Any number of items for sale at Rare Bird Uncommon Gifts are intriguing, but Scott Nelles’ cast bronze sculptures take the curiosity out of this world.
Owner Michael Gray was introduced to the sculptor four years ago through a wholesale show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ever since, Nelles’ unique — and sometimes heavy — sculptures have been on display in his store.
“I’ve had people come in and buy it when they first look at it,” Gray says. “Something about it speaks to them.”
Nelles, a Michigan native, has sculpted toys and art with bronze for more than three decades. It can take him up to hundreds of hours to design, cast, and mold items by hand. He finishes the process by die grinding, sandblasting, tumbling, oxidizing, polishing, and lacquering each product.
Sometimes, Gray has to wait one or two months for Nelles to fill an order after choosing items he wants from Nelles’ catalog.
“Probably very few retailers have this on their floor, in stock,” Gray says.
He likes the retro vibe of Nelles’ work, especially the “early space race” 1950s-’60s science fiction sentiment behind his rocket and spaceship designs. They remind him of adventure hero Buck Rogers.
“We think people respond to the retro theme in his designs,” Gray says.
Some items have an interactive feature: a swinging door on a camper trailer, a squeezable trigger on a laser gun, or an opening top on a spaceship. There also is a sculpture recreation of the iconic “King Kong” scene in which the gigantic gorilla dangles off the Empire State Building.
“We have to like an item first, but then it has to be unique and speak to people, something beyond the typical,” Gray says about choosing inventory for his shop. “Nelles’ sculptures are fun. They make people feel good.”