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Sculptfest 2019

"Pause", The Bear in place for 2019-2020 by Carl NelsonFor 27 years the City of Round Rock, Texas, has held the three day SculptFest event.  Along with 60 other artists, I was invited to display my sculpture at SculptFest 2019, and to leave my large bear sculpture “Pause” on display for one year.  Special thanks to Candyce Garrett for making it happen for me.

SculptFest 2019 Stone CarversBeing at SculptFest was a great way to meet other sculptors and see a lot of sculpture.  There were large and small bronzes, cloth and fiber constructions, wood, and of course stone.  I have to admit, I was so involved with the initial setup, talking to the public, and getting to know the other artists that I did not take many pictures of the sculpture.  SculptFest the previous year had 24 of Alan Houser’s large bronze pieces, which made for a surreal occurrence of his work being moved out while Candyce and Jason moved in their stone work.

Photo: I felt very honored to be a part of the group of stone carvers Candyce asked to participate in the event (left to right) Myself,  Larry Yazzie, Jason Quigno, Tony Lee, Candyce Jones Garrett, Cliff Fragua, Ray Scott, Adrian Wall and Jon DeCelles.]

I also traded off between my Sculptor hat and my NWSSA hat while a part of SculptFest, including in conversations with Joe Kenny, president of the Texas Society of Sculptors.  We talked about NWSSA’s support of a new veterans sculpting program, and Joe put us in touch with Continental Cut Stone who donated 3000 lbs of limestone from their bone yard for use in support of our efforts.  Jason Quigno accompanied me to select and pickup stone from Continental.   

Our visit to the Continental Cut Stone boneyard and this is a small fraction.  Jason Quigno immediately had to figure out how to take this quarry block home, or at least have his photo taken with it 

Given that I drove the boom truck from Washington to Texas, I also had the opportunity to visit other stone yards and quarries on the way home.  Marble Falls, Texas is home to Coldspring Granite and Sandra D. Connors, who has much wisdom in selling stone to sculptors, is the holder of the keys to the Coldspring Granite Texas candy store.  She gave Jason Quigno, Larry Yazzie, and me a tour of their stone yard and arranged for their quarry manager, Terry, to take us into the quarry to explain how they do it. The yard and quarry are an impressive place to shop. If you ever need reds or dark grey-black granite, contact Sandra.  And by the way, Marble Falls is misnamed, there is no marble there. 

Calcite: Wonderful dendritic patternsThe final leg of the return trip took me about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City to Rick and Jean’s honeycomb calcite yard, the Shamrock Mining Association in Hanna Utah.  Honeycomb Calcite is what happens when a limestone cave is pushed down into the earth and the calcium from the limestone is leached, fills the cave, is baked for millions of years, pushed back up, and then some folks quarry and bring it down the mountain for us to carve.  I'd characterize the workability of this stone as a medium to soft marble.  The weakest places can be, but not always, the large white seams between the solid yellow and orange areas.  Dark red lines in some of the stones are very solid fractures that have healed. Rick calls them dinosaur blood seams.

Given that I came early in their season, snow was late to leave this year and Rick was generous with his time. He showed me their shop with wire saw, projects in process, some of their processing techniques, and a machine he built for coring from a 4” pipe threader.  Once out in their yard he was helpful in pointing out the color patterns and solid stones for carving. Later, before I left with over 3000# of stone, Jean showed me some of the jewelry she makes from the calcite.  There is a lot of stone available, and equipment to help load it.

I’ll return next year to pickup the bear and am thinking of organizing a one time stone buy for NWSSA members. Stay tuned.

Ways of Knowing

Bob Leverich’s Commission by the Washington State Arts Commission
to create a sculpture on the grounds of Vashon Island High School.
Ravensdale Quarry Boulder SplitVery early on a Saturday back in June, 2017, we loaded my pick-up with a generator and lots of supplies and headed to the Ravensdale gravel quarry to make this successful boulder split.

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We Don't Make Mistakes

Happy Accidents - Bob Ross“We don’t make mistakes, we just make happy accidents.” - Bob Ross


Every writer at some point will experience writer's block. Carvers too can have the experience of feeling as though they have come to a creative dead end. Sometimes facing a new stone is all it takes.

Unless we have A Plan. Often we carve from a maquette. Following the original design precisely. Sometimes we begin with a drawing on paper and transfer it exactly to a grid on a block of dimensional stone.

Or, sometimes, we just direct carve.

We may begin with an idea, or we may just let our mind float. Go on automatic and get lost in the shapes and texture and color of the stone.

Or we might come up with nothing. That’s the time to invite your muse in and listen to what she has to say. Maybe something like this:

Anything you want to do you can do here. Maybe there’s a figure ready to leap from the stone. Maybe there’s an abstract inside. Often it just happens - whether or not you worried about it or tried to plan it.

Isn’t it great to do something you can’t fail at? We spend so much of our life looking - but never seeing. Now’s the chance to see our inner vision and translate it to stone.

Talent is a pursued interest. That is to say, anything you practice you can do. And the more you practice, the better you get.

No pressure. Just relax and watch it happen. The least little curve can do so much.

Don’t hurry. Take your time and enjoy. Let all these things just sort of happen. Chip a little away from here, make a swoop there, create a space.

Grind off a third of the stone. Smooth out bumps. Create bumps.

All you have to do is let your imagination off the leash. There’s really no end to this. Have a little bit of fun.

Come on. Pick up a tool. Let’s get started.

The editors thank Bob Ross for the inspiration for the above suggestions.

4 Culture

4Culture is an organization that provides cultural funding and support in King County, WA. In recent years they have awarded NWSSA two Equipment Grants (which included upgrading our computer equipment), and we were awarded a Sustained Support grant for 2017 and 2018 for $2200 per year.

Grants can be a really wonderful resource for artists, particularly for our members since the startup costs for a stone sculpture studio are greater than for most mediums.As a student, I benefitted indirectly from at least 3 grants when other artists hired me to assist with their grant-funded projects, and as an artist, I have received two invaluable grants to support my own work. It takes time and effort and the risk of rejection, but regardless of the results, the process can help you clarify your goals and learn how to better communicate your ideas.
4culture.org Logo

4Culture.org is a great resource for NWSSA both as an organization and for individuals based in King County, WA. One of my last acts in my thirty-three years as a King County resident was to create my sculpture “KnowTime,” previously highlighted in the July/August 2017 edition of Sculpture NorthWest. I had plenty of help getting that sculpture made, and a primary resource was a $1500 grant I received under the program, “Open 4Culture.” This grant is specifically designed to help those new to the grant process, and it has a rolling deadline so one can apply any time. If you are aKing County resident, I highly encourage you to take advantage of this program - they will help walk you through it if you have questions- they want you to succeed! Once you have successfully navigated this entry level grant program, it gives you an edge in applying to Project Grants. Both programs help you take on the upfront expenses of larger projects so that you can expand into new areas. For me, I wanted to have at least one large-scale portfolio piece for applying to public art projects. For you, it could be any number of possibilities.

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The Egyptian

by Frank Rose
The Egyptian by Frank RoseFrom early grade school, I was interested in art. Although I spent a good part of my early life on the high seas with the US Navy, I always took the opportunity to view art in Asian and European cities and while on shore duty stations, I attended life drawing and painting classes offered at local colleges. My most enjoyable learning experience in life drawing and oil painting took place at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Many of the art teachers working there were highly successful artists.About eight or ten years ago I rented a small space at the Freeland Art Studios on Whidbey Island, primarily to create water-based clay portraiture. 
I began with a water based Clay MaquetteThe clay portraiture process taught me how hard it is to get a likeness and to keep it once found. It also helped me to better understand the construction of the cranium, allowing me to create a very credible portrait of someone that I have never met. 
Working in stone was not completely my idea. As it turned out, about a year and half ago, I was challenged by studio associates Sue Taves, Lloyd Whannell, Woody Morris, Lane Tompkins and Penelope Crittenden to create a life-size portrait, using only hand tools, in one-sixth of a limestone column measuring 13x13 inches x 5 1/2 feet high. It was Texas limestone, soft white, clean and beautiful throughout, a gift to the Freeland Art Studios by the very generous Scott Hackney of the Marenakos Rock Center.

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