Something I love about Clay Coyote is the variety of art and fine craft products we feature here. Beyond beautiful pottery from the likes of Matthew Patton and our own amazing flameware, there is jewelry, wooden utensils, food products, and so much more. Each day I walk into the Clay Coyote Gallery, I am greeted by this whimsical fellow from Yardbirds, that we’ve named Beakman.
Yardbirds is the artistic endeavor of Richard Kolb. Together, Kolb and his father created the first Yardbird in 1991. His father spent the majority of his career making things out of metal, and the Yardbirds project came about from their conversations and tinkering with different pieces of scrap. In Kolb’s’ words, “People instantly loved them!”
These playful pieces are amalgamations of various metal pieces in the form of animals. As the name suggests, the pieces are often modeled after birds. However, Kolb also makes sculptures in the forms of dogs, cats, alligators, elephants, and many other creatures. In addition to the bird that greets our customers on the way in, we also have a menagerie of these other critters.
Most of the material he uses is scrap and recycled material ranging from garden tools to car and bicycle parts. This process is a kind of recycling referred to as upcycling. The scrap he uses would otherwise end up in a landfill, but he takes it and turns it into valuable art for people to enjoy. The upcycling process allows Kolb to make pieces with diverse, eccentric shapes and textures, while also being environmentally sound.
Kolb is a lifelong resident of Kentucky, graduated from the University of Kentucky, and is currently based out of Louisville. He partners with the Louisville Zoo each year for two fundraising events, Brew at the Zoo and Zoofari.
Brew at the Zoo brings local eateries, breweries, wineries, and live music to the zoo, rain or shine. Kolb creates special trophies for this event each year. Zoofari is the Louisville Zoo’s largest fundraising event of the year, and Kolb is contracted to create sculptures as corporate gifts as well as a larger sculpture for the silent auction.
Kolb’s work is a natural pairing with these fundraising events. The animal motif is obviously perfect for a partnership with a zoo. In addition to that, the environmental impact of his work and the conservation mission of the zoo go hand in hand.
Going beyond decorative sculptures, Kolb also produces functional pieces like coat racks, wine bottle holders, and wall clocks. From both his art and his words, one can tell Kolb values the whimsical side of life and strives to bring joy to others. He says, “The things in life that bring us the most joy are those which are fun and unexpected, not mere necessities.”