The story of the ‘Bird Girl’

Garden Center Products & Supplies Supplement - Garden Center Products & Supplies

In 1994, when Sylvia Shaw Judson’s statue of the “Bird Girl” appeared on the cover of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” many replicas of the little girl holding the bowls started popping up everywhere.

February 24, 2011

In 1994, when Sylvia Shaw Judson’s statue of the “Bird Girl” appeared on the cover of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” many replicas of the little girl holding the bowls started popping up everywhere. Mrs. Judson’s daughter, the owner of all copyrights to her Mother’s statues, was outraged. She started doing everything under her power, including legal measures, to get these terrible reproductions removed from the marketplace.

Potina is the exclusive source of the Sylvia Shaw Judson Collection, which includes the famous statue “Bird Girl.”In spring of 1998, Brian Caldwell, founder of Potina, contacted Mrs. Judson’s daughter and suggested introducing an estate-approved version of the “Bird Girl” statue. Caldwell remembers saying to her, “Someone’s going to keep doing her. I want to do her the right way.” After many more discussions, the estate of Mrs. Judson agreed to grant Potina an exclusive licensing agreement to produce and sell replicas of the statue. By the holiday season later that year, she was simultaneously featured on the covers of three national catalogs and was being sold in garden centers and gift shops all over America.

The ball had started rolling. And it continues to be a fast-rolling one! “While we knew we were bringing something unique to the market, we didn’t know exactly how big a success she would turn out to be,” says Caldwell. The “Bird Girl” statue continues to be one of the most memorable images ever, and anytime the film, by the same title as the book, plays on television or premium channels including Starz, Showtime or HBO, sales skyrocket.

“More than 12 years after her introduction, there’s still something magical about the ‘Bird Girl’ that makes her our most successful and popular offering to date,” says Caldwell. “And yes, there are still many bad imitations of the ‘Bird Girl’ out there, but none of them even come close to Potina’s ‘Bird Girl’ statues, which capture the beauty and serenity of the original one created by Sylvia Shaw Judson in 1936.”

One key to the “Bird Girl’s” success has been Potina’s ability to offer her in a variety of sizes; 15-inch, 24-inch, 28-inch and 37.5-inch. This range allows statues that can be used in a variety of settings, indoors and out. While many companies have had difficulty producing quality resin products, Potina’s unique manufacturing process blends glass, marble, and resin, allowing the company to deliver a statue that is both beautiful and durable – and one whose bronze-like finish stays on, even when kept outside.

In addition to the sizes mentioned, Potina now announces a very special offering just approved by the estate: a limited edition of “Bird Girl” statues, cast in bronze, the original medium for the “Bird Girl” as created by Mrs. Judson. Standing 50 inches tall, the size of the original statue, these limited edition pieces will sell for approximately $30,000. Caldwell says, “Of course, they’re not for everyone, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with only 15 being produced, guaranteeing heirloom pieces that collectors will treasure for a lifetime.”

Sylvia Shaw Judson (1897-1987), the creator of the Savannah “Bird Girl,” was born in Lake Forest, Ill., and studied at the School of Art Institute of Chicago and in Paris. Critics have described her style as simple, pure, serene, innocent, calm and elegant. Mrs. Judson is perhaps best-known for her endearing interpretations of children and animals, but also produced several well-known pieces on commission with religious themes that reflect her Quaker heritage. Mrs. Judson’s beloved sculptures and fountains can be found in private gardens and public parks across America, including Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park and at the White House in the world-famous Jacqueline Kennedy Rose Garden.

And now, with the premier introduction at January’s AmericasMart in Atlanta, a collection of Sylvia Shaw Judson’s statues are becoming available. Potina is honored to be the exclusive representative for the Sylvia Shaw Judson Collection. This is the first opportunity that admirers of Mrs. Judson’s work have had to purchase reproductions of her many popular statues. Potina is very proud and honored to be partnering with Mrs. Judson’s granddaughter, Frances Shaw, the current owner, to the copyrights for all of Mrs. Judson’s statues. Shaw, herself an artist who studied under her grandmother, is working with Potina to guarantee that each piece is a precise replica of the original statue, ensuring that the artistic integrity of her grandmother’s work is respected.

Depending on the statue, Potina utilizes three different techniques to provide the attention to detail required when reproducing classic and beautiful works of art. Whenever possible, the original statue is used to create a mold to produce an exact replica of the original work. For other pieces, the original work is taken to a lab where computers scan the statue, allowing precise molds to be created in a variety of sizes. Frances Shaw then adds a top coating to each mold, mirroring the style of the original piece – a level of detail not found in most statuary lines. This allows Potina to create pieces in a variety of sizes that truly replicate Mrs. Judson’s artistic style. When they can’t take the original piece to the lab, they go to the statue, photographing and measuring the piece from every angle, and then use clay to recreate the statue from scratch before creating the mold for casting.

Each piece in The Sylvia Shaw Judson Collection is produced only with the approval and permission of her estate, and much of her work will never be reproduced. Potina’s commitment to maintaining the artistic integrity of Mrs. Judson’s work means that a piece will never be introduced unless there is access to the original statue. Attempting to recreate a statue from a single photograph, or one dimensional image, simply isn’t an option. The goal is to create distinctive statuary that customers will be proud to display in their homes or gardens for years to come.

In addition to the “Bird Girl,” initial offerings in Potina’s Sylvia Shaw Judson Collection include: “Boy and Dog,” originally created in 1958 in bronze; “Summer,” one of four statues in The Four Seasons group, made in 1938; and “Harbor Seal,” created in 1945, which is offered as a fountain or a statue. Each of these three new pieces is available in sandstone or bronze finish. All Sylvia Shaw Judson Collection statues are “Made in the USA” and are copyright protected.

“This is just the beginning for what we know will be an extremely popular collection,” says Caldwell. For additional information or to place an order, please visit Potina’s website at