Local Sculptor Selected to Create International Award

Jun 9, 2019, 10:50 PM | Updated: 10:58 pm

UTAH COUNTY, Utah — The open skies have a lot to teach — and a lot of wisdom to pass along.

“I grew up on a ranch and had a marvelous childhood,” said Jeff Wolf, speaking from his home in southern Utah County. “I had about ten thousand acres to play in —that inspired a lot of imagination.”

Even Wolf’s name conjures up images of the outdoors. Today, the land he calls home is quite a bit smaller than the spacious ranch where he was raised, but he’s done what he can to make sure his little farm still maintains that “country” feel.

“It’s just the way I was raised,” he said. “You learn to take care of things. The land, the animals, the people that you do business with.”

He’s held a number of jobs through the years, even managing a ranch himself. But these days, he’s found a different way to hitch his childhood close to his heart.

Wolf is a professional sculptor, creating art and teaching seminars as part of his business, Jeff Wolf Studios.

“I always try to do something that tells somewhat of a story,” he said, hunched over a table while scraping out tiny lines on the shape of a dog. “Western, wildlife, equine — the whole realm of that way of life.”

Nearly every piece hearkens back to a bygone age. Although making a living at this was a struggle at first, his talent eventually broke free.

“If you do great work, your work will sell itself, Wolf said. “That’s semi-true, because you have to have the quality of work to begin with, and then you’ve got to be promoted — go to art shows. A gallery from Steamboat Springs saw my work at a little show that I entered, and they wanted my work.”

His art has turned into a bit of a gold rush — much of it is cast in bronze, and sells for top dollar.

“I just started sculpting full time, and haven’t looked back,” Wolf said.

Although it’s easy to track his life from childhood to now, his influences also come from a different part of his past.

“I rodeoed for eight years professionally, and 11 years before that,” Wolf said. “It’s kind of in my blood.”

Despite his successes, he eventually packed his saddlebags and left those years behind.

“There comes a time when you realize that it’s time to give it up and move on,” Wolf said. “I just lost that competitive edge.”

While many of his friends moved on to rodeo judging and announcing, Wolf’s been content sitting in his shop — until now.

Named for one of the most well-known champions in the world of rodeo, Wolf was selected by the Professional Bull Riders Association to create what’s known as the “Ty Murray Top Hand Award.”

Similar to a lifetime achievement award, the PBR gives Wolf’s creation to “rodeo cowboys who have made significant and lasting contributions to the sport of rodeo and its heritage,” according to the group’s website.

“My work’s going to be in the homes of some of the greatest western athletes that’s ever lived,” he said.

Herding Wolf’s life right back home.

“The PBR and all the current contestants that I met, and even past contestants, they’re just the same group of people that I was rodeoing with,” he said. “They’re all very congenial and friendly and treat you like family.”

But when you ask him to gaze towards his frontier, the only thing that really matters is keeping the old ways alive.

“What I’ve experienced or heard from other old-time cowboys,” he said.

And making sure he passes on what the open skies taught him.

“I hope they feel inspiration, and that it brings out some kind of emotion and imagination,” said Wolf.


 The "Ty Murray Top Hand Award" ranks as one of the highest-profile pieces Wolf has created. (Courtesy: Jeff Wolf) Wolf spends countless hours sculpting a piece before sending it off to be cast in bronze. Jeff Wolf works on a commissioned piece in his workshop in southern Utah County. One of Wolf's finished pieces, cast in bronze, sits in his living room. A photo of Wolf's childhood shows how he often spent his days. Wolf spent many of his younger years competing on the rodeo circuit.  The majority of Wolf's work draws inspiration from the "western" life he grew up around. Wolf says he always tries to make sure his art tells a story.  A bronze sculpture depicting a pair of Native Americans sits in Wolf's home. Wolf managed a large ranch until the 1990's , which made him even more familiar with living life on horseback. Wolf's shop is full of works in progress.
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Local Sculptor Selected to Create International Award