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For those of you not at this symposium, you missed a very unique experience.  The setting in the Westcott Bay Preserve and the Institute’s hospitality (, the weather, the preparations of the organizers, the attendees, and our guest carver Keith Phillips, all contributed to an unforgettable experience.  Especially the early morning bagpipe reveille.


I was concerned on the ferry ride in the rain from Anacortes that we were in for an ordeal.  I was pleased (elated) to see the pavilion-type tents set up on the lawn: I didn’t have to set up my own flimsy canopy.  The big one did a better job of controlling the wind when the tent picked up in the afternoons. But the rain stopped, and the next morning was ushered in by the sun.  The dining pavilion was another tent, with propane heaters to kill the evening chill. The uneven ground required a bit of care eating on the sloping tables.  It served nicely for the auction house, too.


The next three days were sunny, afternoons warming to shirtsleeve temperatures from early morning frosts, and night skies were full of stars.  With all the streetlights and light pollution in the metropolitan area one forgets what a star-studded sky looks like. Lots of individual canopies popped up on the lawn around the pavilion tent as newcomers staked their claim. The 19 acre sculpture park provided a convenient opportunity for a break from one’s work, and inspiration from the many artworks displayed. It’s amazing how much better sculpting is in the sunshine.  Lots of noise, dust, and chips were created as enthusiastic sculptors worked on the stones Marenako’s provided.


Keith’s Thursday evening slide show in Roche Harbor Resort’s meeting hall about the Tenino quarry and examples of stonework masked his sense of humor.  It surfaced more during the daily classes on tools, materials, and moving large stones (more on Keith’s teachings in the article on page 12).


A small roundtable (circle of chairs) discussion on commissions was informative: Respect yourself, including your ideals and time, in dealing with a client; it’s not your responsibility to know what a client can afford. Create a scope of work he can afford, or let him save up his money. Keep involved in the project. Don’t provide free models.  Question the premise: do you want a two-year project, hassles with the committee, no time for other inspiring work?  A consolidation of recommendations may be issued during the next year by the interested members, with legal insights provided by Bill Weissinger.


Tom Small led a four 4-wheel-drive-vehicle expedition for lucky members to his home out on the hills.  It’s probably as far from anywhere as one can get on the island.  Tom has his works-in-progress scattered along the last fifty yards of the dirt road to his home overlooking the San Juan Islands.  Several structures provide shelter from the elements, and stone is scattered and placed around to suit the fantasies of this low-key genius.  A table is crowded with “experiments” where ideas are tested. Another has models of wood, stone and foam presenting abstractions for study. Chips and shards are everywhere. The exposure early in his career to NW Indian art, as presented in an evening slide show, is in evidence all around.  A few finished pieces in the natural setting added to the appreciation of this member’s talents.


Sunday the weather turned sour with spitting rain and strong winds.  Most of us started packing up in the afternoon, as the Institute was sponsoring an art show in Friday Harbor, with the gala reception in the evening. Hors de oeuvres and wine kept the crowd in motion, almost too many people for the relatively small space.  The exhibited sculptures were an amazing representation of skills and imagination. We were on our own for dinner plans, and about a dozen of us invaded the fancy restaurant at Roche Harbor for a sumptuous repast.  I love these symposia where opportunities like this pop up.


With weather getting rainier I loaded my gear after dinner for an early morning drive to Friday Harbor to wait for the ferry.  One of my roommates having moved out I opted to forget the earplugs for sleeping.  Wrong move!  The wind howled and caused the range hood’s backdraft damper to chatter, the refrigerator’s rattle seemed never-ending, electric heaters creaked and popped.  At least there was no bagpipe reveille.  I made the ferry with time to spare, and enjoyed the sunny ferry ride back to the everyday world, recalling the memorable events and inspiration collected for the not-so-great days ahead back in town.