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Symposia - General Info

The Dojo

Instructor Tracy Powell Demonstrating how to carve limestone in the DojoBy Tamara Buchanan

At each NWSSA International Symposium our organization creates an area where persons who have never carved, or haven’t carved for a long time, have an opportunity to create a stone sculpture. A large tent is provided. Work tables and bankers are available. All manner and types of tools can be checked out to use. An experienced sculptor is present to make sure that anyone can get started on a project, learn about safety, tool use, stone selection, design and more.

This area has always been called “the beginner’s tent.” The term has never been a true fit for this special place. The area is so much more than a place for 1st time carvers. It is a “seed bed” for people who want to try something new, for carvers who haven’t touched a stone in years and want a refresher, for experienced carvers who want to try out a new tool, work out a design problem, or just need advice on a project. It’s really an on-field hub.

This year, as we set up the tent area, I expressed my exasperation of the term “beginner’s tent” to those who were helping ...but I had no alternative name. The next day, a work-study fellow, Grant, suggested “The Dojo.” I was familiar with the word as we have a Dojo on Lopez Island. It’s a peaceful building in the woods that is used by various groups as a place to exercise, sing, or meditate. The word for me meant a place that was inclusive, inviting, and open. It felt right to me, but was it just a little too “strange” for our group?Attendees going about their work in the welcoming space of the Dojo

Wikipedia says: “A dōjō (道場) is a hall or space for immersive learning or meditation. This is traditionally in the field of martial arts, but has been seen increasingly in other fields, such as meditation and software development. The term literally means "place of the Way" in Japanese. “

“Immersive learning” is certainly what we’re about in our Dojo. The learning often involves stone, or tools, or learning about’s all up to you. As the week progressed, the term The Dojo was embraced by many. Our Dojo was a place of great learning, much patience, and a good share of happiness.

Symposium Terms & Conditions


As a participant in the Northwest Stone Sculptor Association’s Symposium retreat at Camp Pilgrim Firs and Conference Center
near Port Orchard, WA from July 7 – 15th, 2018.  I hereby acknowledge, affirm and represent as follows:

1: I understand and acknowledge that the retreat will take place both in and out-of-doors. I am aware of the risks associated with activities that take place out of doors, including but not limited to the hazards of traveling in unfamiliar terrain, exposure to sun, rain, wind, unexpected temperature changes and other forces of nature; exposure to poisonous plants and vegetation, wild animals and insects, and accidents or illness in remote places without medical facilities. I am aware of basic safety rules for out of door activities. I will obey and follow any further safety information, instruction or rules offered at the retreat.

2: I understand and acknowledge that the retreat will primarily involve instruction and demonstration in stone and wood handling, cutting, and sculpting. I am aware of the inherent risks associated with these activities, including but not limited to respiratory and musculoskeletal hazards. I am aware of the inherent risks of handling hand and power tools. I will obey and follow any further safety information, instruction or rules offered at the retreat.

3: I represent and affirm that I am in good health and am physically fit and fully capable to participate in the retreat. I have no allergies, heart problems, epilepsy, physical or mental disabilities or any other medical condition that would place me or the other participants in the retreat at risk of harm or injury.

4: I understand I am responsible for my own safety and or happiness that no one associated with the retreat shall serve as the guardian of my safety and or happiness. I also understand that I am to furnish any equipment or tools I use at the retreat and that I am solely responsible for ensuring such equipment or tools are in safe and good operating condition.

5: In consideration of an as part payment for the right to participate in the retreat and any activities that take place in association with the retreat, I hereby assume full liability for all risks associated with my participation in the retreat and expressly release and hold harmless the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association and Camp Pilgrim Firs and Conference Center, their owners, operators, agents and instructors from any and all liability, action, causes of action, debts, claims and demands of every kind and nature whatsoever which may arise out of or in connection with my participation in the retreat, including but not limited to any occurrence which may result in injury, death or other damages to me or my person. I understand that the terms of this assumption of risk of liability shall also serve as an assumption of risk and release of liability for all members of my family (including minors accompanying me), my heirs and assigns.

6: I consent to allow NWSSA to use images of myself and/or my art in order to document this event or to promote this and other NWSSA events.

7: I represent and affirm that I am over 18 years of age and that I am legally competent to sign this release of liability. I further represent and affirm that I have signed this release as my own free act.



Safety for Sculptors

Northwest Stone Sculptors Symposium at Camp Pilgrim Firs & Camp Suttle Lake
Eye, Ear & Resp Protection

WELCOME to our creative place where everyone is on the safety team and helps to ensure an enjoyable time for all, including our visitors. Be aware of the safe use of tools and considerate toward protection of the grounds and camp facilities. Drive slowly (15 mph) and watch for pedestrians and wildlife.

PERSONAL SAFETY is #1, Wear clothing and footwear that is safe to work in at camp. Safety gear for eyes, ears, and respiratory system is required. Be careful on uneven surfaces and use a light after dark. We want a safe and trusting time with other artists.

SAFE TOOLS & WORK AREA is your responsibility, so keep your workspace safe at all times, and secure it when you are not present. Unplug all power tools when you’re away. Electrical connections should be protected from moisture, particularly at night. Be mindful of your flying chips and the dust you create. Be prepared to add extra sides to your canopy for excessive dust, or to be asked to work in a different area. Inspect your power tools, hand tools, electrical cords, and all connections each day for proper working condition. Visitors may not use or handle your power or pneumatic tools.

VEHICLES Drive slowly!!! Drivers must keep an eye out for people and equipment while driving on the work field and camp areas. If the driver is unsure or backing up, the driver must ask for someone to guide and spot them.
Group Demonstration
DRUG & ALCOHOL POLICY Consumption or possession of alcohol by any guest under 21 on Camp property is strictly prohibited. Consumption is not allowed on the field while power tools are in use.
The use or possession of illegal substances/drugs on Camp property is strictly prohibited.

SMOKING The Camp enforces a no smoking policy in all of their facilities. You may smoke outdoors. You must carefully extinguish all cigarettes to reduce the risk of fire and appropriately dispose of cigarette butts.

DEMONSTRATIONS Please remember to wear safety protection while attending instructor demonstrations.

PERSONAL PROPERTY is your responsibility: tools, equipment and your sculptures on exhibit.

VISITORS Visitors are welcome and should check in with staff upon arrival. Eye, hearing and respiratory protection should be worn while observing work in the carving area.

Thank you, and Carve Proud!

Northwest Stone Sculptors Symposium

What to Bring to the Jade Carving Workshop

Jade Carving Workshop

Deborah Wilson recommends that if you have the following items, you should bring them for the Jade Carving Workshop Jade Carving Workshop at Suttle Lake

• Respirator (3M has a good silicone rubber one)
• Waterproof Apron… if you have one
• Rubber boots, again only if you have a pair
• Ear plugs!! Very important (she recommends the foam disposable ones) and bring a small case to put them in.
• Safety glasses or visor
Bandana - keeps the dust out if your hair
• Rubber gloves, optional
• Sketch pad and pencils etc.
• Plasticine for making maquettes. She usually brings some with her as well.
• Thumb drive to download jade tooling and carving information

Keep in mind, there is an additional materials fee, depending upon the size and quality of jade you select for your project. 

About NWSSA Symposia

NWSSA hosts two a year: Suttle Lake (Sisters) Symposium (for over 25 years) in Oregon State, and Camp Pilgrim Firs Symposium (for over 32 years) in Washington State. Both symposia offer something for sculptors at all levels. Beginners and intermediate carvers come to learn, grow as artists, and try new things in a supportive environment. Professional sculptors gather to work on projects, share information, get inspiration,  and often to help beginners.

Stone and tools are available for purchase from knowledgeable vendors who know the business and are carvers, too. The teachers vary from year to year, but the overriding theme of our symposiums is always the generous sharing of information with all attendees.

For those who attend it is a working holiday with like-minded folks while being fed three meals a day surrounded by everything to do with stone. Evenings are spent by the fire swapping stories, making new friends, and catching up with connections made from past symposiums.

Symposium price discounts are given to attendees who are NWSSA members.

For more information on how to become a member click here.