By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4)– An up and coming Colorado artist is taking sculpting to a new level with life-like recreations of your favorite, four-legged friends. It began as a way to memorialize those pets but soon turned into something different.

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“I saw these supplies and I said, what are those? I want to try those and experiment!” said Joan Cabarrus.

Cabarrus, a registered nurse at a long-term care facility, began sculpting for people who had lost pets but quickly began creating for anyone who wanted a sculpture.

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“So I’ve always wanted to help people but I also have the skill the artistic skills and it’s time to apply that in something else. Something bigger.”

She was able to pick up a piece of polymer clay and bring a photograph to life; she did it all with no prior sculpting experience.

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Today, business is booming. Cabarrus works one day a week as a nurse and devotes the rest of her time to the pets.

“The more I do it, the more people love it and I realize this is really helping a lot of people when it comes to healing purposes.”

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Many of her clients write to her, letting her know what it means. Once in a while, she gets to meet them in person.

“A photograph is one thing but a sculpture just is more emotive,” said Andrew Novick.

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When Novick’s 18-year-old Chihuahua passed away, his girlfriend reached out to Cabarrus to create a sculpture.

“When I saw it, it was just like, ‘Oh my God! That is tiny coconut!’” said Novick.

Cabarrus’ sculptures have notable characteristics. While no two are the same, there she applies the same style to each.

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“In the pieces that I create I either make it playful, you know a little bit of caricature. I create the head slightly bigger you know, just to add fun to it so if they look at it, it doesn’t look creepy. It looks fun, it gives life,” she said.

She says her main goal is to help others heal. She does this, not only through sculpting but also through her video blog, where she sings and sculpts. Cabarrus also says she engages with clients and curious pet lovers, regularly on her Facebook page.

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With demand for her sculptures climbing, Cabarrus decided she wanted to give others the ability to try sculpting for themselves. Another way she might be able to help people heal.

“I cannot possibly create sculptures for thousands of people and so I would like to help people create for their own healing, so I created a book that teaches how to make their own.”

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Cabarrus recently launched her first book, DIY Dog Sculptures 1, and is in the process of writing a second.

She will make her first debut at Denver’s Pet Expo at the National Western Complex, Aug. 17 and 18.


Jamie Leary