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Following Up on Maryhill Museum of Arts Festival - Nov/Dec 2005

Now that I have recuperated from my heat stroke, I can write to say that our participation at Maryhill Arts Festival was an adventure. It was about 100 degrees all weekend! We all were dehydrating to become the next featured “NWSSA MUMMY EXHIBIT.” There were many fine art and crafts booths to enjoy. Our sculpture area and booth were located in a spot with the intention of being the first exhibit that customers would come to as they entered the festival. But our sculptures looked more like tomb stones standing in the Mojave Desert in the glaring sun! It was much too hot for guests to stand there and view the sculptures in comfort. They took a glance, then headed for the oasis under the trees. We just about had to draw straws to see who got to be the one standing out in the glaring sun to greet the guests in shifts. Of course, we always like to say “Feel free to touch the sculptures.” Are we insured for third degree burns?


We joked to the customers that they had to buy a piece whether they liked it or not, because their hands were fried onto the sculpture! The museum staff felt strongly that the heat possibly cut into having more attendance and sales. People headed for the comfort of air conditioning in the museum. The curator sincerely apologized for the bad placement of our exhibit. Then again, we learn by doing. Next year they intend to move the festival to later in September for cooler weather and less competition with so many art events taking place in August.


Although sales are always something that we anticipate, we have to keep in mind that the purpose for the NWSSA is to educate the public and promote “Stone Sculpture.”


On the positive side, we did sell a few sculptures. It was a nice opportunity for the eleven artists and their spouses to have a chance to visit and get to know each other better. Those that participated were Arliss Newcomb, Elaine Mac Kay, Jim Heltsley, Mark Dahn, Ruth Mueseler,  Joe Conrad, Kalia Gentiloumo, Brian Berman, Leon White, Nicky Oberholtzer, and Gordon McVeigh, who drove from Canada to represent his wife, Dorrit, who was in Europe. Dorrit’s sculpture was the piece chosen for the Festival poster.


Our potluck evenings around the “campfire” pit (made of citronella candles) were irreplaceable with gut wrenching non-stop laughter! The beautiful fiery-orange full moon rising over the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge nightly turned into a glowing silver smile as it moved higher into the sky, reflecting across the water - unforgettable! Saturday evening the museum hosted a wonderful catered meal in the park from a local Mexican restaurant and wine from a local winery, along with live jazz music for the participants.


It was a delight having Kalia’s little three year old, Ruby, along - allowing us to play at being surrogate uncles and aunties.


There was one hilarious event toward the end. Six of us stayed an extra night due to exhaustion. We were informed that bobcats stroll through the park once in a while! That night, there were about seventy to eighty mile-per-hour winds. I slept out in the open to enjoy the stars. I lay there watching the trees whip wildly waiting to see if any branches were going to crash on me. I could hear some breaking in the distance. All I was able to think about was, “well, I’m going to die from a falling tree limb, or get my face eaten off by a bobcat!” It was about one or two in the morning when I sat up to see these shadowy figures standing all around like aliens among us. Then, we all started laughing, because we were the shadowy figures, all awake for the same reasons! Well, should we head across the river to the truck stop and have blueberry pancakes? We sat there and joked for a while about bobcats and pancakes, but when the wind died down we headed back to our sleeping areas. Everyone was looking forward to being back in our cooler northern abodes. But, our laughter in the face of “danger” on that last night made this year’s Maryhill Arts Festival a memorable adventure!

Flower & Garden Show - Mar/Apr 2006

This year’s Flower and Garden Show was an absolute success, and I expect we will be seeing a lot of new carvers at our symposia, and more viewers at our art walk. We sold 8 sculptures and there were a number of commissions which were passed on to the relevant carvers in our group. Some of you might be hearing from strangers.


We received a number of requests for the usual auction donations (if you are interested in donating a piece, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please put “stone” in the subject line so I don’t dump it).


Several people invited members of our crew, like Nancy Green, to be in local shows. I would like to thank all the people that assisted in the setup, manning of the booths, and take down. We had about 20 of you wonderful folks helping with the work.


I am not allowed to do the booth next year, as my husband is kinda annoyed at the lack of help that I got gathering everything as well as his having to build stuff, which took him away from his job. Part of the fault is mine because I have this thing about not wanting to bother anyone. When I asked people to help this year after he got mad at me, they were more than willing to lend a hand. My husband has tirelessly worked on our booth for many years. He keeps saying that he won’t help and then he does anyway, without complaining. So I am going to take a year off, but I hope that whoever runs the booth will allow me to man it daily, as I am finding that I am good at selling the group and the sculptures. I just love doing it. The people that you meet are just wonderful and fun to talk to.


The long and short of it is: we will need someone to step forward and take over the job of designing the booth and setting it up. I will be glad to give that person some help with the process so they don’t have to start from scratch. Most people are unaware that this show brings many new members into NWSSA. People like Bob Olander and Verena Schwippert. If we loose our space in this show, competition for spaces, even in the Education section, is such that we might not be able to get back in. So if you are interested, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And don’t forget to put “stone” in the subject line.

Hand Carving Workshop 2006: Gargoyles, Good Weather, Good Times May/June 2006

Monty Python would have loved it. I wouldn’t be surprised if  John Cleese had a hand in planning the Roche Harbor Hand Tool Carving Retreat April 20-23 on beautiful San Juan Island. Imagine walking up to an amazing Sculpture Garden where festive tents complete with waving colorful flags waited for participants. Then, close to the fence, crowded by pallets of stone, stands a man in a kilt. (It turned out to be Scott Hackney, from Marenakos Rock Center.)


In itself, one man in a kilt does not constitute a Python moment. But by the night of the auction, everywhere I turned there were men in kilts. Not just any men, either. Lane Tompkins, Master Auctioneer, led the charge, assisted by two Kilted Runners Supreme. Tom Small, a master sculptor from the island, and Adam Heller, a hand carver originally from Rhode Island, now from Portland, Oregon; enticed us with various and sundry objects donated for the cause.


The first item to be offered, a baritone aria by newcomer Tim Sexton from Seattle, was bought b magnificent y Rick Johnson for $50.00.  We were spellbound as Tim treated us to an acappella rhapsody in German right there in the festive tent with the colorful flags. (The following night, Tim surprised us again, this time singing in French at the opening of the Sculpture Show at the Island Museum of Art.)  Thanks Tim, for opening these two events in such a rich and unforgettable way!


Rumor had it that a kilt was to be auctioned off during the evening. I immediately had visions of my husband - in a Utilikilt. You can bet I was going to be a bidder. But, in a moment of wine lust, I left the auction. When I returned with a bottle to share, there was Tom Small, strutting around the room, hands held high, Utilikilt swirling around his manly knees.


My moment had come. I heard a bid made for $22. Without stopping to think, I shouted out, "$40"! I heard the group gasp. Not missing a beat, Lane closed the bid. Forty dollars to Silvia Behrend for the six inch riffler!


Yes, my fellow carvers, in my haste, I had bought what Tom held high in his hand: a beautiful 6” Italian Milani riffler. So who looks up when a man is wearing a kilt?


I may be a hasty bidder when around men in kilts, but not when describing the retreat. It was excellent. There were three elements that made it the perfect introduction for a newbie to a NWSSA workshop: care, companionship and camaraderie.



The Planning Committee: Alex Morosco, Jan Brown, Penelope Crittenden and Lane Tompkins couldn’t have demonstrated more how much they truly cared that the workshop meet everyone’s needs. Not only did they have available sturdy work tables, tools, tents, tarps and anything else one might need, they themselves were everywhere.


Jan, with help from Penelope, designed and had printed, the must-have, Gargoyle emblazoned T-Shirts which sold like hotcakes (there may be one or two left). While foresight had dictated that the t-shirts be long sleeved, the weather did not merit such careful planning. In fact, it seems that the Planning Team had arranged to have beautiful, sunny and warm weather for the duration of the retreat.


Careful and care full planning went into the meals. I don’t know where Alex found her, but Kate, our caterer, was fabulous. All the food was gourmet, fresh and served hot! From the organic vegetable soup to the mushroom and beef pasties available in both phyllo and plain dough to the dripping with chocolate goodies, no one walked away hungry. Rolled away, maybe.


I mention the food because it demonstrates the quality of care for the participants’ all around well-being. While not every retreat can boast a gourmet cook, I felt that all my needs had been considered. There was plenty of everything, food, water, juices, sodas, beer and wine.


Except for the second night, that is. It seems that we, the people, had more than amply sated our desire for wine. The wine for the auction had been tapped into for the night before! Would Alex have to make a bottle run to Friday Harbor? Would the incredibly well balanced budget be busted? No, on all counts. Stonecarvers are a resourceful lot. Lane quickly found out who had brought reserves and charmingly requested donations for the good of the group.


The auction went off splendidly thanks to the beneficence of oenophile donors! Whether it was the wine, the water or the good time vibe given off by the kilted wonder men, almost $2500 was raised. (Did I mention that $40 of that went for a six inch riffler?) This brings me to the next element.



There is something about stone and people who love stone. Call it what you will, if you can call it anything at all. My own stone carving started in the high desert of the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, where disparate women met in 2002. Maybe we were desperate for a new way to connect with our creative selves. Surely it was unusual for a pathologist, a retired financial wizard, a psychiatrist, a film writer- producer and a minister to meet over stone.


But meet we did, and chip and carve and sand and polish. Not just at the Red Butte Garden Chapungu workshops, but in one another’s back yards or kitchens or on stumps.  Stone carving had become a language that brought us together and kept us together long after the end of the official workshop.


I can honestly say that carving stone changed my life, radically and unequivocally. As the minister in a congregation in Salt Lake City, I set up an Artist-in-Residence program with Amos Supini, one of the Zimbabwean artists. He and Mike Reid taught carving in a house next to the church which had been made habitable by the Salt Lake City Gang.


The program was designed to serve people who could pay and those who could not.Sudanese refugees, people with AIDS, the disabled, disenfranchised, carved alongside their fellow humans. Something wonderful happened among them.


And something wonderful happened to me. I realized that I had reached the end of my ministry in that particular place. I was able to leave behind a well loved congregation to pursue another way of living and ministering.


The Hand Tool Carving Retreat allowed me to once again experience the companionship of those who had accompanied me in my struggles, pain and joy. It is difficult to imagine a more perfect place to gather than in the community of those who love stone. I am grateful to NWSSA for providing an atmosphere of care and consideration where we could, once again, play.



We weren’t the only ones who had come knowing others. There were groups who had carved together for years, some who had never carved and some who came from as far as Rhode Island. Dean Korpan came from Connecticut by way of South Dakota to join in the fun. (He lost a day of the workshop by being stranded by a blizzard in the Dakotas.) What could be more fun than talking with all these folks about stone, tools, tricks and techniques, hand pain, wrist pain and calluses?

Amy Brier, Gargoyle Queen and Limestone Maven, walked among us giving individual instruction about the stone we worked on. By making the rounds several times, she gave us that valuable feedback on how we were doing. Thank you Amy for not only sharing with us descriptions of  your restoration work in Europe, but also for giving us your personal brand of one on one, hands-on guidance.


The two mentors: David P. Miller and Tracey Powell shared their knowledge and skill with amazing grace. Most of the time, anyway.


After repeatedly telling me to throw the hammer as though it were a baseball into a glove, David finally gave up. I still pushed the hammer as though it were a piston. Then, after obviously thinking about what he could say to get through to me, he suggested I think of the hammer as bread dough. As a former baker of bread, I understood exactly the motion required of me!


Tracey solved another one of my problems. He simply told me that I was carving the wrong way. Instead of carving into the core of the stone to rough out, I should carve into the air. I had forgotten that. Thank you Tracey, for watching.


And that is what camaraderie is all about: people watching out for one another, encouraging each other’s passion, making spaces for growth. The circle of care and concern is wide and far-reaching. Kay Kamerzell, Director of The Westcott Bay Institute for Art and Nature, not only facilitated the tenting of the space, but also arranged to have the gallery show for the participants at the Island Museum of Art in Friday Harbor. Karl Hufbauer sold a piece there the first night!

Much of the camaraderie, of course, took place after carving. The final night, after the well-attended artists’ reception at the gallery, we met for a goodbye dinner at Roche Harbor’s McMillans restaurant. While the wait staff was kept busy serving libations, and the kitchen struggled (seemingly endlessly) to find all its ingredients, we had time to enjoy the sun setting over the pristine bay.


For four days, we had watched the sun rise (Yes, in a cloudless sky!) from the comfort of our cozy cabins. While coffee brewed, we were able to gaze out at the tents amid the sculptures to one side, and the boats in the water on the other. That Saturday sunset was a fitting end to our time together.


Roche Harbor was magnificent, the company was stupendous, and oh, did I mention that we carved gargoyles?