While walking by downtown landmarks this past year, some locals might have noticed a small treasure hidden nearby.
Over the past year, local artist Wrenn Elkins has been sculpting miniature replicas of dozens of Augusta’s most memorable sights and leaving them around town for people to find and keep for themselves.
Whether it is a hand-painted replica of the lion statues on the Butt Memorial Bridge located along 15th Street or a tribute to the once-popular Haunted Pillar on Broad Street that was destroyed in 2016, Elkins creates these miniature sculptures simply for people to enjoy.
“It’s funny how it all started,” she said. “My husband bought me some sculpting materials about a year ago just because I needed a little break from what I’m usually working on, which is painting and sewing. So I just started making a bunch of little objects, and somehow we came up with the idea that I should make little replicas from around town.”
Since last November, Elkins said she has created miniature versions of everything from the downtown fountain on Ninth Street next to Boll Weevil Cafe to the James Brown statue on Broad Street.
“Usually, I just pick neat stuff that’s around Augusta, but I get a lot of commissions now, too, because people will request stuff,” Elkins said. “I do a lot of business signs, and I try to do holiday-themed stuff. Like I recently made a tiny Ouija board. Some of them will take me half an hour to do, but some of them, like the fountain next to Boll Weevil, took me a couple of months because of the amount of detail in it.”
The 32-year-old artist admits she is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the miniature figures.
“I have been working on the James Brown statue for about six months,” Elkins said, chuckling. “I have two or three different ones and each one gets better, but I’m still not happy with them. That is one of my goal pieces.”
Elkins, who is originally from Colorado but has lived in the Augusta area most of her life, said she got the idea of hiding these miniature replicas around town from the painted rocks craze that has spread across the country.
“I figured it would be kind of fun. I like seeing people enjoying it. And for the longest time, nobody knew it was me doing it. I kind of miss that,” Elkins said. “But then I did an interview with News Channel 12, and I didn’t know how to remain anonymous. So the secret is out. People know it’s me now.”
Elkins, who is the piercer at Allegiance Ink Tattoo at 4074 Washington Road in Martinez, said she creates these miniatures purely for the fun of it.
“I make no money off this at all. Everything that I do is free,” she said. “The only exception is that some of the bigger pieces that I do, I will auction them off for charity and the money usually goes to Hope House.”
She likes to donate her art to help raise funds for Hope House because they have helped more than 1,500 women in Georgia end the cycle of substance abuse, untreated mental illness and poverty.
“I recently did a miniature of The Masters, and it went for $300. So I donated that to Hope House,” Elkins said. “I also just finished up a piece for Boy Scouts of America. They have an annual auction and they asked me to do something, so I did a mini-campfire scene.”
Over the past several months, Elkins said she has received numerous requests from local businesses wanting miniatures made representing their company. In fact, Elkins did an outstanding job creating the 2018 Metro’s Best figurine featuring Spy vs. Spy for the Metro Spirit earlier this year.
Elkins says she’s happy to help and, once again, does it for free.
“I have a good job and I make money off of my sewing — I do embroidery — so I do this for the fun of it,” she said. “This just gives me something to do with my hands when I get bored. I am going to do it anyways, so people might as well enjoy it.”
And people are definitely loving her miniature sculptures.
Hundreds of people follow an Instagram account created by Elkins called Augustaminiature.
“It got to a point for a little while there, if I went downtown, people would actually follow me around town and just wait for me to put stuff out,” Elkins said. “That was a little weird, so I’ve been trying to branch out and do more stuff that is not just downtown. In fact, I have gotten a lot of requests for miniatures in Columbia County, but it’s just harder out there because there is nowhere that you can just walk around and hit five or six different places. You have to drive everywhere.”
She has started doing some miniatures of the local parks in Columbia County, so she can hide them while people are enjoying the nice weather.
“I also did a little cake for Inner Bean Cafe,” she said. “But Columbia County is a bit harder than Augusta because you have to drive a lot and the traffic can be a challenge.”
Since beginning to make sculptures last November, Elkins estimated she has created about 100 miniatures over the past year.
“That’s if you count all of the little ones that I do for the holidays,” Elkins said, adding that she enjoys doing miniature pumpkins for Halloween. “I absolutely love Halloween, but Christmas is also fun, too, because there is a lot of stuff that you can sculpt. I also did little Easter baskets last year, which was fun because you get to do little, tiny things and put them in a little, tiny basket. But I found out that sculpting the grass for the Easter baskets was harder than I thought. That was a challenge.”
While Elkins enjoys sculpting a variety of objects, her heart is still with downtown Augusta.
“Downtown is easy because there are tons of stuff to do,” she said. “I really like finding signs, too. There are some older signs downtown that I have been meaning to do, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.”
Elkins generally uses Sculpey clay for each sculpture and hand paints the miniatures.
“I think one of my favorite pieces is the fountain next to Boll Weevil because I finally got it right after six or seven tries. Of course, I still didn’t get the water exactly the way I wanted it, but sometimes you have to let stuff go. Overall, I’m really happy with it,” she said. “And my other favorite is, I made a tiny fairy door. There is a girl that does the fairy doors around town, so I thought it would be fun to do a tiny version of a fairy door.”
Probably one of the most common places that Elkins hides some of her miniatures is at the Book Tavern on Broad Street.
“I hid a lot of stuff at the Book Tavern over this past year,” Elkins said, laughing. “I finally went in there and talked to the owner about the miniatures and said, ‘I am sorry I keep putting stuff in your store, but it’s such an easy place to do stuff because there’s so many cool things inside here.’ They were really great about it.”
One of the toughest challenges of creating the miniatures is not always knowing where the sculptures end up after they are hidden, Elkins said.
“Sometimes people let me know if they find them, usually through Instagram, but sometimes they don’t,” Elkins said. “That was probably the hardest part, just learning to let it go once the miniatures are out in the world and not knowing what happens to some of them.”
But Elkins absolutely loves when people send her a message to say they have found one of sculptures and consider it a treasure.
“I like to hear when people are enjoying them, and it’s fun kind of promoting Augusta,” she said. “Because it really is a very good place to live. I have traveled all over the place, but I like Augusta because the crime rate is low, you can’t beat the price of living and people are really nice, for the most part.”
“Augusta gets a bad rap sometimes with people complaining that there’s nothing to do here. But there’s plenty of stuff to do,” she added. “You just have to get out there and find it.”