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The weather was wild for much of the weekend, but even the frequent and heavy rains failed to dampen the spirits of the carvers at the 2008 NWSSA Hand carving Symposium. Under the pavilion at the Pack Forest Conference Center, and around the campfire beside it, we all shared an incredible weekend of fellowship and artistry.


Everyone who attended the event brought his or her warm spirits, funny stories, and unique artistic talents. Although many of us had never met before, we soon began to bond as a group. By the end of the symposium, it felt like we were all old friends.


The instructors were fantastic to work with, each with a wide range of insights and advice to offer. At least a few of us were carving stone for the very first time, and each instructor took the time to circulate among all of us. It was a pleasure to become acquainted with each of them, as they visited us at our workstations. But it was equally exciting to have a chance to watch them at work, and ask them questions about technique, from that perspective as well.


Karl Hufbauer played roles as event director and instructor. True to his reputation as a carver of hard stone, Karl chipped away at a big piece of jasper for much of that weekend. Although we were primarily carving softer stone, it was great to be able to get some advice from Karl about working hard stone, as well.


Tracy Powell gave me my first instruction, showing me some basic removal techniques on a large chunk of Texas limestone. He demonstrated the use of several types of chisels, and offered advice on how to grip the tools comfortably and safely. He also stressed the importance of good posture, taking frequent breaks and stretching out periodically in order to ward off fatigue.


Sharon Feeney, like the other instructors, was generous not only with her time but with her talent and her tools. Sharon’s subtle treatment of a tall obelisk of soapstone, transforming it into a graceful figure of a Great Blue Heron at rest, was amazing to watch. While taking breaks from carving, she was very supportive and encouraging to all of us newcomers.


Arliss Newcomb gave me two beautiful pieces of alabaster, the larger one of which I carved that weekend. It was a slab roughly the size and shape of a big footprint, and first reminded me of the surf crashing on the beach. In the end, I named it Madrona for the tree-form I ended up carving out of it. I was amazed to flip through Arliss’ portfolio. I found her work extremely inspiring.


Rich Andler and Lane Tompkins also proved to be great mentors and artists in their own rights. All of the instructors, mentors, and students alike, helped to make this a wonderful event.


Scott Hackney and Kentaro Kojima of Marenakos Rock Center in Issaquah, Washington brought some of their stone as well as a pallet from Randy Zieber of BC, Canada and one from Art City in Ventura California. Kentaro manned the sales desk for most of the weekend to sell us stone, tools, books and a variety of carving accessories.


On Saturday, activities included a blacksmithing lesson on tool making, offered by Al Mangold, one our first time carvers. Later that afternoon, Karl and Tracy gave a lesson on scoring and pitching techniques, in which they selected a boulder of granite, and proceeded to remove substantial chunks of the stone with apparent ease, using a large chisel and mallet.


Any re-telling of the weekend’s highlights would be incomplete without an account of Saturday night’s auction! It was my pleasure to serve as a sort of assistant to Tom Francis, our Auctioneer and Master of Ceremonies. We had a ton of fun that night, clowning about and raising money for NWSSA’s instructors and the work-study program, which enables people like me to attend these events and get connected with the organization.


Toward the end of the evening, Lane and Scott provided lots of laughs for all of us, by performing their annual waltz, in kilts and boots! Truly, an unforgettable sight!


All who attended the symposium are fine artists and fabulous people. I only wish that there had been more time to get to know more of you in greater detail.


I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it all, and was a little sad when it was over. I hope to be able to attend Camp Brotherhood, in July. I look forward to seeing you all again, and thank each and every one of you for a Pack Forest experience that I will always remember.