Ray Day Celebrates 10 Years with Lilliput Lane

A Passionate Man

Ray Day Celebrates 10 Years with Lilliput Lane

by Randy Gulliver

Copyright 1999

 

     At first glance, one could mistake Ray Day
for a Sunday school teacher. 

     Sitting across from Ray and his wife, Eileen,
in a hotel restaurant, one would assess them as a trim, middle-aged, middle-class
couple – well turned-out, pleasant-looking, and absolutely ordinary. But
when one scratches the veneer of Ray’s Midwestern reserve, the truth starts
to emerge. This is a man with a deep, brimming love for so many things
– his family, his country, his faith, his heritage, his art. And architecture.
Ray’s passion for architecture has illuminated his life.


Ray and Eileen in Toronto

A Passion for Home

     Ray Day was born and raised in New
Albany, Indiana, where he still lives. His early inclination was towards
the theatre (in fact, he met Eileen on stage), but he settled on Fine Arts.
After earning his Master’s degree, he landed a position at the local Catholic
High School, teaching art classes. He and Eileen had a daughter, Jennifer,
and in order to supplement his income, Ray began to paint landscapes on
the side.

     He excelled at watercolors, and his
subjects reflected his love of the rural American landscape – covered bridges,
weathered barns, grand Victorian homes. Ray was drawn to evocative architecture,
real buildings that possessed an innate charm and a sheen of nostalgia.
He met with some success, and in 1973, began to sell his art as limited
edition prints. The Ray Day Studio was established, even though he continued
to teach full time.

 

     By the mid-80’s, Ray Day was a well established
“Americana” artist. Plate publisher Blue River Mill approached him about
using some of his artwork on a series of plates. The plates turned out
well and they caught the eye of David Tate, the founder of Lilliput Lane.
Tate had been looking for some designs that would appeal to the American
market, and when he first met Ray at a marketing convention in 1986, he
asked about buying some artwork to reproduce as sculptures. Ray boldly
suggested that he take a crack at the sculptures himself, and David agreed.


“Rock City Barn”

     It was the beginning of an enduring
professional, and personal, relationship.

     “Lilliput trusted us from the very
beginning. David Tate trusted what he saw in my work, and my response to
him was equally so. I saw him not only as a phenomenal technician who could
make this happen in the technical sense, but he also had the creative mind
to understand that what the artist was trying to accomplish has to be uppermost
in the minds of the technicians who are trying to reproduce it.”

     During this period, the Days faced
their most personal challenge at home – Eileen suffered the first of her
two bouts with cancer. It was a devastating time that Eileen says brought
out the “dark tones” in her husband, a sorrowful side she had never seen
before. Throughout it all, Ray continued his teaching, knowing that if
he left, he would lose their health insurance coverage. They both agree
that their faith gave them the strength to make it through.

     In spite of the crisis, Ray’s first
four Lilliput Lane pieces were released as the “American Landmarks” series
in June, 1989. His distinctive American style added a whole new dimension
to Lilliput Lane, and the company continued to prosper during the early
90’s. Ray and David Tate became close friends, both sharing a passion to
preserve and celebrate the architectural heritage of their respective countries.
They also both share a wicked sense of humour.

A Passion for Architecture

     This year, Ray Day celebrates the 10th Anniversary
of his involvement with Lilliput Lane. Over the last decade, he has created
nearly one hundred miniature masterpieces, such as “Winnie’s Place”, “Disney’s
Haunted Mansion”, and his ann iversary piece,”Nature’s Bounty”, not to mention
his very successful Coca-Cola line of Lilliputs. If you ask him what his
favourite sculpture is, he will say “I always hope that my next piece will
be my favourite piece”. But, if you catch him in an unguarded moment, he
will tell you the truth – “Home for the Holidays”, a limited edition tribute
to a small Illinois farm that was released in 1996. It took him 11 months
to complete, and it perfectly captures the joy of Christmas in a rural
setting.


“Home for the Holidays”

– Photo courtesy Dan Komar

     Much has changed since Ray started
with Lilliput Lane – Enesco Corporation purchased the company; David Tate
is semi-retired; and Ray is now the Creative Director of Lilliput Lane
USA. And he finally quit teaching three years ago. He is not discouraged
by the downturn in the architectural art market:

     “People still appreciate quality and
uniqueness and integrity. Those are the qualities that have kept companies
like Waterford above the float. Lladro, Guiseppe Armani, and so on. Lilliput
Lane is in that class as a quality collectible.Although Lilliput Lane has
gone through a lot of struggle, sales difficulties, marketing problems
– as things have changed over the years, the quality and integrity of Lilliput’s
product just seems to get more staggeringly beautiful piece by piece.”

     As if to prove his point, Lilliput
has just released “Victorian Romance”, Ray’s first Canadian piece. It is
truly stunning. Based on the Preservation Art Gallery in Niagara-on-the-Lake
in southwestern Ontario, this grand Victorian edifice is the former home
of one of Canada’s most successful painters, Trisha Romance. The building
caught Ray’s eye when he and Eileen visited the town in May, 1998. Although
they didn’t meet Romance – who still owns the Gallery – on this trip, Ray
contacted her later and they worked closely together during the design
and coloration stages. 

     It varies from the original in that
Ray added a small fish-pond in the back corner to replace an unruly bush.
When Romance saw the completed model, she proceded to place a fish-pond
in that exact location. Ray recently presented Trisha with a plaque for
the corner that reads, “The First Ray Day Fish Pond in Canada”!

A Passion for Art

     Since his retirement from teaching,
Ray has had more time to pursue his first love – painting.

 

     Once again, the limited edition prints of
his watercolor originals are flowing. His newest print – “Victorian Elegance”
– is a fund-raiser for the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The museum itself is the subject of the painting and all of the proceeds
go to support it. Some of Ray’s early prints, especially those depicting
advertising in rural settings, have quadrupled in value since their initial
release. 


Ray tends his garden at home

     Meanwhile, back in suburban New Albany, the
circle closes – Jennifer Day has replaced her father as the local art teacher.
Ray paints and sculpts in his studio at home, and Eileen handles the business
affairs, as always. 



     One of the finest architectural artists America
has ever produced, and his partner, still masquerading as a perfectly ordinary
couple.

For Further Information:

The
Ray Day Studi
o
– View Ray’s catalogue of new sculptures and available
prints.

Lilliput Lane – Enesco
View Ray’s Coca-Cola series, American Landmarks, Allegiance series, and
Limited Editions, including “Nature’s Bounty”.

Lilliput Lane Information