James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden – Sheboygan, Wisconsin - Atlas Obscura
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Sheboygan, Wisconsin

James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden

Whimsical sculptures dot a woodland path surrounding their creator's old summer cottage.  

Tucked into the verdant woods is a charming sculpture garden filled with both realistic and whimsical statues. The various people and creatures dot the land, positioned as if using the natural environment as their own miniature stages.

The garden is the work of former furniture painter James Tellen, who was also an avid woodcarver. While recovering from an illness in the hospital, Tellen took to gazing out the window, where he noticed concrete statues nestled in a churchyard across the street. This inspired him to create his own miniature sculpture garden in the yard of his family’s summer cottage.

From 1942 and until his death in 1957, Tellen carved 30 lifelike sculptures and placed them throughout the woods. Exploring the grounds reveals prairie settlers, Native Americans, gnomes, and woodland creatures carefully arranged among the trees.

Tellen began most of the sculptures during the winter, first creating a clay model and concrete castings of their heads. In the warmer months, when the days grew long and the air lost its unforgiving bite, he’d venture outside to position the rough versions of his work and finish them with cement. Even though Tellen never received any classical artistic training, he still worked to make his finished creations as lifelike as possible.