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Turning over a 'new leaf'

By: M.V. Moorhead

March 22, 2008   

A new leaf—the phrase is common enough, but John Wayne Jackson says he’s really invented one. The sculptor, one of more than 350 artists to be featured at this year’s Tempe Festival of the Arts from March 28-31, specializes in colorful objets cast from leaves, in a medium of his own devising.

“I work with nature, so nature and I are partners, ” the Scottsdale-based Jackson modestly admits. “I use actual leaves to create the patterns.” The striking pieces, available for either indoor or outdoor decoration, are cast in a hard substance that Jackson calls “Omega Stone.”

“I invented it,” he says. “In layman’s terms, it’s ‘resinated earth.’ Earth materials with resins and polymers and so forth, that bind it all together and make it stonelike. It’s like ceramic, but it’s not ceramic; it’s not fired.”

The Artistic Muse spoke to Phoenix native Jackson right through proper channels: “I saw something on Martha Stewart about nine years ago. She was making concrete frame mirrors with a casting of a leaf. And I thought, those would look cool big.”

Jackson attempted two large leaf castings in concrete, but while the results pleased him visually, they cracked down the middle within a few weeks. So he set about to develop a new, sturdier medium that would hold the delicate designs, made from leaves Jackson has collected on rambles around the country, and also from boxes of leaves sent to him by fans.

Luckily, says Jackson of his wife Paige, “I have the most amazing partner. Rather than saying ‘You go get a job,’ she said ‘I’ll get a job, you do this.’”

Not quite a decade after that fateful Martha Stewart show, Jackson’s leaf sculptures can be found in nearly 200 galleries around the country. “I didn’t want to sell the stuff at Garden Center,” says the former restaurateur and traveling salesman. “I’m a businessman who does art. I didn’t want my stuff to be something where people would say ooo and aaah, and then buy something else. So we decided to make stuff for high-end galleries. We’ve taken this backyard hobby to a fine art level.”

Jackson’s booth will be one of many at the annual street festivities, sponsored by Centerpoint Condominiums. The event is held downtown from 10 a.m. to dusk on the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of March, and is free to the public. The work of painters, jewelers, photographers, woodworkers and other artisans will be displayed and sold, and the weekend will also feature local musicians and other live performers on the Qwest Mainstage and the Arizona Wine Festival Jazz Stage. Food and drink will be plentiful, of course, and a variety of activities for kids will be offered.

The Laguna Beach, Calif.-based sculptor Michael Ezzell is the festival’s Featured Artistthis spring. Ezzell’s Apocalyptic Gar Fish is the cool, ferocious-looking sea beast that serves the Fest’s official image.

Visit for more information.



Photo by David Stone


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