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Denton and Dragons: Local myths and legends come to life through 3D figurines

Denton and Dragons: Local myths and legends come to life through 3D figurines

Denton and Dragons: Local myths and legends come to life through 3D figurines
July 01
16:07 2019

The Goatman of Old Alton Bridge figurine on a table outside The Bearded Monk in Denton, Texas on June 26, 2019. Photo by Emily Olkkola

To know Denton is to know the many myths and legends that embody ⁠— or supposedly haunt ⁠— this college town. Famous figures that intrigue Denton residents include the Goatman of Old Alton Bridge, UNT’s lucky albino squirrel and Denton’s very own Krampus just to name a few.

There are no photos of these famous creatures that longtime Denton photographer Ed Steele could capture. To keep the kooky spirit of Denton alive, Steele has reimagined these legends as mini, 3D printed figurines.

The idea for Steele’s Denton-themed miniatures began with the game “Dungeons & Dragons” with his friends and co-hosts of their podcast, “Denton & Dragons.” Steele said that together, they wanted to emulate the “strangeness of Denton” by incorporating their own miniatures into the game.

“I saw the power of what could be done with a 3D printer and literally, your imagination is the limit,” Steele said. “With the strangeness of Denton, I realized that a lot of the legends, people and characters of Denton would really fit well into the Dungeons & Dragons mythology.”

Before picking up 3D printing as a hobby, Steele captured the uniqueness of Denton through photographs. While Steele’s job primarily consists of shooting photos for commercial use, he is most famous for photographing Denton’s eccentric music scene. In 2014, the Dallas Observer awarded Steele the title of “Best Music Photographer in North Texas.”

Steele carried his interest in the unique to his ideas for the mini, Denton-themed figurines. He formerly collaborated with a miniature 3D printing company, where he shared his ideas with the team a month in advance and within 30 days, they brought his ideas to life.

The Bearded Monk figurine on a table outside The Bearded Monk in Denton, Texas on June 26, 2019. Photo by Emily Olkkola

In May, Steele began selling batches of his figurines at the Denton beer pub, The Bearded Monk. The first creation that Steele released was the bearded monk himself, modeled after the pub’s logo.

Steele’s figurines have intrigued a lot of the pub’s customers, including The Bearded Monk owner, Ben Esely. Esely said that Ed’s creations have “reinforced his love for Denton” and he was excited to see the bearded monk as a person rather than just a logo.

“One of the things that I love so much about this town are the creative spirits,” Esely said. “Ed’s ideas are frequently the epitome of that creative spirit.”

Steele has created three other famous Denton legends including the Goatman of Old Alton Bridge, a barber from Denton’s historic salon called Popo Y Lupe and musician and founder of the Brave Combo, Carl Finch. 

Finch said that holding a miniature version of himself was “trippy.” The 3D model of Finch is of him playing an accordion to a litter of kittens. The kittens symbolize Finch and Steele’s involvement with cat rescue.

“One side of Ed that I know about and that he also knows about with me is that we both rescue animals,” Finch said. “As important as the music side of it, this is a real honor for me to be recognized in that way.”

Steele plans to continue releasing each figurine every month, with 12 ideas lined up for other Denton-themed miniatures. A mini that he plans to release in July pays homage to The Flying Tomato, a beloved pizza joint that caught on fire a month after getting closed down in 2007.

Steele said that the model of The Flying Tomato mini is inspired by the “Dungeons & Dragons’” monstrous character, “The Beholder.” The mini will include the same features as “The Beholder,” except it will be in the form of a literal flying tomato.

Co-founder of the non-profit organization Friends with Benefits, Mindy Arendt, 34, said that she hopes Steele creates a mini inspired by “Shelly Tucker’s ghost tours.”

Carl Finch of Brave Combo figurine on a table outside of The Bearded Monk in Denton, Texas on June 26, 2019. Photo by Emily Olkkola

“Ed’s creativity continues to amaze me,” Arendt said. “When he rolled out with the first one, I knew we were in for a ride of fun, creative, unique artifacts that make Denton one of a kind.”

Steele’s Denton minis can be bought in the Denton & Dragons’ Etsy shop and at The Bearded Monk.

There are many more stories to be told with Steele’s miniature creations. Steele said that he hopes to continue keeping Denton’s eccentric history alive with his work.

“I think it’s important that people remember these things,” Steele said. “Dungeons & Dragons is a perfect way to bring these strange Denton characters into either someone’s fantasy game or just sitting on their collectibles shelf.”

Featured Image: Ed Steele poses with a beer and his miniature figurines outside of The Bearded Monk in Denton, Texas on July 3, 2019. Photo by Kara Dry

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Bridnee Bizor

Bridnee Bizor

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