MEET THE ARTIST: Conrad Clank, Dayton OH
Welcome back to our Artist Spotlight series, where we feature our contemporary makers and also share backgrounds on the creators of our vintage and collectors' items.
Nothing says "the social side of tennis" better than beer and wine bottle openers upcycled from old wooden tennis racquets. Conrad Clank from Dayton, Ohio, is the craftsman behind these new favorites at TennisAlley. Here's what he tells us:
"I hand-make all of them myself at our workshop/warehouse in Dayton, OH. I love everything about tennis. I am a former D2 college player, avid fan, etc. ... not old enough to have played with [the wooden racquets] when they were prominent." In addition to the bottle openers, Conrad makes nifty bottle stoppers from the wood. He sends us a collection of whatever he happens to have on hand — we get to be surprised by what's in the box!
So, where do the old wooden racquets come from? That's exactly what wanted to know! Conrad divulges, "We've purchased a few very large private collections of them over the years, those are obviously the best. Otherwise, I'm constantly scouring eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, thrift shops, and flea markets. I have friends and relatives in various states who also collect and ship to me, which helps a ton!"
We wanted to know about his favorite finds, and if any racquets were deemed too valuable to chop up. (Right?) Conrad replies, "My personal favorites are the more colorful Wilson brand Pro Player Series racquets from the 70s for players like Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Stan Smith, and Jack Kramer. The ones hanging on the wall in my office are some of my favorites that I've saved, but I don't necessarily think they're any more valuable than any others.
What do you think, dear readers? If you're old enough to have played with a wooden racquet, are you too sentimental about it to imagine it going under the knife to become something useful and new? Maybe, like me, you've got your trusty Jack Kramer Autograph hanging on the wall for all eternity — original strings and all — but would happily show the love to someone else's discarded wooden stick, keeping it on your bar to pop open a cold one after a match. (Speaking of which ... locals, if we were to arrange a retro racquet social tournament, would you be interested??)
Thanks, Conrad, for making the old new again! We love having these useful, artistic conversation pieces available for old-school tennis enthusiasts at TennisAlley.
While you won't get to meet Conrad on the Loveland Art Studio Tour, you can use one of his bottle openers and enjoy a nice beverage while visiting with us.