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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Bill Weissinger

Sammy the Salmon, Bill Weissinger

Who are you?

My name is Bill Weissinger. By profession I’m an attorney, and by avocation a writer (WilliamWeissinger.com) and of course a stone sculptor (WeissingerStudios.com).

What is your life history as it relates to being an artist?

In the 1980’s I did some clay sculpture but never fell in love with the additive process. In 2003 I took a three-day course from Tracy Powell at the Sculpture Park on San Juan Island. I loved the subtractive process – with clay you can futz forever, adding, taking away, adding, taking away, but with stone, once it’s gone it’s gone. I found that freeing. Tracy was a helpful and yet laid-back instructor. I loved the first piece I did. I went to the symposium at Camp Brotherhood that summer, and I was hooked.

Swimming Free II, Alabaster, Bill WeissingerWhy did you become an artist?

I’m not sure I am an artist. Yayoi Kusama is a well-known Japanese woman who gained fame during the Pop-Art years with her polka dot art. She claims that, while others say what she has done is art; she views her work not as art but as therapy. For me it is much the same. Most of the work I do has an inner meaning which I need to express.

What are the emotions for which you seek an outlet in art?

Anger; desire; suspicion of those in power; a love for the environment; and the sense that, no matter how many friends one has, one is alone.

 Scottie, Bill Weissinger

Who or what has influenced your art form?

At NWSSA’s 2013 Silver Falls program, Laura Alpert told me that no one sculpts on a clean slate, that everyone is influenced by someone. The advantage, she said, of going to art school (or of the alternative which she recommended for me – seeing a lot of art) is that it not only increases one’s art vocabulary, but makes you more conscious of the origins of one’s style. For me, so far, I can’t identify someone whose ideas I’ve consciously incorporated, although of course (as Laura said), I’ve been influenced by many artists nonetheless. In terms of artists who are teachers, I’ve also been influenced by Marsha McAllister (a workshop leader in Friday Harbor) and by Hon Ching Lee, who was kind enough to offer me advice.

Why is art important to you?

Bear Melting, Alabaster, Bill WeissingerAs an attorney, my life is circumscribed by laws, by codes of conduct and clients, and by Reason – but sculpting frees me from those restraints: I can carve what I like, build in what meanings I like, and no one cares, because it is “Art.” I like the loss of consciousness in the outside world when I’m working on a piece. I like people running their hands over my sculptures and telling me how much they like them. I like being able to say things with Art that one couldn’t easily say otherwise, like a self-portrait I did of me peeking out from behind the Void.

How has NWSSA influenced your work as an artist?

I wouldn’t be a stone sculptor without NWSSA’s influence on my skills and on my artistic abilities. It has provided symposiums and, at them, a team of dedicated volunteers and guest artists, all in an open, accepting environment in which one’s “outside” identity (Democrat or Republican, straight or gay, attorney or carpenter) is not so much accepted as not even relevant, for all of which I thank everyone who reads this. For fear of leaving someone out I won’t name the individuals who’ve made the biggest contributions to my growth, but I hope you know who you are. Thank you.

Describe your art in your own terms – focusing on your stone carving.

I hit a spot a while back when I was having trouble finding anything significant to sculpt, so I made a chart that diagrams my art; it has six primary circles, each addressing a separate major theme in my art: challenges to power or authority; self-discovery; environmental issues; water; northwest animals; and feminine and phallic forms. Almost all of my art work falls within multiple categories. For example, Scottie seems like just a normal, playful dog, and yet his tail has the sensual curves that one often finds in my work. Same with Swimming Free II – one sees the fish, but one’s hand feels the curve.

Is it representational and/or non- representational?

Almost all of my work is representational – to me, although those looking at a piece may not see what I see. That is true even of sculptures that look purely representational. While friends may say, “Oh, how cute, a salmon,” that cuteness is rarely what I see myself.  And I like it like that. I get to bare my soul (to myself) while others see pretty animals.

How do you get your ideas?

Sometimes a rock suggests an idea to me. Sometimes I suggest an idea to a rock. The rock and I don’t always agree. 

How do you develop them (by direct carving, drawing, modeling, etc.)?

The more experience I have with a particular form, the less I need to make a model of a piece before sculpting it. I almost always draw out forms first. Sometimes I have to work harder on a particular idea – I recently leafed through an old sketchbook and found a dozen different preliminary sketches for what ultimately turned into a lovely tower-arch. Sometimes I can’t work out the idea and I need to let the stone rest. That happened with Two Salmon, which started out as a sculpture of three salmon, and then sat for a few years until I realized that the stone held only two salmon, not three.

What is the source of inspiration of your forms, language, or imagery?

I get a lot of superficial inspiration from Northwest animals – I’ve done a number of bears and salmon-ish figures. I’ve also done a series using forms that are more obviously symbolic, such as thrones and towers. Crooked Throne is one example.

 

Describe a recent piece or two.

My two most recent pieces, Scottie and The Birth of Yin and Yang, are also perhaps the best example of the range of my work. I like the juxtaposition of these two pieces.  Scottie is a cartoon image of a playful, happy Scottish terrier; I wish I felt that way more myself. Only Scottie’s tail carries the sensual curves that I usually include with a piece. I like The Birth of Yin and Yang, an almost abstract sculpture, for different reasons: it has the sensual, almost erotic curves which I like to create, which here are at once phallic but also very female – reminiscent of breasts and buttocks. I also like its reference back to the Beginning, before Yin and Yang were separate; a more peaceful time, but perhaps you can sense the tension being created as the division begins. 

 

What was involved in creating them? With both sculptures, I knew what I wanted to do before I started carving.  With The Birth of Yin and Yang, it was merely an issue of finding it in the rock.  Scottie was much more difficult technically. The rock I’d selected barely left room for his ears and for his tail. I had to work very carefully to preserve the high points. Then I found a flaw that ran through its tail, and I had to drill up from his abdomen high into his tail so that I could epoxy in a steel rod. In doing something similar with a prior piece I’d aimed poorly and drilled through to the outside, so this time I was both more careful and more anxious. Not often enough, but sometimes, I learn from my mistakes, and I did this time.

You also can see in Scottie the remnants of my decades-long struggle: I love the glow of polished rock, and yet, as Richard Hestekind, JoAnne Duby and others have tried to teach me, that isn’t always the best way to bring out the form.  With Scottie I tried for the best of both worlds, but I always find the balance difficult.  Is he over-polished? You be the judge.

How much work do you complete in a year?

I had been sculpting 6 or 8 pieces a year in an outdoor studio, with my next door neighbors getting increasingly grumpy over the noise. I obviously needed to build a studio, and beginning in 2009 I didn’t do much sculpture work while the studio was in process. Now that the studio is finished, I’m getting back into production mode again.

Where do you exhibit your work?

I’ve had several pieces at Karla Matzke’s fine art gallery on Camano Island. My work had been regularly on display in two galleries, one in Friday Harbor and one in Anacortes. Sadly, they both went under during the Great Recession. Now that I’m producing more work, I’ll soon be looking for a gallery again. I have had two sales this year, including SwimmingFreeII for $3,000, and that is nice.

What is happening in the Art world on the San Juan Islands?

I’m on the Board of Directors of The San Juan Islands Museum of Art. It is just about to purchase the building it is renting, and in the next seven months will be remodeling into a true museum space for a July 5th opening with the work of a major artist.

How is your work area set up?

Inside a 400 sq. ft. studio I have an 8’ x 8’ cube walled and roofed in with transparent plastic roofing, with one wall being a “strip door” made up of overlapping 8” plastic strips. A 12’ duct with an in-line fan carries dust outside.  The floor is concrete, with a covered trough in the middle.

 

What obstacles and challenges have you yet to overcome?

I’d like to unlock that staircase leading up from the basement and let myself sculpt what comes through the door – or, as I put it in a recent overly-dramatic list-serve post, to sculpt “the creatures my heart knows are slithering toward me through the underbrush of my soul in the dusk of the coming night.” I like Tim Burton’s work, for exactly that kind of freedom. Mostly I wish I could (as MJ Anderson suggests we artists need to) grow a pair of square balls so that I wouldn’t listen to the critic on my shoulder. 

 

Finally, I just want to say…

I like carving cute Scottie dogs and salmon and bears, and I’m pretty good at it and getting better. That’s a fine thing to aspire toward and I do. That isn’t all I want from my sculpture though. When I can do both at once, the beautiful and the meaningful, then I feel I’ve been successful.

Artist Spotlight - Ken Barnes 2013

Who are you?  Ken Barnes, “Corona”, 24” X 12” X 5”, 2013, white marble
Ken Barnes, long-time member, current board member and treasurer.

What is your life history as it relates to being an artist?
I was never the kid in school that the art teacher lavished with attention. I realize now I didn't understand the purpose of the art class was to instill creativity rather than to produce a drawing of a horse.

Why did you become an artist?
Art became a part of my life when I was dating an art aficionada. I took it as a challenge to see if I could create some art - to prove that I had both a left and right brain. I thought it would be a passing hobby, but it has taken over my life. The transition from "trying" to "dedicated" came when I was introduced to Kazutaka Uchida's art. After seeing his work I sought out instruction and ultimately found Camp B and the NWSSA.

Ken Barnes “Cradle”, 33” X 12” X 9”, 2013, Carrara marbleHow has NWSSA influenced your work as an artist?
In the early years the NWSSA was a smorgasbord of ideas, tools, techniques and stone, for me. I was interested in trying every stone, tool and style. Eventually I settled on a comfortable style and the NWSSA became more of a social group.

Describe your art in your own terms – focusing on your stone carving.
My work in the past has been mostly "expressive", to borrow a term from Rich Hestekind. Kazutaka Uchida and Isamu Noguchi have heavily influenced my work, though of late I am trending more towards Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Constantine Brancusi. I would call my latest pieces abstract, and particularly biomorphic, as I pull more from recognizable forms. I am nearly done with a large outdoor piece that is highly representational.Ken Barnes “Stretch”, 24” X 11” X 11”, 2013, white marble

How do you get your ideas, and what is your process?
I spend a lot of time looking at images, whether they are human forms, natural objects or manmade creations. My main use of Facebook, for example, is to scroll through all the images that are posted. I am in a phase right now where I am drawing quite a bit from animal forms. I have been a beekeeper for the last couple years and have been trying to find a way to use any of the fascinating bee-made patterns in stone. I stumbled across a way to do this while I was fret cutting last week, so am looking forward to that as my next piece.

I typically develop my ideas through drawing. I am not a good draftsman – my wife can't understand what I am thinking of by looking at my drawings, but they make sense to me. I'll doodle around with various forms and eventually one particular presentation of a form will grab my eye. Then I'll take that presentation of the form and redraw it dozens of times as part of a sculptural form until I am happy with the concept. The ultimate sculpture will likely have little similarity to the paper work, but the sense of movement that drew my eye on paper will prevail in the work. I moved my studio two years ago so I came to realize exactly how many stones I had acquired – it was sobering. I gave many of them to the Camp Brotherhood auction but renewed my focus on turning the rest of the pile into something interesting. Now I start my drawings with a focus on how to turn this or that particular stone into a pleasing sculpture. A recent piece is a great example of this. I had this black Belgian marble spire standing vertically in my rock pile for about 8 years. When I looked at the stone I couldn't figure out what to do with it – the lean of the stone was difficult. When I moved my studio the stone went into a pallet box on its side. Seeing the stone lying sideways gave me the radical idea to carve a horizontal form. I had not previously thought in horizontal forms, but in less than 10 hours of chiseling I had a very pleasing horizontal form at hand. It took well more than that to figure out how to mount and present the piece, with Fluke as the result. Fluke opened my mind to the possibilities of horizontal presentation. It seems kind of silly that I had not thought in a horizontal fashion previously, but now that is added to my language in addition to vertical, suspended, round and poked through with holes. I am really curious what other form language is staring me in the face, for now unrecognized.

Ken Barnes “Relic”, 30” X 10” X 9”, 2007, Belgian black limestoneI rely heavily upon the "happy accident" to bring my work to life. There is nearly always an "oh crap" moment, where I am sure that I have ruined the work. I cut too deeply on that side or the balance isn't what I expected or I get an unexpected break of a fret. I never recognize it at that instant, but that bad fret break always turns out to be the best part of the piece. And working with these unexpected problems becomes my favorite part of sculpting.

What scale or size do you work in? How much work do you create in a year? Do you show?
Human scale is my favorite size – 6 feet tall. However, I mostly work in the 100lb or less size, since it is so much easier to move around. I'll typically have one large piece in progress along with one new smaller one and another one or two re-works – pieces that I decided after display somewhere that they need some tweaks. My annual volume is highly size-dependent. I have about 300 hours/year that I devote to my sculpture, which I would like to double over the next year or two. So a single 200-hour piece will take up a big portion of my year's output. When I am feeling stressed for time I tend to work smaller because it gives me the feeling I am accomplishing more. When I was working on building my studio I had no extra time to create sculpture, so I didn't worry about marketing and showing. Now that I have no other distractions I have been showing at SHIFT Cooperative in Pioneer Square. I work well to deadlines, so take advantage of the imposed show schedule to improve my productivity.Ken Barnes, “Fluke”, 15” X 30” X 11”, 2012, Belgian black marble

How is your work area set up? What tools do you use?
I have a good-sized studio, but I found that a functional work area is like a functional kitchen – you want everything within a step or two of the carving table. The rest of the area is essentially storage or room for secondary projects. I have a hydraulic lift table that I put on steel wheels with a track on the floor so that I can move it up and down and laterally. It can be my direct carving table or a cutting table for a big saw that I sometimes use to block out work. I rented a studio for years that had a chain-fall bridge crane. That crane so increased my safety and reduced the stress on my back and fingers that I put an electric one into my studio as the highest priority. The other work habit that I adopted 15 years ago out of necessity was wet carving. My first studio was a totally enclosed space so I had to carve wet to keep the dust down. I have stuck with that ever since. Prior studios had sloping floors due to settlement so the water easily ran away from my carving area. But I spent many hours leveling my work or carving tables and I decided I wanted level floors, with the downside that I spend many hours instead squeegeeing the floors clear of water/mud. But the consequences of improper squeegeeing are minor compared to the consequences of out-of-plumb sculptures.

Ken Barnes “Slice”, 22” X 15” X 7”, 2013, Belgian black marbleI use whatever tool I can get my hands on. The technology in your studio definitely determines the forms that come out of the studio. So I like to experiment with different tools to keep new forms available. I have many go-to tools that have been part of my studio since the early years. My core drill/stand makes any hole-cutting quite easy. I turned the drill stand upside down and mounted it from an overhead beam so that the base doesn't get in the way of my drilling and can tilt the drill to nearly any angle. I bought an old block saw from George Pratt about 15 years ago, and use that for small base prep and some early blocking out. I bought a larger block saw from Dean at Princess Jade about 10 years ago. This is handy to block out larger stones and create larger bases. I burn through every electric angle grinder put in my hands, so I mostly use pneumatic grinders because of their durability. Over the last year I have become enamored with electric circular saws because they seem to bear up well under stone-cutting stress. I bought a couple at a pawnshop and they are still running a year later. I zip-tie water feeds to their frame and have even tied a bungee between the saw and my crane hook to lower the weight in my hands. My pneumatic water polisher remains my favorite tool of all time (after the crane). I just love the meditative process of pneumatic polishing. However, even with these power tools I still maintain a diverse chisel collection and use quite a number of them to break, bruise or shape the stone in unique ways.

What obstacles and challenges have you overcome?Ken Barnes, “Pod”, 25” X 13” X 9”, 2013, Belgian black marble
My main challenge is my fascination with tools and facilities. Sculpture has brought out some latent engineering genes. I can easily become enamored with designing and building a cool tool or studio modification and have spent far too much time on this instead of working on stone. I am now painfully aware of the art time I have burned through and have purposely been focusing my work time on just art, with the minimum on studio maintenance/improvement.

What are you looking forward to?
More time in the studio. The ideas for new work still come more quickly than I can finish pieces. And sculpture is more rewarding to me than most other activities I undertake.

Artist Spotlight - Martin Beach

Meet Martin Beach  Brancusian Obelisk  - 2013 - 11 x 11 x 56 inches - Indiana Limestone

Q. What is your life history as it relates to being an artist?
A. Prior to my junior year at The Evergreen State College, I had throughout my entire life focused on computer science and mathematics, probably because it had something to with both my parents being computer engineers. In my junior year I switched over to a visual arts education. Upon graduating in 2010, I moved to Indiana but still continued to explore, learn and create.

Q. Why did you become an artist?
A. I needed a life change; science is great, but I finally realized that I had no passion for doing it. So I tried doing the opposite and became an artist, and haven't looked back.

 'Lunar Colony van der Rohe'  - 2012 - 17 x 28 x 7 inches - Granite on Indiana LimestoneQ. What key life events affected your direction in art?
A. During my senior year at Evergreen, I was taking a program called "Studio Projects – Land and Sky," which dealt with identity and interpretation of landscape through various media. There was a 3D project that could involve any medium of our choosing. The professor, Robert Leverich, challenged us with the possibility of using stone. It was love at first sight. It started at first with chlorite, but after a few months I was into granites and basalts.  
A little less then a year after graduating, I began to work as a studio assistant for Bloomington, Indiana sculptor Dale Enochs, building a large public piece for the University of Central Florida out of limestone and steel. As a studio assistant I not only picked up valuable pragmatic skills, but also learned a mindset. As an undergraduate, the studio was a sandbox. I had a million ideas running through my head, and a need to test every one of them. Though that was an important process and learning experience, most of the earlier work was hastily made, unrefined, and non-coherent. Dale noticed that and gave me a challenge of taking one form I had made and duplicating it and to see what happens. From that exercise not only did I begin to develop my own personal design aesthetic by focusing on one thing, but also started to gain an ability to really filter the chaos of those millions of thoughts into something coherent.

 'Nautical Maneuver'  - 2013- 20 X 28 x 16 Inches Morton Gniess on Indiana LimestoneQ. Who or what has influenced your art form?
A. The people that have influenced me the most have been artists Dale Enochs of Bloomington IN, Bob Leverich of Olympia WA, and Verena Schwippert of Arlington WA. Working alongside them has offered a first hand array of outlooks, insights, and processes. 
Other artists and architects have been Isamu Noguchi, Antoni Gaudí, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Dan Kiley, Roberto Burle Marx, and Henry Moore. However, I think one of the biggest influences has been forms and energy I see when exploring landscapes, whether it be the pronounced peaks of the Olympics and Cascades, or the subtle curves of the rolling hills of southern Indiana. 

Q. What is art for to you?
A. Art is the lens I use to interpret, re-interpret, integrate, investigate and evolve my perception of the world in and around me. The physical art is a by-product of experience that serves as a record to what one has learned.

Q. How has the NWSSA influenced your work as an artist?
A. NWSSA has provided an open forum via the Camp Brotherhood symposiums I have attended in which I could talk to others and really see what else was happening outside the confines of my studio, to engage in different insights, share techniques and to work with new tools. Seeing many different designs, processes, and material all in one place at one time, has really inspired me to engage and branch out into avenues I wouldn't otherwise.'Tribe of the River and Hills'  - 2012 - 27 x 37 x 24 inches - Skykomish River Granites on Indiana Limestone

Q. Describe your art in your own terms – focusing on your stone carving.
A. My art is an exploration in techniques that allow me to imbue a material that is generally seen as something inert and inanimate with a life force through minimalist form, that embodies a very primal but refined elegance, and all the while keeping it clearly recognizable as stone. Using the stones that I find from rivers on mountain sides, to the bottom of a quarry, I begin to contrast curves with line, rounded with pointed, lights with darks, smooth with rough, etc, until the stone starts to develop its own personal identity that we as observers want to instinctually interact with.

Q. How do you develop and get your ideas and finally translate them to stone?
A. I tend to get ideas from creating a mental palette of existing design and philosophy, both human and natural, that I believe to have worked already in their original intended purpose, but to redefine them in order to fit the criteria of my own artwork. Later, should a redefinition be coherent enough to be added or translated into stone, I try to scribble it down on some paper as a reminder. From that reminder, I make refinement sketches to make it clear for myself what it is I actually want to convey. I probably would best describe them as a pictorial mission statement. When the idea becomes clear enough, I switch over to stone. At this point I am still making design decisions and refinements that inevitably make the form and look different from what I originally had on paper, but the core idea and statement still remain the same, which allow for a controlled fluidic leap from paper to stone, or the mental idea to physical artifact.

 'Slowly Flowing'  - 2013 - 17 x 32 x 10 inches - Morton Gniess on Indiana LimestoneQ. Can you briefly describe a recent piece or two?
A. A recent piece "Slowly Flowing" – Morton gneiss on Indiana limestone, addresses a space beyond the confines of the limestone. The ribbon form is lifted up above the two planes via three peaks that provide a look as though there is a floating heavy mass, while the subtle pulsing curves of the horizontal provide a feel of gentle movement. Finally with the two sharp tips extending beyond the footprint of the limestone, the limestone is no longer a static frame but just the place that the gneiss happens to be gliding over in that moment in time.

Q. Do you work part or full time as an artist?
A. I work full time as an artist, but also work landscaping full time to pay for it.

Q. What stones do you prefer?
A. Granites and gneisses, but I have been recently utilizing Indiana limestone as a core component of my work for geographical reasons. The closest place for igneous stone is about 700 miles away.

Q. Do you do one piece at a time or do you have several in process at once?
A. I will very rarely have more than two projects happening at once. Things get too chaotic for my liking.

'Untitled Lithomorph'  - 2012 - 36 x 28 x 30 Inches - Granite on Indiana LimestoneQ. What tools do you use?
A. The five most commonly used tools I use to form stone are a hammer, chisel, angle grinder, pneumatic hammer, and polisher.

Q. Where do you exhibit your work?
A. Like many other artists, most of the work is stationed around the yard and tucked away in the garage. Though there is no permanent place of exhibition, I do have a piece in a show at the Jacksson Contemporary Art Gallery in downtown Columbus, and coming up for the month of February 2014 a show at the John Waldron Center for the Arts in Bloomington Indiana. Previous shows have included a winter 2012-13 exhibition at the Columbus Learning Center in Columbus Indiana, an April 2012 show at the Waldron, and of course at the NWSSA's Camp B Symposium this past summer.

 'Tiered Horizon'  - 2013 - 24 x 18 x 12 Inches - Granite on Indiana LimestoneQ. How much work do you complete in a year?
A. Last year I would say around 20 Pieces that I would be willing to admit too. However, I have been pushing to work bigger so that number may decrease for 2013.

Q. Do you teach art?
A. No, but I would be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind. "Professor Martin," now there's something I could put on a plaque.

Q. What scale or size do you work in, and do you have a favorite scale?
A. Most of my pieces hover around a footprint (Limestone) of 25 x 20 inches. And I am really enjoying working at that size, but I am trying to go bigger, and have only just recently been able to do so. So in the coming year, I suppose I will be finding out.

Q. What have been your satisfactions in your life as an artist? 'Altar and Sacrifice' - 2012 - 17 x 26 x 13 Inches - Granite on Indiana Limestone
A. Waking up in the morning knowing that something will be there to challenge me, to go farther, walking out the door and to see or meet someone or something new, and of course when you achieve those meditative moments of clarity when working with a material you love.

Q. What obstacles and challenges have you faced or are still facing?
A. Like with other artists, one of the biggest challenges that I face and realize is just how non-pragmatic being an artist is. It is a lot of hard work. I suppose it's like JFK said, "We don't do these things because they are easy, but because they are hard." And I just had to fall in love with stone...

Q. What are you looking forward to? 'Traveling on Jupiter'  - 2013 - 17 x 24 x 10 inches - Morton Gniess on Indiana Limestone
A. I am looking forward to the gallery show coming in February, and just being as productive as I can for the next 5 months when the chill of the winter slowly creeps in.

Finally, I just want to say....
Rock on!

 

Artist Spotlight - Tracy Powell

Meet Tracy Powell 'Eternal Embrace', granite, 6 ft, x 2 ft, x 2 ft, Tracy Powell

Q: So what have been up to?  

A: Carving and looking for answers. Fortunately for me, I belong to this wonderful tribe, NWSSA, who have taught me everything I may know about stone sculpture, and freely given friendship, inspiration, and challenge. On top of that,

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Artist Spotlight - Gerda Lattey 2013

Meet Gerda Lattey -Again  "Two Rivers" 5' 2" high, Basalt, by Gerda Lattey

Gerda was in the spotlight for the first time in the fall of 2007. You will see that her work has changed in the last six years.

What is your life history as it relates to being an artist?
I'm essentially a self-taught artist and started carving stone by accident. It seems to be what I do now.

"The Traveler" 33" high, Basalt & Cast Resin, Gerda LatteyWhy did you become an artist?
We've been batting it out for quite some time, art and me, and I've tried quite hard not to become an artist. There comes a point where it simply just is what you do. I do think

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Artist Spotlight - Dirk Van Der Minne

Meet Dirk Van Der Minne 'Path to Heaven' 2009 12" high, Pyrophyllite on Soapstone, Dirk Van Der Minne

My goal is to get across that not all sculptors are grade B+ or better. Many of us are just happy campers, sometimes, doing our thing and feeling fulfilled. My article is not a standard question and answer, but a mini-autobiography. The photos are mere illustrations. With the latest technology one could get better and bigger pictures but they will never get close to the feeling of the real sculpture. I hope you will look upon all this as a sincere effort in my individual style.

My name is Dirk and I was born in Holland in 1932. Besides all the things mothers do, mine was good with crafts, leatherwork, wool and so forth. My father, My father, in his free time, was an antique furniture maker. Hand tools only. So I grew up between sawdust, bits of leather and wool and a taste for beauty and style. My first attempt to express myself freely, artistically, happened when I was eleven; drawing a big tree on a piece of ordinary paper. I thought it was well done but no compliments were forth coming. My next artistic effort was in grade twelve when I carved two bookends, two ships, in Italian nutwood. I remember I was pleased with them. 

'Three Faces', Dolomite, 2011 Dirk Van Der MinneAnd then a long time nothing. University and medical career, family, and immigration to Canada kept me occupied. Some furniture making in 60's and 70's and later boat building in the 80's and 90's. First canoes, then row boats then a small motorboat. All wood. The boatbuilding seemed to me the first evidence of the rebirth of my need to express myself artistically. But I had to change direction.  'Father and Son', Soapstone, 2007 Dirk Van Der Minne

In June of 2007 I visited the "Quadra Island Artists Studio Tour" and ended up in the studio of Lee Gass. I told him I was stuck. "Don't know what I am getting up for in the morning. I'm finished with boat building." He says, "You want to try this?" He gives me a hammer and a chisel and a piece of stone. I do get a few chips off but that was it. He suggests I see Chris Rose. He is a soapstone carver of high quality and a teacher in this field. 

I went to see Chris and he showed me his setup. Beautiful workbenches, lots of air-pressure and suction. Two months and fifty hours later I finished something, a piece that is titled "Father and Son." 

'My Hand', Soapstone, 2008 Dirk Van Der MinneWhat an eye-opener. I had carved something when I was eighteen, then some ducks in the 80's. Now thirty years later I am writing about my "old age sculpture experience." 

'Orca", Soapstone 2008 Dirk Van Der MinneSo I made half a dozen soapstone carvings including my hand and an orca. In 2008 I was traveling in the S.E corner of BC and found a dolomite mine. I picked up some 100 pound pieces. It was free! Out of one piece came the "Moon." The second piece became the base for "Three Faces": man, woman and child as part of a self-imposed exercise of how to carve a face. Michael Binkley gave me the idea of the mobius. 

'Split Mobius' South African Wonderstone, 2012 Dirk Van Der MinneI experience stone sculpture only as pleasure. There are no mistakes, only retakes. It always gets better. The sculpture will be there for you tomorrow, unchanged. Not like music from the piano disappearing as soon as you make it. 

I cannot sell anything as I would expose myself voluntarily to a judgment and I am afraid of that judgment. Plus, I like the sculptures too much. On my 80th birthday recently, I gave one carving to each of my five children. That felt just great. My wife has been totally supportive in my endeavors while I support her in her athletic ambitions. I do lay awake at night thinking about my sculptures but that helps my concepts or ideas to grow. There are about three or four projects circulating in my head and in the studio at any one time. 'Abstract' Brucite-Dolomite Marble, 2009 Dirk Van Der Minne

Because of dust, noise, expensive stone and equipment I will stick to stone up to a hardness of 5 or 6 and use no air tools. Stones I use are up to 100 lbs. I use an angle grinder, a die grinder and Foredom plus all the little stuff that comes with them. And hand tools and sandpaper! 

Dirk in his studio, working on 'Seashell'I work in a 10 x 14 steel-framed industrial tent in the back yard and have very friendly artistic neighbors. 

We have five senses. I lost my smell after a skull fracture and concussion (2010) but stones don't smell. I have lost a great deal of my hearing but it is not the stone which makes the sound. But I can see, feel and hug my stone. 

Camp B has been a Godsend. I went twice, 2009 and 2011. NWSSA has given me an entrée into the stone sculpture milieu which has led to a feeling of belonging and support. 

By having incorporated stone carving into my later life, sculpting has become one of several reasons for continuing my existence, to celebrate my being. 

I close with what I wrote in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Sculpture NorthWest. 'Moon' Dolomite, 2011 Dirk Van Der Minne

"When I carve I see me and my soul in the stone. At the same time I open my soul to others who wish to see my sculpture and who will, maybe, allow a relationship to form with me and the stone and fall in love with the stone and maybe me. And that is what keeps us together. Thank you all. From a novice. What a week."