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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight - Lane Tompkins

SNW: Who are you?

LT: Oregon born, I was raised in Newberg and Portland where I enlisted in the Navy, spending four years as a sonar technician. In civilian life, I worked for Boeing, was a Forest Service district clerk, ran a subsistence farm with my wife and worked as a power substation operator on Catalina Island as well as in Santa Barbara, on the Oregon Coast and in Eugene where I retired from BPA in l997. Two years later I drove to Silver Falls State Park to see a sculpture show. Realizing I had found “my people,” I joined NWSSA the same day. I am now divorced and living in Creswell, Oregon, but am in the process of moving to Whidbey Island.

 

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

LT: I have always been a sculptor – I just never carved much until joining NWSSA. My early carvings were small and simple; some wooden heads and a handful of soapstone pieces, all carved with a pocket knife in the 60’s.

 

My drawing of human heads is also from the late 60’s and has always been a part of what I see as art. In the early 90’s I took a few classes at a local Jr. Collage, doing full figure studies in clay. But even there, I wanted to do portraits rather then the whole body. My peak in portrait work was modeling a friend in Roma Plastilina and having it cast in bronze. I thought it looked like him and when he said he was happy, I was too.

 

After being awed at Silver Falls, I jumped in and began to carve soapstone and alabaster. I still haven’t done much, but I love it all and am slowly beginning to use more power tools.

 

SNW: Who or what has influenced your art form?

LT: I love Bernini. He speaks to me of the intricacies possible in Italian marble. Most of what I know about him, I learned from a Rudolf Wittkower book republished by Phaidon. This book is full of exquisite photographs by the world renowned photographer Pino Guidolotti.

 

Bernini’s bust of Duke Francis I D’Este wears a lace collar including a roll of crocheted lace hanging down a couple of inches, just enough to “grab” me and make me want to give lace carving a try.


I’m currently cutting away at what was a 1200 pound piece of finely crystallized Calacatta marble from a quarry next to Carrara. I picked it up at Art City in Ventura, California, and had intended to carve crocheted lace folded to suggest flower petals. It now seems prudent to indicate lace on this large piece, and carve lace  on the next, smaller piece.

 

SNW: How does your art reflect your philosophy?

LT: I don’t know that it does, I hope not. I try to maintain a practical attitude about my art. It’s a rock. I’m going to cut away what obscures the thing I want to “make.” I’ve never been certain of what my philosophy is anyway. Cutting rock is difficult enough without asking it to submit to philosophy’s spider webs of possibilities.

 

SNW: How has NWSSA influenced your work as an artist?

LT: The people of NWSSA have, individually and en masse, helped me get up on my horse of creativity. I haven’t caught a brass ring yet, but I am now in hot pursuit of the muse that carries them. I will forever be grateful for the leg-up I have gotten from my many good friends in NWSSA.

 

SNW: How do you get your ideas and how do you develop them?

LT: Occasionally I get hit with the whole business in one go. Whether I’m driving down the highway, lying in bed, or having a conversation; it is “presented” to me whole. I like it that way. It’s exciting. I want to do it immediately. ‘Buds’ came that way, all except for the haircuts, those came later. Other times I’m doodling with a pencil, nebulous ideas ghosting by. I feel uneasy, like something is going to happen, but I have no inkling what. That’s when the pencil helps me. Often, as I look back on the moment, I have no memory of “figuring it out.” It’s like someone else drew it and I’m merely recognizing it as a simply marvelous idea.

 

Getting an idea from brain or paper into stone is sometimes a challenge. I have often felt the need for a full scale model in clay, other times not. ‘Spirit Horse’ came through while doodling with a pencil. But I had no idea where to start on the cube of sawn alabaster without first doing it in clay. Making the nearly exact model gave me the confidence to start carving away those large, scary negative spaces.

 

SNW: Will you tell us about a couple more?

LT: Sure. I often joke about ‘The Voice of God’ speaking to me, but I couldn’t hear it until I had completed the full sized clay model. My plan of carving twenty plus mouths scared the hell out of me. Is there something you don’t know how to carve? Do twenty of them. And when I finally got to the stone mouths part, I was shocked at how easy it seemed. No, the mouths are not the best ever cut in stone, but they’re recognizable as human and some even show a hint of life.

 

The two faces on ‘Tendril Love’ (not showen here) did not scare me. I cut them almost with ease. That piece came in bits and pieces with no drawing or model at all. I just started carving. If there was a problem with that one, it was that I couldn’t stop carving tendrils. I was having so much fun doing it with hammer and chisel that I began to put them everywhere. Thank God a friend of mine finally told me, rather firmly, that it looked done to him.

 

SNW: What is the major theme or intent of your art?

LT: I don’t think I have a major theme. There are some shapes I like. In cross section, boat shapes with very sharp ends appeal to me. ‘Spirit Horse’ and ‘Gotcha’ have them, and ‘The Voice Of God,’ too. That sharp edge casts such a fine shadow.

 

The concept of a theme is the same for me in sculpture as it is in poetry. Anything is grist for the chisel or the written word – anything. If I do have a philosophy of art, that’s it; which results in me trying to carve and write about everything. It’s hard to find a theme that way.

 

SNW: What are you looking forward to (goals, commissions, new ideas, flights of fancy)?

LT: I’m winging it on flights of fancy most of the time, and always look forward to the next ride. I guess when that stops I’ll be pretty much done with earthly things. In more mundane words, I can hardly wait for the next sculpture to show up. I’m already getting vibes on it. A woman looking to the side holds my attention with the torn strip of crocheted curtain lace she’s used to tie up her hair...

Artist Spotlight - Christa Rossner

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

CR: My mother and father painted in oils and my father was an inventor of sorts. I was never without a sketch book from the age of seven. I painted from an early age focusing on portraiture, landscape, still life and animals; mainly studying from nature with home instruction interspersed with formal arts education. As with many people, it wasn’t until my children were in their teens that I had the time to re-dedicate myself to creating art.

 

SNW: What key life experiences affected your direction in art?

CR: The first dramatic change in direction for me artistically was the result of two concurrent discoveries in 1993. Amidst increasing frustration, I was adding thicker and thicker paint to my canvasses, apparently trying to cast shadows in 2-D! Another part of that discovery was meeting Daniel Cline. Daniel is an extremely talented artist whose sculptures resonated with me hugely. I purchased a few of his small pieces, expressing an interest in learning how to sculpt stone. He offered me a weekend workshop at his studio in Cowichan Lake, BC. With pure joy I proceeded to carve a seated female figure in Brazilian soapstone. At the end of the second day I was sad at not having finished it.  Daniel laughed and said, “Well most people don’t start out trying to be Leonardo!”

 

The second most dramatic influence on my artistic expression was my work with No Nukes, a subsidiary of Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. In this role and as an ambassador to the Hague Appeal for Peace Convention in Holland in 1999, I became immersed in issues of small armaments, war, genocide, human rights abuses, etc. Sculpting became my salvation. I worked with hand tools in those days, so my workshop became a sanctuary where the physical act of chiseling stone combined with many tears letting out my rage and sadness. The stone became pieces such as:  ‘Midnight and the Sea of Despair’, ‘So Many Women/So Many Tears’, ‘Truth Hath a Quiet Breast’, and ‘Prisoner in the Burqua’. When completed they helped me resolve some of my despair and powerlessness to affect change.

SNW: Why is art important to you?

CR: People who create art are communicating in meaningful ways. Whether those messages are humorous, serious, imaginative or representative doesn’t matter. It’s that wonderful ability to express an idea or philosophy that can cut across language and societal barriers that matters. I have a bumper sticker in my studio that says “Art is not a luxury.”

 

SNW: How has NWSSA influenced your work as an artist?

CR: NWSSA connects us to other people who think on multi-levels, in multi-dimensions; to people who are compassionate, articulate and intuitive. My friends in

NWSSA are all gems unto themselves. I so appreciate the camaraderie, seeing what is created from the wealth of talent and the depth of insight my sculptor friends embody. So many unique expressive individuals who come together with pure hearts, elfin humor, supportive natures, and the desire to share make NWSSA such a wonderful organization. I’m grateful to have been welcomed, supported and nurtured by NWSSA. I only wish I’d joined sooner when Dan Cline first mentioned it to me in the early 90’s.

SNW: How do you get your ideas?

CR: Usually I just start knocking off the square edges and let my sub-conscious mind take over. Usually something bubbles up and becomes subject matter. Once that idea seems to be developing, then I engage my analytical brain to try to get extra impact out of the concept and the chunk of stone.

 

SNW: Describe some of your recent work.

CR: ‘The Three Graces’ was started at Camp B in 2007. Turkish marble has large crystals, so it was somewhat difficult to get detail in the stone. Unfortunately I lost the nose on one face 3 times and had to re-establish the face each time deeper in the rock. Typically it would be foolish to sculpt so much detail in a piece, but the process was like meditation and somehow the girls’ faces evolved to be compassionate, peaceful and loving. There were people at my show planting kisses on them.

 

‘Girls in the Band’ was conceived after a Sabah workshop at Camp B. It was one of the few times that I consciously knew what I was going to sculpt prior to starting. The Indiana Limestone was purchased from Kentaro and brought home to Victoria to work on.  It was a challenge to draw on the stone and pre-establish what would be the highest and lowest points before starting. I carved it using only hand chisels, rasps and sand paper. The piece represents the musicians in my band. We call ourselves ‘Curl’ and I’m the drummer.

 

‘Venus on the Half Shell’ converted a renaissance subject into sculpture. I wanted to show Venus lying on her shell bed prior to standing up as Botticelli painted her. Sculpted from Carrara Marble, she is almost covered in masses of hair. This piece took over 220 hours to complete, which is madness. The only reason a sane person might sculpt such detail is because of the amazing integrity of Carara marble. I did it because I could, and it was such a pleasure to work that stone.

 

SNW: What is the major theme or intent of your art?

CR: In more recent times I’ve been turning to concerns such as family dynamics, self esteem and women’s issues. This is because friends and family suggested I should “lighten up” – that I’d been scaring them with my politically charged pieces.

 

SNW: What is your working process – one piece at a time or several at once?

CR: In my workshop I typically have 5 to 6, or more pieces on the go. When a stone whispers to me I pay it some attention, drafting out the basic concepts bursting to get out, and then put it aside. My level of energy after working all day determines which piece I’ll work on.

 

SNW: What tools do you use?

CR: Prior to 2006 I used only hand tools. In 2006 I got an angle grinder that I now use to block out pieces of harder stone. In 2008 Terry Slaton sold me his old air hammer and tools which I used at Camp B. I bought a compressor this year but haven’t had a chance to use the monster yet. I really do enjoy the meditative process of working by hand with the rhythm of the chisel and mallet which is a good thing because I live in a residential area where only short-term use of the grinder, compressor and air hammer is feasible.

 

SNW: Where do you exhibit your work?

CR: I’ve just closed a solo show in Victoria at the Community Arts Centre. Other shows I exhibit in are regional and provincial productions. I also belong to the Vancouver Island Sculptors Guild – a wonderfully supportive network of 3-D artists in many diverse media. We typically have a couple of shows a year.

 

SNW: What scale or size do you work in, and do you have a favorite scale?

CR: Circumstances limit the size I work in which is anything from small to up to 180 lbs. My dream is to be able to work on some larger pieces and have the tools and ability to maneuver big pieces of stone.

 

SNW: How is your work area set up?

CR: I LOVE my converted garage/workshop. When working full bore I have a tendency to eat standing and working in the studio. Nearest the door, which is almost always open are three mobile work benches where most of the big action happens. The middle area of the shop holds a fabulous find I got at a second hand store: a large work bench with a tilting surface. The back of the shop has wall mounted work benches. My walls are covered with art posters; many from shows I’ve been in, others from Italy, from major galleries, etc.

 

SNW: What have been your satisfactions in your life as an artist?

CR: In 2006 I participated in and exhibited some sculptures for a conference called Artists of Conscience which was very satisfying. Just being able to express myself and to shed light on issues with a view to empowering others is satisfying. Also, I’m proud of having shown my children that when they are overwhelmed there is a way to heal themselves through artistic expression, or if they have an idea that is counter to normal social mores they can express it visually, musically, or poetically. Being an artist exercises my creative mind which opens up many options for problem solving in all areas of my life.

 

SNW: What are you looking forward to in your art and life?

CR: I look forward to any opportunity to enter the sanctuary of my studio. I have about 900lbs of stone waiting in my shop. July at Camp Brotherhood is another event to look forward to. My artist friends and I have several theme exhibits planned and a few have indicated an interest in pulling together a theme show to raise awareness of and benefit Amnesty International.

 

SNW: Thank you for sharing your art with us, Christa. Do you have any final words?

CR: Thank you to NWSSA for showing an interest in my work. Thank you to Sculpture NorthWest, its staff and contributors. I always look forward to receiving the journal, and devouring it cover to cover.  Namaste.  Thank you.Let my last words be those of the masters who so inspire us all.

 

“Everything is sculpture – any material, any idea without hindrance born into space I consider sculpture.”

-Isamu Noguchi

 

“The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.”

-Michelangelo

 

“My interests in phenomena, both in my sources and in the way I work is what compels me to make sculpture.”

-John Ruppert

 

“To be an artist is to believe in life.”

-Henry Moore J

An Interview with "Lady Limestone" Amy Brier

Amy Brier is the real thing. She is a working stone sculptor who carves limestone and uses several sculptural media. She is equally comfortable in conceptual art discourse as in restoring a 12th Century French cathedral, and her founding and directing the annual International Limestone Symposium in Indiana (now in its 13th year) exemplifies her belief that the goal of contemporary art is to forge connections between people.


Amy has taught sculpture from South African neighborhoods to NWSSA Symposia; she has exhibited her work from the National Museum of Women in the Arts to Berlin, and she is that rare kind of contemporary sculptor who has actually dissected cadavers in order to understand anatomy.

 

AB: I grew up in an artistic family in Rhode Island, and knew from early on that I wanted to be an artist. I did my BFA in sculpture at Boston University, and then spent some time carving marble in Italy, where I realized that stone carving was what I wanted to do. At the age of 27 I was introduced to the stone yard of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, and I spent 6 years working there, carving architectural ornamentation in limestone. Limestone was the reason that I did my MFA in Bloomington, Indiana, and the reason why I am still there.

 

I prefer limestone to other stones because of its homogenous quality. It’s soft, and the grain is not an issue; you can go into it from any direction. What might be seen as blandness, compared to other stones, means that form is everything – there is no seduction of color or veining or surface – it is all about the form and the directness of chisel and stone. I use a diamond saw to rough out, but I prefer to use hand tools. There is no polishing or sanding necessary; I finish it with the chisels and that puts life into the surface. I may polish to create contrast, to highlight the chisel finish.

TO: You talk about the humility of limestone.

AB: It is sedimentary and close to the nature that created it. It has not metamorphized, but has fossils and organic material. Limestone keeps me in respect of nature. It is innate memory of the earth, the most direct connection that I can have to the span of history. It also inspires in me a reverence for the process – knowing that this rock has come to me through a lot of effort by other people – and respect for its tradition, being the prominent architectural stone in our nation. I work with Indiana limestone primarily because it is the only American limestone that has both carvability and durability for outside sculptures.

TO: You have developed a series of carved balls to be rolled in a bed of sand – you call them Roliqueries.

AB: Technically they are shaped into balls on a lathe, and then carved in the negative in order to give a positive sculptural impression when rolled in sand. The motifs of many are forms from nature, like snowflakes and oak leaves, fish and spiders – other balls have text. One of them has fragments from the love letters that my parents wrote each other when my father was in World War II.

 

The carved stone becomes a tool in the creation of an image, rather than being simply a singular art object, and the fixed and permanent stone is juxtaposed with the fluid and fugitive sand image. Viewers complete the creative process as they roll the Roliquery. Art is then momentary and interactive, and I play around with the traditional concept that art is timeless, since even the stone wears down eventually by being rolled in the sand. In this way, my work combines traditional carving techniques with contemporary art ideas such as public interaction and appropriation.

 

TO: Where do your sculptures come from?

AB: This concept of Roliqueries started in grad school, when I was looking at Mycenaean cylinder seals and conical sculptural forms. I like to make things, but in grad school you can’t just make things because it feels cool. I start with a concept and look for ways to express that concept so that it’s interesting, and also challenging for me.

TO: Do you ever just stand in front of a block of stone and let your chisel do the work?

AB: No, but there are times when I am working on a piece and feel stuck in my brain, and then leave it to my hands to do the work.

 

TO: For 13 years you have been the director of Indiana Limestone Symposium.

AB: In the European model for symposia sculptors are invited to come together to carve, they are reimbursed, and the works that they produce are left behind. In America we have the workshop model that we know from say, Camp Brotherhood.  I wondered why there was no symposium in Indiana with all this stone everywhere, and so I co-founded it 13 years ago and have directed it since. People come from all over the world and from all over this country, with a core group of people that have been coming for years and years. It has become a respected feature of the community as well. For the locals, there really is no other place where people can come and experience the limestone that their grandfathers may have milled.

 

This September we will have a symposium using the European model for the first time, with a French carver and myself, and the pieces will remain in the community.

Last summer I went to Austria to Krastal, an international symposium that goes 40 years back. We carved a very hard marble together. It was quite a challenge, a very intense communal experience of invited carvers from all over the world who run symposia in their own countries, and then a 3-day conference where each person presented her/his symposium. I was the only American, and the only one who had this workshop model. I had more women participants in mine than anyone else, and more of a free feeling and exchange – not just a bunch of professional artists coming together, but people who come to learn and share and be generous and open with each other.

 

TO: What do you look forward to, Amy?

AB: I would like to do other things as well. I love teaching. I would love to have a community studio in Bloomington, with workshops and a gallery, where the tourists can come and experience the stone alongside the full Indiana history of cut stone.

Paul Buckner : Part 1 - The Man, The Teacher Sept/Oct 2008

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach 10,000 stars how not to dance.” -Last two lines from the e.e. cummings poem, You Shall Above All Things Be Glad And Young

 

Paul Buckner’s lectures on figure drawing were for years a standard feature of the Silver Falls Symposiums. Sharing his understanding of the human body and how to carve it in meaningful and creative ways helped so many of us develop our own fundamental approach to stone and the skills needed to carve it.

 

He was a joy to have on the field as well. Standing quietly to the side, wearing one of the hats he sewed by hand, Paul was a resource not to be passed up. He helped and charmed me many times by making his professorial instruction sound like nothing more than a friendly conversation between two equal artists.

 

Paul still lives in Eugene, Oregon, in the same house he and his wife Kay built shortly after they came to the University of Oregon in l962. As you will see in the next issue of Sculpture NorthWest, Paul is still active in the art world, completing commissions and doing the art that he loves to do.

 

I was lucky enough to talk with him for an enjoyable afternoon the other day. About an hour after I got back home, he called me with the e.e. cummings quote at the top of this page. He had recalled it pretty well during our talk, but wanted to get it exactly right. I’m glad he did. Paul thinks of the above lines as a nut shell version of his approach to art. Paul Buckner has always been an optimist, looking for and finding the positive elements in everything around him.

 

Born June 16, l933 in what was then the small Seattle district of Ballard, Washington, Paul cannot remember a time when he did not think of art. His two earliest memories are about art. One was the scary faces on a totem pole sticking out of a well where vandals had thrown it. The other was of the Michelangelo pictures in the encyclopedias of a neighbor in “The Gulch” at the South end of Elliot Bay, in Seattle.

 

From his earliest years in grammar school, Paul was the one who did the art for school projects and events. He’s not quite sure how it happened, but at this point in his life he learned to rely on his own artistic instincts and to not be hurt or discouraged by the unfavorable opinions of others. Because he considers it one of the most valuable lessons in life, Paul has never stopped trying to teach students of all ages the art of self- evaluation, free from the constrictive world of other people’s expectations.

 

Following high school graduation in West Seattle, Paul entered two years of study at the University of Washington where he joined the Air Force ROTC. Upon graduation he would have been commissioned as a second lieutenant pilot. Since the Korean War was then in full swing, his chances were good to be sent there to fight the war from the air. Deciding he didn’t want to drop bombs on anybody, Paul quit school and the ROTC to enlist in the US Coast Guard. As luck would have it, the very day he left for Coast Guard training in California, his draft notice arrived, a few hours too late.

 

So, instead of going to Korea, he went to Alaska and Astoria. By the end of his four-year enlistment, the Korean draft had ended, allowing Paul to return to his studies at the U of W under the G.I. Bill.

 

This is where he met Kay. It was in a small café….They were married in l959 at her parent’s home in Seattle.

 

They went on to finish their art studies together at the U of W, he in sculpture, she in painting. The happy couple then moved to Southern California where they, again together, attended the Claremont Graduate School on fellowships. While living in Claremont, their first son, Matthew, was born, growing up to be a sculptor and an art professor like his dad.

 

Somehow, in the middle of all this, Paul found time to apply for a Fulbright scholarship, though Kay did the real work of typing up the stack of application forms in quadruplicate (without carbon paper). Since it would require a year of living in London, the three of them boarded the SS Queen Elizabeth for the ocean crossing. The young couple enjoyed their year in London; Kay with young Matthew and Paul with the Slade School at the University College of London. With the completion of his Fulbright, Paul brought his family back to the states to begin looking in earnest for gainful employment to support his family.

 

It was now l962 and with lots of applications sent out, Paul took the first job he was offered: a summer session of teaching at the U of W. He hadn’t been there long before a letter arrived from the University of Oregon in Eugene. Paul was invited down to look at, and to be looked at by, their art department.

 

Paul ended up taking the job, and thus began his 36 years at the U of O. It was another busy time, which got even busier with the birth of their second son. Nathan is a natural musician who began strumming the guitar at three and is now a performing musician and, of course, a professor like his dad.

 

Editor’s note: In the John Pugh story in our July/August issue, you’ll see that it was just about this time (1967) that John began selling stone to U of O students. Paul remembers a tall and talkative John driving onto campus in his loaded down Willies Jeep. This went on for 20 years. Small world, huh.

 

During his long and productive career at the University of Oregon, Paul started many new programs. He recalls that his creation of the University’s first bronze foundry wasn’t nearly as difficult as convincing the powers-that-be to allow a daylight class with a live, nude model. Paul fought the morality battles and won; figure drawing and modeling became an optional part of the basic student curriculum.

 

Early in his tenure at the U of O, he and Kay bought a piece of ground in South Eugene and built an extraordinary house. Tucked back into a narrow, tree covered lot; one can’t see the house from the street. When you walk in the front door you begin to realize that you are in a house made entirely of wood. Much of Paul’s art has emerged from wood, it’s a material he knows and loves. The entire upstairs was left as one room, though the architect argued against it. I’m glad the architect lost. With three 13 foot tall windows in the east wall, and a wall of closets to the west beneath clearstory windows, the great room serves as a painting studio for Kay and a gallery for both Paul and Kay. Oh yes, it’s a rather grand living room as well.

 

A visitor to this room can have difficulty focusing on any one thing because one’s eye continuously moves from one fascinating piece to another. The wall space is filled with Kay’s large, canvas oil paintings and all horizontal surfaces not made for sitting are covered with Paul’s clay, wood, metal and stone sculpture - including the grand piano. With the furniture being all treasured or antique wood and fabric, the place has the warm feel of a personable and comfortable museum.

 

And, of course, while busy with all the work of building a house and his full time jobs of husband and father, Paul managed to create himself as the consummate and dedicated teacher. Following his promotion to full professor, he was able to envision and develop every class he subsequently taught at the U of O. Figure Study and Anatomy for Artists were two of the big ones. And though he did answer some of the “Call to Artists” of his time, he refrained from answering the in-state calls, not wanting to compete with Oregon’s commercial artists. Maybe you didn’t know that Paul Buckner is a hero with super powers. Some of those powers are thoughtfulness for others, gentleness of spirit and a fairness doctrine second to none.

The new millennium brought retirement from teaching for Paul - almost. He has, since retiring, held open figure study sessions every Friday night at Lane Community College just south of Eugene. I attended on a Friday night this last August, discovering that eight to twenty people come to do clay sculpture or drawings of a live, nude model. Paul knows this is the right way to study the human figure. After five evenings the model changes poses and the students begin again.

 

An added treat for these evenings is Paul’s reading aloud. Yes, listening to Patrick O’Brian’s twenty volume Master and Commander series is just another wonder that comes with being a student of Paul’s. Nine years ago they started with book 1 and are now about half way through book 17, titled Commodore. Several of today’s students have been there since the beginning, and so have gotten to know Navel Officer Jack Aubrey and ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin rather well. Can you think of a better way to work your way through this hugely popular and fascinating series?

 

Throughout his life, Paul has kept faith with his childhood idea that artists must not only do their own art, but must also trust their own evaluation of it. At the end of my visit with Paul, he left me with this quote. “You have to trust yourself to believe in what you’re doing and that it’s worth doing. If you feel joyful while doing it, it will always be worth doing.”

 

Editor’s note: In our next issue: Paul Buckner the Artist.

Spotlight: John Pugh 1936-2008 July/Aug 2008

I wish to thank all those who shared little tidbits of information with me about John. My special thanks go to Beverly Pugh. Her readiness to relate John stories on the phone with someone she’d never met says a lot about her gracious indulgence and her naturally helpful attitude. She never hesitated or put me off, but was always ready to talk, being patiently kind to me each and every time I called with yet another list of questions. Thank you, Beverly.

John was born in Carlton, Oregon in l936 and graduated high school in the class of l955 at the neighboring town of McMinnville. Well, almost. It seems that when they figured it all out, John was short half a credit, so while he marched along to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance with his classmates, he never got his diploma until he went back to school two years later and took a class, making up that missing half credit.

 

While still in his teens, John got a job with what was then called the Bureau of Public Roads, becoming eventually, the Federal Highway Administration. Working as a Civil Engineer/Technician, John became a trouble-shooter for sticky highway problems, the go-to man. Those of us who knew John would not be surprised at this. He was a fixer, the guy who could figure out how to make it work.

 

John Pugh retired from the Government, receiving what was literally called his “final departure” papers, on April 28, l989. He made his final departure from this mortal coil on April 28, 2008. The irony of this was not lost on Beverly, his wife of fifty-one years.

 

But this was not the full story of John’s life, not by a long way. There is that little thing about the discovery of steatite (soapstone) that brought such a huge change to John’s life and to that of his wife Beverly. It affected them both because they always worked side by side in the business.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before the steatite, came gold. One of the many things John got into while a government employee was underwater gold dredging. Busily working one day at his claim on Elliot Creek, the engine for his dredge blew a rod; there was nothing to do but hike back home to get tools and begin repairs. While taking that walk, John literally stumbled upon what was to become the Slide Gulch claim.

This claim yielded black and very dark green stone. John wondered if it might be saleable to the sculpture students at the University of Oregon In Eugene. At this point, his only vehicle for hauling stone from the claim to their home in town was Beverly’s burgundy Cadillac Coupe De Ville. It was just about at this time that John was made to see the wisdom of buying an old Willys Jeep for hauling rock.

 

It was l967, and the students, in those days, had to find their own stone. They bought the entire load from the first Willys trip, and many more after that.

Of course that wasn’t enough for John. He looked further afield and found more and better soapstone on and around the 200 acre mountain that he had to buy because he couldn’t get access any other way. The mountain was south of Grants Pass, Oregon and across the Applegate River; his son, Steven, says, “You can throw a rock into California from here.” These claims were named Hard Pull 1, 2, 3, etc and produced the lovely stuff that was 95% talc and certified asbestos free.

 

John began to stock-pile stone. Some guy from Alaska wanted it. Germany wanted it. Canada ordered hundreds of tons of it, shipping it north on the railroad. For the Canadian contract, John took an eight-month leave-without-pay from his government job. Things were going fine until a carload was lost in a train derailment. The short version of that story is that the Canadian contract was terminated in l979, putting John back on the payroll of his government road-work job.

 

He was traveling a lot now, working on, among other places, the Mt. St. Helens road wash out and Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. This was the period of time that John’s wife Beverly and son Steven ran the stone business, developing a market for carving kits. Each kit contained four 2 ½ X 3 X 4 inch, sawn stones along with 2 files, instructions and templates for a bear, a whale, a bull seal and a Ptarmigan. They sold thousands of them.

 

When John retired from the government in l989, he came back home to his beloved steatite mine. By then the business was booming. But as sometimes happens, father and son did not work well together and Steven left the business in l995.

In 1990, NWSSA member Marge Hunt stopped in Grants Pass to buy stone from John, and told him about our first ever symposium at Camp Brotherhood. The Board invited him to Camp B that year to sell tools and a variety of stone including his own soapstone. John continued with us annually, adding the first Silver Falls symposium to his list in 1994.

 

When John could no longer manage the trips, he put us together with Art City in Ventura, California to sell at all three of our workshops. He also introduced many of us to Trow & Holden Tool Company, and to a beautiful variety of high quality stone. John was a great resource to us in so many ways.

 

In l998 John went to the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia. Following a lengthy treatment regimen, he went back to cutting soapstone, continuing for another three years until poor health forced him to stop.

 

After a long battle, John finally succumbed to Cancer on April 28, 2008. Those of us, who knew him, will never be able to work a particularly fine piece of steatite or a soft and silky piece of soapstone without fondly remembering our friend, John, who brought a lot of it, and so much more, into our lives. With a twinkle in his bright blue eyes and his warm smile, John was an integral part of many of our symposiums. Thank you, John.

Artist Spotlight - Daniel Michael

SN: Could you give us a little of your personal history as it relates to your being an artist?

DM: Most people within NWSSA know me as the “tool man,” since I have been sharing information on power tools at symposia for the past several years. My background in metal fabrication and wood carving brought along acquired knowledge of grinders, sanders, saws, torches and welders. A few years in electronic engineering increased my awareness of mechanical and electrical safety issues.

 

Stone came into my sculptural life about 10 years ago, with hand tools and Tenino sandstone leading the way. It forged an Earth connection that helped restructure my life. It opened a deeper questioning that flowed through the processes of meditation, yoga, tai chi and shamanic quests that have enlivened the sculptural forms that followed. Much of my work forms around this personal search and becomes a practice of unfolding the material of life. Commissioned pieces have allowed sharing the processing and opening with others, a communal space of knowing and explaining through form.

 

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