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  • Thoughts

    About NWSSA... from NWSSA members

    Steve Taplin
    Vic Picou
    George Pratt
    Arliss Newcomb

    This sounds like a great bridge through winter…

    I’ve learned to carve in a community. There is energy in the people that is hard to describe but I feel it as soon as I get on the field. And when I start carving I am comforted and encouraged by all the noise around me. I can feel others at work. The whir of angle grinders and scream of blades cutting stone is bizarrely reassuring. The chink, chink, chink of hammers on chisels and chisels on stone resonates with some spirit deep inside me. Being in this community stirred that spirit twenty+ years ago when I first walked on the field with some clay and watched George Pratt working a face in stone. Like everyone else he was open and interested in teaching. In this community there is always someone who has more knowledge or who has insight about design or the problem I’m facing with a piece. Watching George stirred and seduced that spirit in me long ago and I’ve never looked back or wondered about whether I belonged. This community is home.

    Stephen Taplin

    My interest in stone began as a child on the beach, and has given me countless adventures in art. My back can feel like stone at times, so I adjust my path with new challenges in scale and color. My love for translucent stone is mirrored in the rainbow spectrum found in my latest figure drawings. It’s all a colorful journey, as I wrote in a poem in 1975, “My energy is a boat traveling the spirals of the universe, lifting and drifting through an illuminated space.” The stone’s color and volume calls me to my grinder and then, another new dust cloud. Then ka-pow, a vein of color begs to be chased, and new surfaces and shadows appear for texture or polishing. FUN to be 10 again, but in a Grandpa body!

    VicPicouWe came together “to provide access to professional trade information and to promote stone sculpture,” and because of this, I’ve had many opportunities to learn so much and to exhibit with fine sculptors. Our network of caring has created a fun group of people. NWSSA was my second cradle, and my main support of friends. It was the ambiance at Camp B, 1994 that enabled me to carve the 2-ton Moonflower. The energy grew in the enchanting moments at Silver Falls: that vein of friends in the circle of stone is where, it happened. We pulled ideas from the stars, and stones from the river to make art and friends.

    I’m having the time of my life as President of Pasadena Society of Artists (begun circa 1925), a board member for California Sculptors Symposium (April 2017), and through exhibiting frequently in the L A area and in Palm Springs.


    Vic Picou
    Burbank, CA
    NWSSA 1986-present
    President 1989-1996, Symposium Director 1989-2000

    Thoughts inspired by our Association, you ask, Penelope and Lane? The mind reels with warm thoughts—and for a wordy guy like me, it’s painful to confine them to the 300 words requested. I know you’ll be proud of me!

    GeorgePrattFirst thought: There is nothing, absolutely nothing, so valuable to a stone sculptor (even a hoary old one like me) as immersion in an environment of other carvers—closely enough to savor the way they apply their skill; to sense their thought processes in working through thorny technical problems; to delight (or not) in a line or form developing in the project on their table—then subliminally emulating it in one’s own work. Paradoxically, the best take-away is often from the ‘newbie’. A symposium, it’s called—invaluable beyond reckoning. At symposia, we are immersed in a sea of sculptural creation. Ideas and skills flow exponentially according to the level of energy on the field; we work ourselves to exhaustion—and we emerge better sculptors.

    Second thought: I receive abiding inspiration in observing that core of effervescent people who give their all to the perpetuation of our Association. You know the ones—they are those members/sculptors listed on the masthead of Sculpture Northwest. It is they who have unfailingly been the central heating unit of our big house. They come; they fire us up; they move on. Yet some perennially remain with us, causing me to reflect with amazement and gratitude how our association is buoyed up as they infect us all with their dedication. As NWSSA approaches the 30-year mark, we older members are fading away. May we never forget those who faded away before us but whose commitment sustained us in their time.

    Bless them all.

    George Pratt

    I really can't name any other organization as unique as NWSSA. We are so welcoming to everyone, from world renowned sculptors to people who are just beginning to learn the craft of working in stone.

    ArlissNewcombWhen people ask me about my art education, I tell them I have been fortunate over the last twenty-five plus years in having teachers from all over the world as my mentors. Our yearly symposiums have given me my extensive education, which I do not think I could have gotten anywhere else. I have tried to pass on this knowledge, over the years, to help other sculptors.

    And in the spirit of sculpting solidarity, and to help celebrate my 80th birthday, I’m hosting a women’s workshop. It will be held at the Old Alcohol Plant Inn in lower Port Hadlock on June 2nd, 3rd and 4th of 2017. Look for more information in the Jan/Feb, 2017 issue of Sculpture NorthWest or email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Sculpt proud!

    Arliss Newcomb

  • Thoughts

    About NWSSA... from NWSSA members

    Mark Andrew
    Patty McPhee

     Hello fellow carvers.

    The Suttle Lake Symposium was again a wonderful experience. I originally thought I would drive up for a few days at most, then I was asked to be a wandering carver guy, then in the end to guide the beginning stone carvers.

    Mark 2014Turns out that 90% of the beginners were graduates of Lee Imonen’s college sculpture class and did not need much input from me. Their enthusiasm was so encouraging that by week’s end I asked several to contact me, so I could hire them in the studio from time to time. No bites yet.....

    There are many aspects of symposiums that I love. One of the most exciting is the upward jolt of the “learning curve” during and after each event. I cannot imagine an educational opportunity where you can learn so much in such a short amount of time.

    This year, the stars lined up through the symposium and into a commission that I tackled with the new knowledge I had just acquired at our gathering. I had the chance to observe many participants carving hard stone. How they positioned the work, the use of water in grinding, the blades used, even “flaming” the surface of Basalt....I saw it all right there on the field!

    Soon after I arrived home, so did my first basalt commission. A 16 square foot, 8 ft by 2 ft, slab of stone to be relief carved into a creek landscape with a flowing stream dropping off into a swimming pool. A very stiff springboard!

    Thanks to the lessons I had learned from my fellow carvers, and the availability of Jared Monaghan from CONCUT diamond products, who provided a wealth of knowledge and products, plus the encouragement of Tom Urban to buy, buy, buy……….I was well prepared!

    My, oh, my, I even reached back to Stu’s Jacobson’s Silver Falls lecture over a decade ago. He taught us about water features, especially regarding the sounds of falling water and how they can be manipulated by how the surface is cut. I used it all on this first basalt attempt.

    Wouldn’t you know it, the sketch and carving made it into a world-wide pool and spa magazine called Aqua! (Although they did not mention my name, go figure.) Oh well, a step forward, a half step back. I am pleased stone carving made a national appearance.

    Today although there appear to be few requests for stone carving, I feel richly rewarded to be able to satisfy what demand is brought to me. Commissions are not turned down lightly and the “earn while you learn” philosophy is just as alive in me today as it was in the beginning 44 years ago.

    So Hurray for the NWSSA and its outreach and symposia! I am a better and more prepared sculptor because of YOU!

    Many Thanks,

    Mark Andrew

    Patty for G3 websiteI just got my issue of Sculpture NorthWest and as usual, I took it to a corner and read it front to back. I read the messages from fellow sculptors who have shaped my artistic life; about how NWSSA has influenced them as artists.

    From the moment that Jan Brown helped me to re-imagine art in a 3 dimensional way, I have been hooked on sculpture. And when Everett DuPen pressed me to experience stone carving - I found my artistic home. This organization has been the inspiration for so much of my art that I would have been lost to have tried to find my way without it. NWSSA has been the incubator and fertilizer that has given me the focus,tools and skills to reach into my heart and soul to make solid my dreams. For those who are searching for a way to express your inner-most self, I have found no place or group that has the resources,skills and heart that are found in this organization. I am thrilled to call NWSSA my family and my home.

    Patty McPhee
    Art Makes It All Worthwhile