Dr. Naismith You Look Good

James NaismithArt Meets Basketball

One day while reading facebook posts I ran across a post about Dr. James Naismith the inventor of basketball. One of my high school classmates, Melissa Rau, wrote a post about creating a Naismith sculpture. Dr. Naismith was being inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame and Melissa was chosen to design and create the sculpture that was placed in the Hall of Fame. I love basketball and I thought this was fascinating. I just had to know more about it, so I contacted Melissa to get the scoop. Here’s what I found out:

Janet: How did you find out about the opportunity to do the James Naismith sculpture?

Melissa: The Great Overland Station in Topeka sponsors an annual event each year inducting famous Kansans into the Kansas Hall of Fame. James Naismith was one of their honorees for 2013 and I thought he would be an interesting subject to pursue. He was an outstanding man and an icon in the world of basketball and people love him. I wanted to show people what he looked like, and what it would be like to stand next to him. I wanted people to understand what he would have worn, what it would have been like to meet him, what made him tick.

Janet: Tell me how you got involved in this type of work.

Melissa: I have always been an artist and have enjoyed a life-time of creativity in many different forms. About twenty years ago, my mother began sculpting out of polymer clay and began a long career as an artist creating 17 inch tall historic figures. I learned the art of doll making from her over the past many years. Always being a history fanatic, I was challenged to create life-sized, realistic figures which told a story about each one.

Janet: Explain a little about the process in creating this type of sculpture and how you learned it.

Melissa: Each historic figure is completely researched prior to the beginning of each piece. I have to decide what story I am trying to tell about the figure, what expression I want to convey, what feeling it is I am trying to express about the figure. I examine and collect as many photographs of the individual that I can so that I can sculpt a figure from all different angles. The faces and hands are hand sculpted out of polymer clay, and painted. The bodies are a metal and wire armature. The clothing and accessories are hand-made by me or antique pieces are hand selected. Each piece takes approximately six weeks from beginning to end, not including the research time.

Janet: Do you have other sculptures on display?

Melissa: Sculptures of Wild Bill Hickok and Amelia Earhart have also been displayed at the Great Overland Station and various other museums and events.

I am so impressed with the amount of research that is done to make the figures accurate and the detail is amazing. Thanks Melissa for your wonderful Dr. Naismith sculpture and for telling us what it takes to create these figures.

Melissa Rau Bio: Melissa is a talented artist and creates in many artistic forms. In addition to her historic figures, she also has a line of whimsical figures, Santa’s, witches, elves, etc. Each one of her whimsical figures is depicted to remind us of images from old Victorian postcards. Melissa’s works can be found at

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