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Going Once, Going Twice... - July/Aug 1999

AUCTION! The very sound of the word conjures np thoughts and memories of exciting times. Coupled with a group of stone sculptors composed of both longtime friends and newcomers, and their various idiosyncrasies, a wonderful, exciting, and hilarious event occurs.


Steve Sandry and Brian Berman shared auctioneer duties, assisted by various spotters to identify bidders' numbers on the waving plates. Items varied from silver earrings to 1 00 pounds of marble, from $5 to $150. A beanie-baby-style frog bath scrubber was one of the first items; other items included books, tools, and other items useful to our pursuits (tarps, gloves, overalls with moon dust in the pockets, diamond finishing disks, stones, finished pieces, ceramic masks, original watercolors of the camp and some attendees, jewelry, and more) and took over two hours to sell. Over $4,000 was raised for the symposium scholarship fund!


And there wasn't any reluctance from the audience to offer advice and comments during the bidding. The strap-on water-cooling kit might serve as a portable bidet or enema device; the small stone cube with smiling/frowning faces on opposite sides could serve as an invitation/warning at a studio entrance of the sculptor's mood. Steve's antics with the back brace and the "sound of Velcro" elicited an interesting comment that it sounded like lingerie, which generated more hilarious comments. The "Get serviced at Larry's" license plates were derided with "I want to meet him first" and "1 know Larry. How about somebody else?" The "History of Art" book really got knocked by the art majors. "I need it for a seat lift for my grandson"; "I want a copy to burn"; a bid of 50 cents was received; suggested uses were to press flowers and look impressive on a bookshelf. Brian performed with a Y2K noodle maker, guaranteed to pass into the new millennium withant any glitches. Kirk McLean waved his plate in front of Steve a few times, annoying him, nntil he realized Kirk was bidding. Leon White, one of the volunteers keeping track of the bidding, mumbled "sold to Leon for $40" as the bidding on one item continued past $50. A "unique" 4'x4' framed pencil portrait was unsigned, but Steve said he would sign it for the successful bidder. Sterling and Ellie Williamson, from Virginia, were trying, unsuccessfully, to hold each other back from bidding, due to the logistics of transportation. The story of the carTy-on 70 pound granite basin will be interesting to hear next time we see them. It was rumored there was still room on their second pallet when they left. Ruth Mueseler stared down one competitor, and Verna Dice teamed with Becky Kosowski to shout down another. Terry Slaton's close bidding (to 10 cents) on the respirator (German gas mask with canister) probably only gained him a unique Halloween mask. (Further recollections at home, after the wine wore off, were that this had been auctioned off at some previous NWSSA symposium. Perhaps it should become a permanent auction item with a bidder's nameplate, like a trophy.) Ken Barnes came up with a great idea for those members who had all the stnff they needed, or had no room to cart anything home with them: bid on nothing' Over $1000 was raised just selling pledges for $10 to $150! Everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time.


Thanks to all (bidders and planners) for a great event!

Silver Falls Smiles - Sept/Oct 1999

IT DID HAPPEN! Silver Falls Sculpting Symposium had plenty of sunshine: ole sol sunshine and heartfelt sunshine. August 25 through 29 were glorious days for so many happy face memories.


So, here I am leaving Silver Falls, Oregon, Symposium #4, driving out of old growth cedars, alders, maples, giant firs dripping with dew and spanish moss and I'm smiling. What a place! This silly smile has been on my face for three days: under my air respirator, during the meals, while I'm sleeping, even while drinking Red Dog Beer (ugh) around a campfire and paying John Pugh's bill. I have had one tremendous experience.


I could tell you about the high level of instruction: Tom, Devin, David, Laura and Paul. I probably should because they are the reason I came. But, I expected the best and I got it. Check! And I couldn't help but give kudos to the food. Rumors have it Camp Brotherhood will try again with a new chef next year. All I can say is the gal at Silver Falls better stay put. None of us missed a meal-ever! Check!


The electricity worked. The compressor was gigantic. The shade was shared. The water was cool. Check! Check! Check! Check! John Pugh was with trailer, stones and accepting credit cards. Check! Caroline Anderson! Check!!!


But, what really made this silly smile was-the people. Now, I know you have all heard this line before, but, how many times in your life do you really meet up with a group of people you have never even seen before and feel such a oneness injust a few hours. Yes, everyone helpseveryone. Some problems even I could help with. Conversations were so interesting and ranged from bird calls to politics, to stars, to quantum physics, to health, to just total appreciation of each other and Caroline Anderson. This was truly a group of heart! And smiles! How on earth could such a group have come together to share a sparkle of art and time glowing with memories? I'm thankful it did, and I was there.


I am so thankful to Mark Andrew for all his coordination and hard work. And Kathy Ellis for her planning and organization and creating a T-shirt that will bring that smile out every time I wear it. And Penelope Crittenden for making all that paper function and smoothing out any unseen wrinkle. And all the biggies from NWSSA that support and encourage like Vic, Rich, and Ron. Thank you! Here I am-just grinning all over again!

Stone Dust: Camp Brotherhood Musings - Sept/Oct 1999

This valley and environs, graced by evergreen mountains, houses, a gathering of people with artistic souls. We work under tents-no two are alike-in the valley itself where we pick diverse stones from a designated rock pile and purchase them on the spot.


Some sleep in tents in the valley, not too far from outhouses; others sleep in lodges on surrounding hills. We all share meals and laughter at the main lodge or under a roof in the valley.

Some days, in the mist, clouds and fog hang over the mountains. Other days are sunny, an inviting contrast. Only on clear days do we swim in the pool after work is done.


During day, profound energy is expended in the valley; this is a workshop for stone sculptors from far and near, plying their craft with hand tools and power tools. I can sit on the deck of our lodge on a hill overlooking the colorful tent village and hear chinks of a hammer and chisel and the drill of a diamond grinder, plugged into the generator, located mid-field. Stones more easily penetrated are soapstone, limestone, and alabaster. Marble, serpentine, and granite are harder. Earplugs keep out the noise, gloves protect the hands, masks keep the lungs free of stone dust, and goggles prevent chips from injuring the eyes.


There are people from the wide world: The small, wiry, middle-age man from Peru is sculpting, out of alabaster, a mythical madonna holding two babies in her arms; however her feet are those of an eagle. The engaging, sensitive young man from Iraq who had rebelled against Saddam Hussein while in his early twenties, only to find himself in a refugee camp for several years, is sculpting a graceful woman's naked figure out of Colorado Yule marble. The fifty -one year-old serious man from Japan is sculpting an exquisite, simple egg out of serpentine. The attractive blond woman from Germany, originally from Norway, is sculpting a huge, rounded vessel out of granite. The friendly man, who teaches art in high schools in Toronto, Canada, originally from Germany, is sculpting a fetching, stylized bear out of white alabaster. And the bearded man from the United States is sculpting an energetic, abstract, granite piece. He has been sculpting for thirtyfive years, since his last year at Stanford when he was studying biology.


Communication is not a problem; our first language is stone. "Not too much taking is a beauty," says the one from Japan.


Also in the valley is a yellow farmhouse and animals. From our lodge to the work site, which is a five-minute walk, I amble across the rolling green and violet pasture to where horses and a burro graze. One afternoon the burro, his nose to my rump, gently nudged me along my way. Across the dirt road in an adjacent field, laced by pinkish foxglove, are grazing cows and sheep, somnolent pigs and a goose family playing in a pool of muddy water.


We have had a few workshops in the bam, which must seldom be visited by humankind; indigenous birds set up a constant, insolent screech of indignation when we are there. One of these three hour morning sessions was a figurative drawing class which afforded us the opportunity to draw a handsome, nude, male model. The atmosphere was interestingly asexual.


As time draws to a close, finished works of art are exhibited in the village on a grassy spot marked Gallery. I, for one, will have no finished stone to show. I am a novitiate who attempted sculpting my first stone here in this valley-a lovely, white Montana soapstone. Little did I perceive what I was undertaking; this process involves more than simply sculpting a rock. As I experimented with hand tools and different forms, first a shelter/woman, then an abstraction with an opening in the center. I became frustrated. I found it difficult to chip away negative space. I felt, This beautiful stone rests in my hands. There is an emotional link between it and me, and I want to give it life; instead, lfeell have reduced its potenlial for life. But as I heard one sculptor say, "As long as you have a stone, as long as it's not totalJy reduced to dust, you can still bring it to life."


One morning before breakfast, some of us walked in silence up a hill to the chapel. I looked for a cross, not that it needed one. And then, after meditating for some time with my eyes closed, I looked beyond the altar through a parabolic window. And there, in all its supernal subtlety. was a cross: in fact, there were many crosses incorporated as cross-like windowpanes, the tallest being the one in the center; the others, gradations to the right and left. There was room for Jesus and the other two, as well as for us. As we left the chapel, a fann rooster crowed.


At the end of a workshop, the leader asked what fonns people worked with, if people would like to say. It was difficult to articulate, but one by one. sculptors spoke up. And their utterances were revelatory:


The one from Japan related that his fonns come from the question of where people go when they die? Orion and the Milky Way influence his forms as well. He keeps images for a long time; it's a matter of feeling rather than seeing. For him, harmony with nature is important. He works with oblong-like torsos. He contrasts a flat plane with a natural plane. His forms are self-contained and calm.


One woman, an American, who has been sculpting for twenty-five years, said, "I seek fOlms that are calm, peaceful. and sensual. I especially like to work with Italian translucents. Because I need a hands-on approach, I work primarily with hand tools. I also need a quiet environment. For as long as I have sculpted, I have had a brittle bone disease."


Especially revealing to me was my husband's response. He said, "My fonns contain three-dimensional double and triple complex curves. Fonns are also taken from fundamental Haida indian design. And the Art Nouveau style influences my images. I look for line or fonn in everything." For the fIrst time I understand his art. A breakthrough.


This partnership he and I have found here is a bit astonishing. Something to build on. The stone is in our hands, and it has not yet been reduced to a rubble of dust.