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Past Shows

Jim Heltsley at the Edward's Art Gallery - Jan/Feb 2008

Jim Heltsley has always carved faces; faces in alabaster, limestone, and feather stone. Recently he has stepped up to the hard stuff and is carving basalt.


His new, basalt shard faces have an elegant look, a knowing presence reminiscent of ancient Pacific cultures and yet they somehow fit in today’s world and, most of them, in your hand. To hold one of Jim’s pieces is to hold the mystery of stone made better.


And just so you won’t think Jim now only carves faces, his December show at the Edmond’s Art Gallery included a Brucite lizard and a Sealskin frog – both forms long time favorites of Jim’s.


Though it is now too late to see Jim as a featured artist in Edmonds, he always has a good variety of his work on display there. If you haven’t been there recently, you really should bump it up on your list of places to go. The owner, Joan Longstaff is making it into a stone sculpture showplace.


Oh sure, she hangs paintings and photographs, virtually every gallery does, but in mid-December there were 39 pieces from 14 NWSSA members. And while we’re doing the numbers, in the last year, Joan Longstaff has sold 34 pieces by 15 of us for just over $16,000. The place has become a de facto NWSSA gallery.


Every month brings a featured stone sculptor. It was Jim Heltsley in December and Jim Tobin will be featured in January and in February.


Even though we can’t always publish articles about these events before they happen, you can always be sure that any time you drop in at the Edmonds Art Gallery you will see lots of wonderful work and you’ll probably know the artist whose name is on that little card with the red dot.

Takirirang Smith: Maori Master Carver at Pack Forest 2007 - March/Apr 2008

Spring cometh and a carver’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Pack Forest! It was a pleasure for me to attend the Pack Forest hand-carving retreat last spring with Takirirangi Smith, a Maori master carver from Porirua City, New Zealand. Takirirangi (pronounced Tak-iri-rahng-i) was a visiting artist during the spring term at The Evergreen State College. A three-year partnership between Te Waka Toi/Creative New Zealand and The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at Evergreen brings a Maori artist to campus each spring for a three-month visit, to work, teach, and present Maori culture to the community. I have a small workspace on campus, which I shared with Takiri. I suggested we go to “Stone Camp,” Takiri agreed, and the Longhouse graciously made it possible for us both to attend.

Takiri has had a diverse background – railway worker, bartender, wool handler, forest service employee, and for the past twenty-five years, Tohunga Whakairo (Master Carver) and teacher. Along the way, he also acquired a doctorate in education, focusing on indigenous knowledge. In addition to Maori carving, Takiri is versed in Maori painting, lashing, tattooing, and other art forms, and he has long experience as a musician, composer, and producer of Maori music. He currently teaches and mentors carvers at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua City, New Zealand, and undertakes carving projects around the country. While at Evergreen, Takiri was busy with a number of mask and relief carvings, what he termed a “small” canoe (16 feet long!), lectures and visits to classes on campus, and travels and talks to various Native American communities and carvers around the Northwest.


At Pack Forest, Takiri was up early each morning for a run on the trails around the reserve. Then it was breakfast and out to carve in the large open-air meeting and dining shelter. George Pratt and Ruth Mueseler provided an excellent introduction to working with Texas limestone, and not surprisingly, Takiri was a quick study. He rapidly roughed out and finished three limestone pieces playing off Maori forms and motifs. Focused he was, and soft-spoken, but his sly jokes and genial good humor engaged everyone and had us laughing.


As a Tohunga Whakairo, Takiri regularly gets called upon to design and execute the complex interior and exterior carvings for Maori meeting houses around New Zealand. He’s also known for his accomplished work as a carver of Maori canoes, and for carved ceremonial and functional works. Takiri presented a selection of this work one evening at Pack Forest, impressing us with the range and scale of his projects, not to mention the skill and elegance of his carvings.


Right after the Pack Forest retreat, Takiri packed up and headed back to New Zealand. Being a carver, he had a truckload of stuff to take home - my students and I built and packed a big, almost truck-sized, crate to follow him, with all his wood, wood tools, books, a set of stone carving tools and even a few rocks. By his own report, he had a great time at Pack Forest, and would love to come back for more NWSSA retreats. He might be the only card-carrying NWSSA member in New Zealand – if we had cards – so look him up if you head that way!


Takiri’s visit to Pack Forest was enriching and fun for him and for members. I hope other Pacific Rim indigenous carvers brought to the Northwest by organizations like the Longhouse can take part in NWSSA retreats in the future. NWSSA has currently made scholarship funds available to cover part of the costs for a Native carver to attend Camp Brotherhood. If you know of a Native carver who could grow and share with us at Camp B contact Arliss Newcomb, camp director: 360-385-7150, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


To talk with Takiri in New Zealand, his email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Going to the Tucson Gem Show...Or Not - March/Apr 2008

Ed. Note: This story was brought to us by Ken Barnes. He is a member of a subscription, stone blog called: Members, including Bill Knight, exchange their thoughts on stone and, occasionally, stories like this one surface.


When Bill’s friend Nick said that he should go to the Tucson Gem Show, Bill initially replied that he would wait to go until after he died. Nick and others said, "Go now Bill." Here is Bill Knight's response.


Nick suggested that it might be best to arrange a visit while still among the living, but you know how it is at shows like that. It's the last day, nobody wants to carry their stock back home, the deals are getting crazy and you find yourself being offered a great deal on a small, exquisite lapis lazuli boulder, which even though it's a great price, is still way out of your comfort zone.


But you've come all this way, and consider the fact that you're here already. Any enterprising person you might imagine, if only you could think, would surely capitalize on such a ready discount. Wouldn't they? Are you no sort of businessperson at all? Have you no ambition?


In your more sober moments you know perfectly well you're not, and that in general you don't, but are you able to speak truth to yourself when the stone's talk is all flattery, when it is the color of a bluebird, when there is nothing keeping you from it but the sheer fabric of your lips pressed against the "yes" that is rising in your throat? When you can't see yourself having any kind of future if it doesn't have this stone in it? You've never had the chance to try a material like this. Think of what it could do for your hopeless career, your tired imagination, the clichés of your past. A stone like this could announce a new age of understanding; your unraveling personal history might be unified into a single gesture written in that forgiving, fluorescent blue. No, not just your own story. The story of the world!




Best to stay home with your family and the stones you know, and who know you. That lapis is a midnight cowboy, a high dollar hustler. And you're no Howard Hughes. There'll be time enough for rock shows when you're dead.


Oh my god.  Look!  It's brecciated chalcedony. What a hunk!