Mott artist creates larger-than-life sculpture to honor grandson’s graduation from Air Force Academy

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT
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MOTT, N.D. – Those round oatmeal boxes have inspired many kids’ valentine’s boxes.

Mott artist Betty Ruggles had been saving those oatmeal boxes for years, with plans to someday make them into a nutcracker.

Her little idea quickly grew into something much bigger.

The pages of this scrapbook are filled with photos memories of Betty Ruggles’ work.

“I was a farm wife and I sewed,” Ruggles explained.

She sewed her daughters’ prom dresses and wedding gowns. She eventually went back to college.

“I didn’t know anything but sewing,” she said.

That landed her in the theater department, making costumes. She also started making sculptures. Since then, she’s made dozens of sculptures.

This latest project is one of her biggest ever. Ruggles sculpted this nine-foot nutcracker out of a number of materials – including wood, epoxy, Styrofoam and liquid plastic. She didn’t intend for this sculpture to be so big.

“It just took on a life of its own,” she said.

Before she knew it, Ruggles was creating an Air Force Academy uniform for this nutcracker.

Her inspiration: her grandson Brooks, who just graduated from the academy.

“I’m pretty proud,” Ruggles said.

Every detail has special meaning.

“My husband was in the Air Force and these were the buttons on his jacket. And so I made a mold of those,” Ruggles explained.

Brooks made the emblem on the hat with a 3D printer.

“He did a really nice job,” Ruggles said.

Much to her surprise, Brooks got permission to display the nine-foot nutcracker at his graduation. Ruggles took the sculpture apart and hauled it to Colorado.

“I was kind of excited and humbled because it’s not perfect. It’s just made with a lot of love in the USA,” she said.

But this grandmother’s love for her country and for her family make this larger-than-life sculpture perfectly imperfect.

Ruggles has another grandson attending West Point. She’s already started making another nine-foot nutcracker, this one in a West Point uniform. She hopes to have it finished by the time that grandson graduates.

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