At first, I thought I must have been the only person in history whose life had been changed in such a dramatic and exquisite way by a first brush with stone carving. No one could possibly understand my childish delight or my immediate addiction to actually be able to remove stone from around the desired object. My naiveté, however, was short-lived. Indeed, everyone around me knew exactly how I felt and had had similar reactions to their own first experiences with stone carving. I was introduced to and welcomed into a whole new world.
I stumbled upon NWSSA by accident, just in time to register for the May Retreat. Lane Tompkins called me to make sure I understood all the details and to offer support to a newcomer. He assured me that everyone was friendly, open, and willing to share knowledge, which proved to be a wonderful understatement. I was so impressed with the delightful variety of people—all ages, backgrounds, and personalities—speaking the same language: stone. Right off the bat, Terry Slaton gave me a beautiful piece of coral alabaster. Both George Pratt and Ruth Mueselor seemed to pay extra attention to me (probably the teacher in both of them—making us all feel special). Everyone worked hard on their own projects but took time to look at others’ projects and to ask for and offer advice. It was interesting to observe the pleasure of old friendships and new ones developing. The evenings were filled with good wine and conversation in a perfect setting—beautiful, quiet, and peaceful, at least until the Saturday night auction. The highlight of the auction, of course, was the sight of Lane Tompkins and Scott Hackney dancing for us in their kilts.
One of the things I noticed immediately after the Retreat was that I began to observe the world around me in a much more detailed way than ever before. I think about the shapes of things rather than just seeing the shapes. I find myself daydreaming about carving a cloud captured in my mind at the perfect moment, and I find myself actually carving something that takes a very different turn from my original intent, as my new friends told me I would. Listen to the stone, they said: it will speak to you. And it does.
I have acquired new tools, some very nice Italian rifflers and some hardware-store saws, as well as a small carbide-tipped welding tool called a scribe—like a tiny ballpoint pen. My purist days are behind me; I plan to order some power tools soon, acquiescence to my impatience and my arms and hands. I’ve decided that I’d like to have some hand and arm movement left at the end of the day to at least be able to cut flowers for the dinner table!
Thanks to all of you who made my first encounter with the “stone life” such a pleasure. I am hooked for life.