cubmaster in his ward in Delaware. As a gift for “his” boys, he carved a neckerchief slide for each Cub Scout. Though he’d never carved before, he discovered he had a gift for working with wood. From neckerchief slides, he advanced to more complicated projects. A carving of a banjo player caught the attention of a friend who asked if Blair would sell it.

“Wow! My work was good enough that people would actually pay for it,” he remembers. That was the beginning.

For the next fifteen years, Blair continued to work with wood, designing and carving everything from turtles to faces in driftwood. Five years ago, he switched to sculpting in bronze, seeking the freedom for maximum creativity and flexibility it allows.

“For my third bronze piece I decided that my subject would be something I knew and loved—children! They continue to provide the inspiration and innocence that I wish to portray in my work.” In studying the children who serve as his models, he has sought to express their inner selves rather than merely their appearance.

Blair is often inspired by a piece as it progresses, and he makes changes as the sculpture develops. One piece, “Home Delivery,” is a life-size figure of a boy delivering newspapers. “Best Friends” depicts a girl dancing with her doll. Another sculpture, “911,” portrays a policeman lifting a small girl to rescue her kitten from a tree. Though each piece is different, all contain a common theme of happy, active children.

“As a mechanical engineer, I designed many machines and mechanisms,” explains Blair. “But sculpting the human figure has taught me a valuable lesson in the intricacy of godly creations.”

Blair gives a carved figurine to the children in his class who memorize the first four articles of faith, and he tries to stay in touch with them as they grow up. When they are older, they receive a business card and a promise. “‘Send me this card and an announcement of your temple sealing, and I’ll send you an original work,’ I tell them. It’s my way of teaching about covenants.”

Blair is quick to credit his success to his wife, Sarah, who handles the business end of his work. Together, they take great joy in the gospel, sculpture, and children.—Jane McBride Choate, Loveland, Colorado