I would like to pay homage to all of those unfortunate people out there who, by self-infliction, or through no fault of their own except a had gene pool, live with, are related to, or just plain see too much of stone carvers. Now I'm not saying that we aren't a swell group of extremely deep and meaningful people, who have a special "gift" to bestow upon the ages, but like most driven individuals we often forget to express our appreciation for those who hold us together.


First thank yous go to the Lindas, Eds, Larrys, Dougs, et al lot' of partners of NWSSA members who help not only the individual artists, but consistently come to the aid of the pack. They strain their backs, muck up their cars, loan us their homes and places of business, and often get real messy for not ouly "their" sculptor, but bunches of us. The fact that there are hundreds of carvers roaming the Northwest, chisels in hand, being passionate with stone, would be enough to make most people run for the hills. So thanks to the many of you who stay and help keep us sane. Take solace in the fact that we as a group notice and appreciate your support and that your special carving partner has been marked for instant public harassment or possible replacement if they aren't appreciative enough for all of us.


If your significant other does not do group therapy that doesn't in the least diminish their contribution to your stone addiction and/or the overall health of the association. So carvers out there grab that important person in your life and lay one on them. Say thanks for hanging in, because, let's face it, being with a stone carver isn't always the little bit of artistic bliss we would like people to think it is. Take it from me, having been both married and single while a sculptor, we do have a few drawbacks.


For instance, we are often very. very dirty. Well, more like dusty, but not your walk-in-the-Sedona-sunset-dusty, it's your roll-around-in-the-possibly-toxic-stuff-in-the-old-drought-driedriverbed dusty. When you first meet one of us performing our act, I suppose there is an initial "Oh don't they look cute/rugged/intriguing/macho/butchll shouldn't touch them but I want to" allure. But if that "look" had any kind of lasting turnon effect, there would be a "Messy Guys" calendar, magazines like "Dusty Girls", or movies like "Daisy Dusts Davey".


Our lovely wardrobes also have no real universal appeal. So we better come up with more than a few thanks for putting up with our general ambiance, or we may all be forced to write a personal ad. "DWF (insert your personally appropriate consonants) - Nice but very dusty. Looking for someone to sharpen tools with. Favorite cartoon character - Pig Pen. Must live in highly industrialized or wilderness area. Reliable income important - mine isn't. "


A few flowers should be bestowed for all the great social events we drag our important people 10. Have you ever considered how few dates you'd get if you asked someone to go stand in a gallery for a minimum of three hours, drinking mediocre wine or warmish seltzer and eating stale pretzels. They get to listen to you tell endless strangers pretend figures about how long it takes to do a sculpture and watch your teeth grind when told what a pretty stone it is. If they are really lucky and your relationship gets serious, they can do this over and over, culminating in the thrill of getting to prop up your ego every time you don't sell a piece.


Most undoubtedly the reason the important people in our lives hang around is our idea of what a great vacation is. "Hey Honey! I'm going to use my two weeks of vacation time and take you to Mt. Vernon, Washington. You can stand around in a field all day, breathing in lot, of interesting stuff, wear ear plugs and see the most incredibly bad choices in headware ever brought together in one place at one time. The evenings will be rich with endless slide shows, rock beating and discussions on the proper way to polish almost anything. The fact that you don't carve and have no interest in learning is just fine because we can even shop together for my stone and tools."


We do have to be honest with ourselves and admit that as wonderful as our symposia are for our carving souls. as welcome as we try to make our loved ones feel, we're not exactly offering up the work related trip to New York City or Palm Springs that some jobs have. Even if they were in the best places, I went to plenty of spouse related conventions over the years, and it's hard to sit 24 hours a day and listen to any group, whether they are CPA's or astronauts, live and talk about what they do if you don't share their passion.


Which brings me to another topic. Sculptors are artists; artists are usually passionate; passionate people are generally passionate about more than just the sexual aspects of their lives; so buyer beware. All that great enthusiasm we claim to have can also come packaged in overdrive and despair from time to time. Along the same vein, don't forget that "Not tonight, I'm tired from grinding all day" can be just as annoying as the old headache line.


It's not only our lovers, et al, who deserve thanks, but our kids, parents, and non-carving close friends. Have you ever thought how boring our discussions on abrasives, pricing, someone else's sales, delusions of grandeur, or moanings of failure can be? I have to remind myself not to go on and on to my chemist friend, or I'll "owe" her hours of conversation on the molecular make-up of toilet paper.


So say thanks to all of those who put up with and support us in so many ways. After a long day of carving, glance at the mess in your studio and then track residue into the house. Look in the mirror, and remember the people who believe in what you do and why you do it. Not everyone is as rich as we are.