Genealogy of a Giraffe
With each of four legs anchored by 50-pounds of concrete, Bob the Giraffe has presided near the top of the Chestnut Street hill since 2015, the 125th Anniversary year of Lanier Library. Handcrafted of plywood layers by Karl Schwartz, Bob is short of nature’s typical 18-foot height but tall enough to command attention, especially with a color design not found in any of the nine natural patterns of Africa.
Karl, a retired computer programmer on such projects as NASA shuttle missions, explains that his father was a carpenter and the art of woodworking is in his DNA. Building and painting Bob was the whimsy of an artist not the science of a naturalist or programmer.
Karl created black-rimmed spectacles for his Giraffa Camelopardalis that would be reading outside the library. Bob, however, was only coincidental to the library’s anniversary. He was actually created as an auction item in the 100th Anniversary Event of Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers that just happened to be the same year.
Bob’s ancestry goes back to a vintage handmade toy with a birth date unrecorded in the years since Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale found their shop in 1915. The 14-inch high carving was unnoted in history until discovered online by Harry Goodheart, owner of Tryon Fine Books.
Local artist and art teacher, Christine Mariotti, knew that Harry had added the articulated critter to his eclectic collection. As the art director and toy curator for the 100th Anniversary, she asked to emulate the basic design for a giraffe as one of several large wood pieces. Seven of those figures are currently with Julia Calhoun, today’s Toymakers owner. She paints and sells what Karl still cuts, often based on original patterns.
Karl recalls that a pharmacist won the giraffe auction and donated it to Lanier. “The name Bob is just a name,” he says and denies any rumors of an acronym such as Binge On Books.
Submitted by Vincent Verrecchio