WINCHESTER, Ky. (LEX 18) — There's a hidden gem tucked into Winchester, Kentucky, and her name is Julie Warren Conn.
She's had a long career. At 78 years old, she continues to create unassisted in her studio.
Warren Conn has made hundreds of pieces carving stone by hand, ranging in size from tabletop to gigantic outdoor works.
Some of her pieces were on display Tuesday in her studio, including a photo of a tall 1982 world's fair sculpture.
Each square foot of stone weighs about 180 pounds. Warren Conn typically handling the process all on her own.
If you ask her, she wouldn't consider herself a trail blazer, but plenty of others would. She was the first to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee, which Warren Conn said wasn't easy as a woman in the 1960s.
"We are all very attune to how women don't advance as fast as men and how chauvinistic society can be and fortunately the world is changing and eventually for a better world," said Warren Conn.
She told a story about how she once missed a commission because the man she was competing against said he had to feed his family. However, she never let that stop her.
Since 1965 she's planted sculptures across the world from Tennessee to New Zealand and had a book written about her.
"I do live here half the time because I'm always over here working," said Warren Conn about her studio.
After all the years of physically grueling work, it almost came to an end in December 2019 after a scary accident.
"I almost lost my hand," said Warren Conn. "I was working a little piece and it was late on a Saturday afternoon and somehow that's why you've always gotta be aware, somehow the saw grabbed my sleeve."
She was alone in the studio but managed to unplug the machine and call for help.
"I'm lucky and as my therapist said you're here for a reason and you're supposed to keep working," said Warren Conn.
That kept her going and confirmed her purpose.
"My husband would always say when are you gonna quit and I'd say when you bury me," said Warren Conn laughing.
Warren Conn still creating commissioned work and selling her art. She was most recently featured in a gallery at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center in July.
Her next work in Kentucky will be a large nine-foot piece for Maker's Mark in Loretto.