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Going to the Tucson Gem Show...Or Not - March/Apr 2008

Ed. Note: This story was brought to us by Ken Barnes. He is a member of a subscription, stone blog called: Members, including Bill Knight, exchange their thoughts on stone and, occasionally, stories like this one surface.


When Bill’s friend Nick said that he should go to the Tucson Gem Show, Bill initially replied that he would wait to go until after he died. Nick and others said, "Go now Bill." Here is Bill Knight's response.


Nick suggested that it might be best to arrange a visit while still among the living, but you know how it is at shows like that. It's the last day, nobody wants to carry their stock back home, the deals are getting crazy and you find yourself being offered a great deal on a small, exquisite lapis lazuli boulder, which even though it's a great price, is still way out of your comfort zone.


But you've come all this way, and consider the fact that you're here already. Any enterprising person you might imagine, if only you could think, would surely capitalize on such a ready discount. Wouldn't they? Are you no sort of businessperson at all? Have you no ambition?


In your more sober moments you know perfectly well you're not, and that in general you don't, but are you able to speak truth to yourself when the stone's talk is all flattery, when it is the color of a bluebird, when there is nothing keeping you from it but the sheer fabric of your lips pressed against the "yes" that is rising in your throat? When you can't see yourself having any kind of future if it doesn't have this stone in it? You've never had the chance to try a material like this. Think of what it could do for your hopeless career, your tired imagination, the clichés of your past. A stone like this could announce a new age of understanding; your unraveling personal history might be unified into a single gesture written in that forgiving, fluorescent blue. No, not just your own story. The story of the world!




Best to stay home with your family and the stones you know, and who know you. That lapis is a midnight cowboy, a high dollar hustler. And you're no Howard Hughes. There'll be time enough for rock shows when you're dead.


Oh my god.  Look!  It's brecciated chalcedony. What a hunk!

Sculptor's Showcase - May/June 2008

It is always a pleasure to attend an opening of one our fellow sculptors, to see their new works and lend our spiritual support. All the more so when forming a carpool with friends who otherwise may not, by themselves, drive from Seattle to Everett to see an art opening. A group of us made that drive especially to see the opening of Reg Akright’s “Artist of the Year” show given by the Snohomish Arts Council.


Arriving early, we studied the larger works on the main floor. Climbing then up to the charming, wrought iron, balconied mezzanine, we admired Reg’s many smaller sculptures that showcased his years of dedication to his craft. The atmosphere was filled with soft live jazz music and a luscious array of hors d'oeuvres. By the time we left, it was elbow room only with supporters and plenty of sales. By the time the show ended on April 17, Reg had sold several pieces including the two at the top of this page. Congratulations, Reg.


Another show you can still go see is at the Art Mine Gallery at the Inn at Port Hadlock. This peninsula town is just five crow miles south of Port Townsend.


Featured there is NWSSA’s own Arliss Newcomb, who spent a warm spring carving with Joanne Duby at Art City in Ventura, California. Joanne has helped Arliss acquire a new style of carving. Arliss and her sculptures will be showing at the Art Mine through the month of June.

Please let us know in advance about the shows you are going to have so we can promote you as well.


And I want to remind you about our Annual Members Exhibit at Seattle’s Kirsten Gallery, September 5 through October 7, 2008. You have all summer, including Camp B, to produce a sculpture for inside and one for outside. Contact me, Leon White at: 206-362-2231 or email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A New Member's Take on Pack Forest - July/Aug 2008

The weather was wild for much of the weekend, but even the frequent and heavy rains failed to dampen the spirits of the carvers at the 2008 NWSSA Hand carving Symposium. Under the pavilion at the Pack Forest Conference Center, and around the campfire beside it, we all shared an incredible weekend of fellowship and artistry.


Everyone who attended the event brought his or her warm spirits, funny stories, and unique artistic talents. Although many of us had never met before, we soon began to bond as a group. By the end of the symposium, it felt like we were all old friends.


The instructors were fantastic to work with, each with a wide range of insights and advice to offer. At least a few of us were carving stone for the very first time, and each instructor took the time to circulate among all of us. It was a pleasure to become acquainted with each of them, as they visited us at our workstations. But it was equally exciting to have a chance to watch them at work, and ask them questions about technique, from that perspective as well.


Karl Hufbauer played roles as event director and instructor. True to his reputation as a carver of hard stone, Karl chipped away at a big piece of jasper for much of that weekend. Although we were primarily carving softer stone, it was great to be able to get some advice from Karl about working hard stone, as well.


Tracy Powell gave me my first instruction, showing me some basic removal techniques on a large chunk of Texas limestone. He demonstrated the use of several types of chisels, and offered advice on how to grip the tools comfortably and safely. He also stressed the importance of good posture, taking frequent breaks and stretching out periodically in order to ward off fatigue.


Sharon Feeney, like the other instructors, was generous not only with her time but with her talent and her tools. Sharon’s subtle treatment of a tall obelisk of soapstone, transforming it into a graceful figure of a Great Blue Heron at rest, was amazing to watch. While taking breaks from carving, she was very supportive and encouraging to all of us newcomers.


Arliss Newcomb gave me two beautiful pieces of alabaster, the larger one of which I carved that weekend. It was a slab roughly the size and shape of a big footprint, and first reminded me of the surf crashing on the beach. In the end, I named it Madrona for the tree-form I ended up carving out of it. I was amazed to flip through Arliss’ portfolio. I found her work extremely inspiring.


Rich Andler and Lane Tompkins also proved to be great mentors and artists in their own rights. All of the instructors, mentors, and students alike, helped to make this a wonderful event.


Scott Hackney and Kentaro Kojima of Marenakos Rock Center in Issaquah, Washington brought some of their stone as well as a pallet from Randy Zieber of BC, Canada and one from Art City in Ventura California. Kentaro manned the sales desk for most of the weekend to sell us stone, tools, books and a variety of carving accessories.


On Saturday, activities included a blacksmithing lesson on tool making, offered by Al Mangold, one our first time carvers. Later that afternoon, Karl and Tracy gave a lesson on scoring and pitching techniques, in which they selected a boulder of granite, and proceeded to remove substantial chunks of the stone with apparent ease, using a large chisel and mallet.


Any re-telling of the weekend’s highlights would be incomplete without an account of Saturday night’s auction! It was my pleasure to serve as a sort of assistant to Tom Francis, our Auctioneer and Master of Ceremonies. We had a ton of fun that night, clowning about and raising money for NWSSA’s instructors and the work-study program, which enables people like me to attend these events and get connected with the organization.


Toward the end of the evening, Lane and Scott provided lots of laughs for all of us, by performing their annual waltz, in kilts and boots! Truly, an unforgettable sight!


All who attended the symposium are fine artists and fabulous people. I only wish that there had been more time to get to know more of you in greater detail.


I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it all, and was a little sad when it was over. I hope to be able to attend Camp Brotherhood, in July. I look forward to seeing you all again, and thank each and every one of you for a Pack Forest experience that I will always remember.