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  • 2017 Camp Pilgrim Firs Symposium Registration

    30th Annual International Stone Carving Symposium
    at Camp Pilgrim Firs, Port Orchard, WA 
    July 8th-15th 2017

    The Symposium PilgrimFirsFeild

    We invite you to join us at Camp Pilgrim Firs for up to eight full days of playing with stone, communing with nature, and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow stone enthusiasts. Bring yourself, your creative energy, your humor, tools, and a favorite piece of stone. If you don’t have stone or tools, we have an entire tent set up for beginners with tools and instructors.
    The Camp provides cabins and lodges that are connected by walking paths through the forested grounds and three full meals a day, so you’ll have the ultimate freedom to delve into carving and making friends. Evenings are filled with slideshows, informational talks, a hoot of a fundraising auction, a music-filled final night party, campfires and even nighttime swims in the lake.
    Stone and tools are available for purchase by our vendors.

    The Camp has two lodges with shared common areas and bathrooms with multiple dorm-style rooms that sleep 3-4 people each. There are 11 duplex style cabins, each with private decks. For those who like to commune with nature, limited space is available for tents or campers.

    Sculpture Walk on the Meadow Saturday, July 15th
    We’ll host an outdoor art gallery that’s a perfect opportunity to show your work in a supportive and appreciative environment. We encourage everyone to bring a finished piece to display and to invite your friends! Bring pedestals if you have them. NWSSA takes a 20% commission.

    Register online (below) or mail the attached form with payment to NWSSA, Attn: Cyra Jane, Symposium Director, PO Box 27364 Seattle, WA 98165
  • About Camp Pilgrim Firs

    Introducing Our New Venue, Camp Pilgrim Firs  Lake Flora Trail Map

    Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center includes 120 wooded acres of which 40 have been developed with cabins, lodges and outdoor recreation areas for guest use. It includes play and sports fields, a lake with canoeing and kayaking, and a floating dock for swimming. There are hiking trails, indoor and outdoor chapel/meditation spaces, two campfire areas, basketball and volleyball courts and many secluded quiet places. It is located 3 miles from the City of Port Orchard and about an hour and a half drive or relaxing ferry ride from downtown Seattle.

    Pilgrim Firs is owned and operated by the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ.

    The Camp has two lodges with shared common areas and bathrooms with multiple dorm-style rooms that sleep 3-4 people each.
    There are 11 duplex style cabins, each with private decks.
    For those who like to commune with nature, limited space is available for tents or campers.

    Registered for Camp? Here All the Details:

    How to Get to Camp Pilgrim Firs
    Hold Harmless Agreement
    (print, sign & bring with you to Camp)
    What to Bring to Camp Pilgrim Firs
    What to Bring for the Jade Carving Workshop
    Safety for Sculptors
    Schedule of Workshops & Presentations

    Pilgrim Firs 3318 Lake Flora Rd Port Orchard, WA 98367  |  360.876.2031
  • Camp Pilgrim Firs Centerfold

    30th Annual International Stone Carving Symposium
    at Camp Pilgrim Firs, Port Orchard, WA

    Pilgrim Firs FieldThirty years ago a handful of stone sculptors from Washington State and British Columbia gathered for the first NWSSA symposium on a llama ranch in Pateros, WA. They carved, they moved boulders, they (you!) climbed a mountain at midnight for the Harmonic Convergence, and they, you, began a tradition that has enlivened a community that is today thriving. That first gathering was such a good idea, that you kept gathering, and the symposium quickly moved to and became known as Camp Brotherhood, officially as the International Stone Sculptors Symposium. Carvers came, and carvers kept returning year after year to this event and while I wasn’t around then (like many in the current work study generation, I was just starting my first rock collections and messing around in my grandfather’s shop during those early years,) from what I understand it’s because that, when all together, you, we, create a creatively stimulating and high-pitched energy through some awesome synergistic alchemy. Or because rocks are cool, or something like that. 

    This July, the symposium moves again to a new site called Pilgrim Firs in Port Orchard which is quite similar to the Oregon location at Suttle Lake. The new venue was scouted by the Board and discussed and voted on at the General Assembly meeting at Camp B. I’ve now visited the site 3 times and each time our party leaves with big grins because we’re all going to have a fantastic time there. Not that we wouldn’t have a great time in an open field, but the scenery and accommodations definitely help.
    "Traveler" Joanne Duby

    Joining us as a guest artist will be Joanne Duby, sharing hands-on tips and demos for repairs and finishing techniques. We’ll be supplying a wide range of products for her to demo with, which will go into the auction on Thursday evening. Joanne has a long history with the group and is very excited to be spending this week with us! Sculpturally, she’s done just about everything and has an extensive knowledge base to share with us.

    "For a Better World Press Play" by James HoranJames Horan, flying over from Ireland, is another guest artist for 2017. This will be his first time with this group and in the Pacific Northwest. (If you google “James Horan Sculpture” you can find his website to check out his work.) James’ work is primarily figurative in marble, and his unique style and sense of humor is immediately recognizable. Go look at his “Behold Man: Apes with Guns” series. He’ll be carving a piece with us during the week and discussing “Direct Carving.”

  • Coast Chronicles: Ready to Rock

    Coast Chronicles: Ready to Rock
    by Cate Gable

    Stone carver Kirk McLean, photo by Cate Gable
    I love stones large and small. I have them lining my walkways, in my pockets, cluttering my dashboard and window sills. But the idea of taking a tool and cutting into one to create something entirely mine had not occurred to me, until this past week.

    John Lafortune, photo by Cate GableI had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association annual symposium, this year taking place at Pilgrim Firs outside of Port Orchard. This is the 30th anniversary and many of the NWSSA members have been along for the whole ride ( ). I had a vague concept of what I might see, but I was still surprised by the volume of stone dust; the noise of saws, blades and chisels; the miles of cords stringing out across the work field linking the easy-up tents to generators and power sources; and, more than anything else, the welcoming attitude of every single stone carver present. And even as memorable as the carvers are, the stones also stick in my mind.

    Olivine, basalt, jade, serpentine, alabaster, marble, calcite, jet, quartz, onyx,pipestone, rhyolite, polymictic breccia! For a poet, just the names of the rocks are magical. To see them first in the raw, then shaped, textured and polished, seemed on the order of alchemy.

    Every stone type has unique properties; and every piece of stone its own personality, often hidden until the carver begins his or her interior exploration. Imagine you’ve got a solid, incredibly dense hunk of stone in front of you (see the Mohs scale of hardness here: ). Where do you start? As long-time carver RuthMuessler says (, “Get your ego out of the way and let the stone tell you what to do.” Then, over time, through chipping, scraping and grinding, you bring forward a shape. The word patience comes to mind.

    Constance Jones works on alabaster, photo by Cate GableThe music of stone
    If you didn’t bring a stone to work at the symposium,  you can buy one. Richard, from Neolithic Stone (, laid out a rock emporium in front of his tools-for-sale table. Each stone had an identifying poundage scrawled on the side and was priced around a buck a pound. One friend was taken by a half-moon piece of glowing white alabaster weighing in at 173 pounds. When Richard came up to talk about it, she inquired about any cracks or cleavages in the rock. In answer, he picked up a small stone from the ground and tapped the alabaster. A clear crystalline tone rang out as if the rock were a bell of astonishing beauty. Who knew there was also music inside that stone? “It’s solid,” he said.

    Cracks can be the bane of a stone carver’s project. One figure I noticed had a reattached head, representinga big whoops that must have been devastating to the carver. Often sections of rock—connecting an arm, a leg, or any particularly fragile portion of the carving to the body of the stone—are left in place until the last moment lest an indiscriminate tap ruin the entire effort. Not all carvings are classical body-forms, of course; there were smooth organic shapes, intricate knots, flowers using different component rocks, abstracts. No wonder carvers are so accepting—the world of stone sculpture is as diverse as we are.

    The big and little of it

    The main commons was the cafeteria—can’t beat caffeine and meals—and the big open field was action central. The level of creative energy was tangible. Every carver—around 90 were present—had an open tent with table, tools, personalaccouterments and a unique project in the works. There was a new carvers’ tent, complete with mentors; a lapidary area for jewelry; and a jade workshop supervised by a visiting New Zealander. I wandered at will, asking questions and watching.David and Goliath (Ken Barnes), photo by Cate Gable

    On the bluff, carver Ken Barnes ( ) was toiling away on a thick four-and-a-half-ton column of red granite laid vertically for surgery. He envisioned an upright spiral for this piece. In a David-and-Goliath scenario, Ken was often seen in a cloud of dust, wielding an enormous circular saw biting into that mammoth. (Asastute carver, Sue Taves (, commented, “Rock carving is a subtractive rather than additive art. There’s no going back—each cut eliminates choices.”)

    The scale of the work was as diverse as the carvers. Ruth showed me a pebble the size of the last joint on a little finger. “This was a piece of gravel that caught my eye,” she said. She’d carved it into an exquisite angel with wings of black and white.

    Michael Yeaman, photo by Cate GableDown theway Michael Yeaman ( ) was polishing up a stone with angular planes and smooth geometric cuts. His gleaming rock resembled a bold contemporary painting with multiple colors and shapes floating in a black sea. Michael, a geologist, is the go-to guy for information about stone type and origin.

    “This is a polymictic,” he said. “It’s made up of many different rock types—there’s some granite, some shale, some marble, some jasper and a sandy matrix that trapped it all. It came from an old river in the Devonian about 430 million years ago from southeast Alaska.” Talking to Michael was like falling into a geology book.

    I learned that we have a vast variety of rock types in our geologically-rich state. One morning a fellow named Nate arrived with a pickup truck of ordinary-looking river boulders. But, lo and behold, when cut open these were revealed to be Washington state jade: grey-green veering to smoky-blue. These native stones and stone-slices went for the tidy sum of $50 a pound!

    All in the family

    Stone Carving tools, phot0 by Cate GableStone carvers seem a hardy, happy bunch. They handle hammers and carbide-tipped steel chisels all day; or rotary saws, grinders,sandpaper and water to keep things cool. They lean into their work with feet firmly planted; thighs,shoulders and backs that swing into action in rhythm with the stone in front of them. Their hands, arms, faces, hair, shoes are covered in stone dust. They’re disguised in dust masks, long aprons,hats and boots. These masked creators come alive when faced with the subterranean products of our amazing Mother Earth. They’re coaxing art from one of the densest media on the planet.

    Sitting around the table at mealtimes, carvers bounced from sharing rock-challenges and tool stories to personal topics. Every individual was part of the tribe, simply by being there.

    One first-time arrival, Lisa Hammer (dear name phreaks, I am not making this up), said she’d been a painter and had tried other art forms but got it into her head to come to the symposium. “I was constantly picking up stones,” she said. “I have an affinity for them. I have big bowls of stones sitting around my house. Now I know what to do with them! As akid I always wanted to go to a place like the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. So I decided to come. I feel like I’ve found my family.”

    Thus the carvers welcome another into the fold. Rock on!
    Reprinted with the permission of the author
    Coast Chronicles: Ready to Rock Chinook Observer 
    By Cate Gable, Observer columnist
    Published on July 18, 2017
  • Directions to Camp Pilgrim Firs

    3318 SW Lake Flora Rd Port Orchard, WA 98367


    Pilgrim Firs is a 120-acres camp & conference center with second-growth firs, pristine Lake Flora, hiking trails, accommodations for up to 145 guests and great food.

    From Seattle via I-5 S:

    Merge onto WA-16 W via EXIT 132B toward Gig Harbor/Bremerton.
    Take the Sedgwick Rd/WA-160 E exit toward Southworth Ferry
    Turnleft onto SE Sedgwick Rd
    SE Sedgwick RdbecomesGlenwood Rd SW

    Staystraight to go onto SW Lake Flora Rd

    From Tacoma via I-5 N:

    Take the S 38th St W exit, EXIT132, toward WA-16/Gig Harbor/Bremerton.
    Keepleft to take the ramp toward WA-16/Gig Harbor/Bremerton.

    Keepleft at the fork in the ramp.
    Merge onto WA-16 W via the ramp on the left toward Bremerton
    Take the Sedgwick Rd/WA-160 E exit toward Southworth Ferry.
    Turnleft onto SE Sedgwick Rd.
    SE Sedgwick Rdbecomes Glenwood Rd SW

    Stay straight to go onto SW Lake Flora Rd

  • Pilgrim Firs

  • Thoughts From Our First Pilgrim Firs Symposium

    Pilgrim Firs Field 2017This year marked the 30th Anniversary of our Washington symposium, our first at the Pilgrim Firs venue and a hallmark event for everyone participating. We had nearly 100 carvers here throughout the week communing and learning and inspiring each other. I asked for everyone to write down their experiences, impressions, and thoughts on the symposium, then spliced them together (Ending each person’s thought with a bullet point) for this expression of our shared community experience.
    Thank you, contributors: Bill Weissinger, Carole Duree, Vic Picou, Cyra Jane, Deborah Wilson, Julianne Kohn, Barbara Davidson, Kirk McLean, Ed Salerno, Maya Kilmer, Tamara Buchanan, Leon White, Michael Timmons, Beth Krehbiel, Daniel Colvin, Sandra Stowell, Cherie Perry and Grant Bowman.
    -Cyra Jane, symposium director.

  • What to Bring to Camp Pilgrim Firs

    What To Bring To Camp Pilgrim Firs Conference and Retreat Center


    • A canopy for shade or rain.
    • Tools, if you have them.
    • Respirator, safety glasses, earplugs or ear muffs,sun screen, bug repellent.
    • Ground tarp to protect the grass and ease pick-up of stone chips.
    • Stool, chair, work table, sandbags.
    • Bucket & broom to sweep up chips
    • 50 ft. Electric cord, 12-3, (more if you have them)
    • Air line 50 feet, 3/8 inch with 1/4” type nipple, a water trap if you use an air hammer.
    • If you use water to carve, bring a50 foot hose with a Y connector and ashut off.
    • Note: We cannot accommodate tools from Europe that are not adapted toUS

    Newposturepedic mattresses,bedding and extra blankets are provided in Lodges and Cabins.
    There will be a mid-week towel exchange at the Main Lodge.
    Bring your own toiletries, toothbrush/paste, shampoo, etc.
    Sunscreen & bug spray.
    Bring your swim suit and towel—Lake Flora has a swim dock and kayaks are available.
    Appropriate footwear and clothing for rain or shine as the NW weather is very variable.
    You are at Camp - bring a flashlight or teddy bear if need be.
    Lake Flora


    Fishing gear - Lake Flora is stocked with fish!
    We’re right on Lake Flora: Bring your swimsuit, pool floaties, remote control boats, squirt guns, etc.
    A camera - we may ask you for pictures for next years’ brochures.
    Bring your memories and photos of the past 30 years at “Stone Camp”
    Bring drums, guitars or anything fun and musical for around the campfire.
    Bring GOOD dance music or a disco ball for the party.
    Bring items to donate to the auction.
    Bring items for a tool swap meet.

    Bring up to 3 pieces of sculpture to show at the Art Walk on Saturday, as well as pedestals if you have them. (There are a limited few for use). There will be a 20% donation asked of you if you sell a sculpture as well as the WA state sales tax.
    If you have a sculpture you would like to donate to the scholarship auction, you will receive 30% of the sale.

    If you have special dietary considerations, you need to be responsible for them yourself. The Camp will do their best, however, they are cooking for large numbers and cannot fill all special needs. There are kitchenettes in the Lodge and a few of the cabins to store & prepare meals.

    ESSENTIAL: Have FUN!!!

    Click here to download the list