Sculptor Stefan Savides: For the Love of Birds

by Kim Cooper Findling

To say that Stefan Savides loves birds is an understatement. The Klamath Falls artist not only fell in love with birds at a very young age, it has been birds that have guided nearly every major decision in his life. His work has always been about birds, whether as a taxidermist, educator or author. His home is about birds. “I moved to Klamath Falls solely for the wonderful birds that are here,” he explained. “No other reason.” For his entire adult life, his every day has been about birds. Today, Savides is a renowned sculptor of avian wildlife in bronze, with his work placed in galleries across the nation. “I am insanely blessed,” he said. “I have made my life about birds, and in return, they have given me a life back.”

photo by Kamrin Nielsen Photo Video photo by Kamrin Nielsen Photo Video

Savides grew up in the Bay Area of California, and credits his mother with encouraging his passion for all things avian when it was revealed at an early age. “She recognized my love of birds, and instead of starting a boy scout troop or similar group, she founded a junior Audubon club for myself and a few friends,” he said. “I owe everything to my mother. She was my earliest supporter and mentor.”

By the time Savides was 12, he’d taken up the study of taxidermy. By 16 he was teaching taxidermy to others, and by 18 he’d opened his own taxidermy shop in the Tule Lake area. While it was still a number of years before he moved permanently to the Klamath Basin, his taxidermy business did nothing but thrive. “I spent 53 years taking birds apart and putting them back together. I think it’s safe to say I know birds inside and out,” he quipped.

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But Savides knew that to truly make his mark on avian art, he’d have to pursue bronze sculpture. Not everyone sees beauty and value in taxidermy, Savides tactfully points out, and in addition to garnering increased respect in the art world, bronze is much more enduring. “A sculpture can last for hundreds of years.”

Again, some time preceded the transition, but sculpture was always in Savides’ future. “It took years to make that step,” he recalled. Today, he’s been creating birds in bronze from his home studio on the water for 15 years. His wife Irena and stepson Joe both work with him in what he describes as a 15-step process from start to finish, each working “full-time every day and then some.”

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Each sculpture begins as a wax mold, made by Irena in the studio, before it’s sent to the foundry. The piece comes back to Savides’ studio in metal, which Joe fine-tunes before handing over to Stefan so that he may apply the final patina—transforming it into a work of art.

“Working in bronze allows me to express all that’s inside of me, in a form that can be appreciated by anybody,” Savides said.

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Savides work is offered in many fine galleries across the U.S., from Scottsdale, Arizona to Charleston, South Carolina. In Southern Oregon, his work is on display as installation art in many public places. Savides points to a life-size pelican in Veteran’s Park and a thirty-foot-tall hanging mobile in the atrium stairway of Sky Lakes Medical Center, both in Klamath Falls. At Running Y Ranch outside of Klamath Falls, guests encounter a life-size bald eagle (titled “Air Force 1”) in the entry way.

“I am grateful to have never let life in the modern world get in the way of my fascination with birds,” said Savides. “I’ve never strayed from my interest. Birds are what I do and what my life is about.”

 

See more of Stefan’s work at stefansavides.com