My mother-in-law is a fan of the artist Isabel Bloom and as a result we have several of her cheerful concrete sculptures around our home. But I didn’t really appreciate her work until I had the opportunity to tour the Isabel Bloom Factory in Davenport, Iowa.
Isabel Bloom, an Iowa native, studied under a more well-known Iowa artist – Grant Wood. She learned to sculpt in clay then created molds for that would become the concrete statues.
The images are simple reflecting four concepts: love, joy, friendship and support. The piece entitled “Hugs” was one of her first and remains the most popular of more than 200 Isabel Bloom creations.
Hugs – Best Selling Figurine by Isabel Bloom
She began her little company in 1981 with just five employees. Now, the Isabel Bloom factory creates jobs for 70 people year-round, more during the holiday season.
The casting process takes two days and then each piece is individually whitewashed and polished, creating a truly unique piece. Recycled beer bottles are used for the green and brown eyes found in the frogs, turtles and other creatures. Isabel was a Pisces, born in late February, and therefore included fish in many designs.
Isabel Bloom died in 2001 and since then, Donna Young is the sculptor behind the images. Each year, about 20 – 25 original Blooms are retired while Donna creates another 20-25 friendly pieces.
There are three Isabel Bloom stores in the Quad Cities and one in Des Moines Iowa. Another 100 or so shops around the Midwest carry the product. But a handful of the collection is sold only at the factory in Davenport.