September 9, 2008 · Updated 4:26 PM
Now summer, the garage doors to Pepper Kaminoffs atelier are open so that all can watch him deftly sculpt away at wood, metals and other material.
His dog mailbox stand greets the postman; a concrete sleeping giant peers from among the potato plants; two statues of acrobatic children frolic in the back yard; and a recently stripped 13-foot timber awaits inspiration for Kaminoffs next work.
In progress in the driveway is a 450-pound concrete and steel statue of a woman about to hoist a helpless child, which was conceived in response to the 9/11 event, but which became a more universal Madonna expression as it evolved. Once bronzed, he will seek out a new home for her.
Kaminoff, who graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1967, is evolving too. He is the acrobatic clown we wrote about in 1981 who had performed on most continents with big-name circuses. Now, at 59, he still performs harlequin antics on cruises, in Germany and more recently on New Yorks Radio City Music Hall stage. He has taught classes in dance, movement, gymnastics, mime, magic, nutrition, prop construction, makeup, unicycle, stilts and elephant riding.
Kaminoff now reserves the bulk of his creative energy for commissioned art that also moves. Such examples are his circus pieces at Mercer Islands Yoga Bliss; a young girl floating on a book in the library; two huge anthropomorphic chairs in a South-end home; and a small bronze of Daniel in the Lions Den, which captures Kaminoffs persona.
He has also taught his children, Alex, 21, and Laura, 17, how to take good falls, he says, always being ready for lifes tumbles. They have practiced many shoulder rolls in the back yard.
Kaminoffs heart often is attached to his works. For instance, the bust he made of his neighbors late-wife as a young woman; or a ships figurehead of the mermaid; or the hands of a 65-year-old, which told who she was more than her face. He loves to sculpt from photos and see peoples reaction to 3-D.
He tackles the practical a computer station for six persons or the ephemeral a transitory shape made of chicken wire that was discarded after it rusted.
That is why his yard has become a neighborhood curiosity, evolving with his notions. He invites all to drop by.