Resident wins with sculptures

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Local artist Leo Atkinson calls his sculptures "nontraditional." Jurors at the 17th annual Boulder Creek Festival called them "winners."

Atkinson won the distinction of "Best in Sculpture" at the sprawling Boulder arts festival during Memorial Day weekend. The award recognized the merits of his entire collection, which included a 20-foot long display of his polished, chiseled and mounted mineral and fossil sculptures.

"It's great. They really support me down there. They like my unusual style of sculpture," Atkinson said. And he added that winning prestigious festival awards doesn't hurt sales, either.

Not that his pieces haven't been in the spotlight recently. Atkinson sold one of his sculptures to the Sheik of Qatar during the famed Tucson Gem and Mineral Show earlier this year. And he's been invited to show to the internationally influential Safari Club later this year.

Locally, Atkinson is known as the guy who breaks "dragon eggs" to help support the still-conceptual Steamboat Springs Children's Museum. The "dragon eggs" are dusty round rocks, called "geodes," that he pops apart with his rusty 1940s "Geode-tine" to expose glittering crystal pockets on the inside.

Atkinson said he has been sculpting fossils and geodes for 18 years. He buys his mineral and fossil raw materials from collectors and dealers, mostly from Uruguay and Brazil. He also gets some exceptional specimens from Moroccan dealers who collect them from the North African country's Atlas Mountains, he said. Many of Atkinson's finished sculptures shimmer with dark purple amethysts or the iridescence of rose quartz. His fossil sculptures feature trilobites and chambered nautiluses that he polishes and carves around the surrounding limestone to create faces and flowing, curvaceous forms.

"Any time I see unusual things, I collect them," Atkinson said of the chunks of basalt and limestone neatly organized around his studio west of Steamboat Springs. Atkinson said he looks for good-quality crystals and minerals that also have opportunity for sculpture.

Anyone who wants a peek at Atkinson's sculptures can visit him at the Steamboat Springs Arts Council's Art in the Park festival July 10 and 11 at West Lincoln Park. His glimmering amethyst and polished stone sculptures will be on display.

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