Fayetteville artist pays homage to iconic businesses with miniature sculptures

Artwork and images: M. Clay Wilson

As someone who covers the city on a daily basis and that has lived in and around Fayetteville for my entire life, it’s hard to deny that this place is growing and changing rapidly right before our eyes.

Folks can (and do) argue about whether that change is good, bad, or neutral, but it is natural, I think. People change. Businesses open, close and change hands. New buildings are built. New shapes are added to the ever-changing skyline. All of these things are what happens in a place that is desirable and perceived to be a vibrant and thriving community. That energy brings new people, and those people come in and move dirt around and make changes to things.

Something about the reality of all this is what is compelling about the artwork created by Fayetteville artist M. Clay Wilson.

Wilson, who draws, paints, sculpts, does graphic design, and works with food, has recently gotten into creating miniature models. Three of his recent works have captured some iconic Fayetteville businesses, creating 3-dimensional snapshots of some beloved places as they are (or were) in spectacular detail.

The first of these models created by Wilson was a recreation of the beloved Dickson Street Bookshop last year.

Model of Dickson Street Bookshop by M. Clay Wilson

“I made edible miniature foods for a few years and decided I’d like to get back into that area again, but something more lasting that I could display,” he said. “I enjoy the older architecture throughout town and thought it would be great to have a miniature Dickson Street Bookshop to go on my bookshelf, and that’s what started it and I decided to make more local places that I’m personally fond of.”

Wilson posted photos of his work on is Instagram account catching the attention of hundreds, including the Dickson Street Bookshop itself who commented on the level of detail in the model underneath Wilson’s photos.

“It’s soooo spot on! Great attention to detail. We are in love,” they wrote.

Earlier this year, Wilson re-created the now-closed Brenda’s Bigger Burger restaurant that operated for decades on what is now MLK Jr. Boulevard, complete with the burger mural on the side of the building and three red picnic tables out front that diners utilized for years.

In February, he created a model of the iconic Hugo’s restaurant in downtown Fayetteville that became the first of the models that he has sold so far. Hugo’s owner Jason Piazza got wind of the model, purchased it, and it is now on display on the wall at the restaurant.

Model of Hugo’s created by Wilson

“There was such a big interest when I posted the Hugo’s build and I had several people interested in buying it, but when I learned one of them were the owners of Hugo’s it just made sense it had to go to them,” he said. “I originally didn’t know they were going to display it in the restaurant, but I’m honored they chose to.”

It is the details of Wilson’s creations that make them so striking. His Hugo’s model, for example, includes the specials white board outside the restaurant with their popular ‘Fish Tacos’ special scrawled on the board as it often is at the restaurant. You can see a tiny (probably Bleu Moon) hamburger on the table visible through the menu, and the stairs and railing into the basement are spot on.

Creating those details is part of what Wilson enjoys.

“The tiny books in Dickson Street Bookshop windows were fun to make,” he said. “I also enjoyed recreating the Brenda’s Bigger Burger mural, it really makes that building. The Hugo’s signs were a pain to shape, but they turned out great.”

A close up showing the detail of Wilson’s Hugo’s model

All told, Wilson said the models take between 70 and 100 hours to create, depending on how much detail the particular model requires.

He already has a few other places in mind he’d like to work on.

“I’ve been looking around at some of my favorites lately to see what I’d like to build next and I think Cheap Thrills would be great and I’d like to capture Arsaga’s at the Depot before it closed,” he said. “I have a lot of memories there. I’ll probably make another Dickson Street Bookshop as well.”

If he can build up enough of a collection, Wilson said he could eventually put together a show of the works. He may eventually take commissions as well, he said.

Model of Brenda’s Bigger Burger

For now, he’s just enjoying the process of creating some of the places he feels personally connected to.

“I’m currently going to focus on builds I want to do first, but I will do some commissions as well later on,” he said.

Those interested in a commission or learning more about Wilson’s work can contact him at [email protected], or on Instagram @curmudgeonclay.

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com