Jason Chrastina works on an abstract sculpture in marble.
wphoto provided
Jason Chrastina works on an abstract sculpture in marble.
Turning a stone into a work of art is hard work. It’s dirty. It’s noisy. It can be toxic. And it’s addicting. Ask any one of the artists participating in the International Stone Carving Symposium this week at Suttle Lake Camp. The camp wrapped up with a big outdoor show of stone sculptures on Saturday.

Dozens of people roamed the site, running their hands over finished work, and barely resisting the temptation to touch sculptures-in-progress, in spite of the “Do Not Touch” signs. The sculptures, both real and abstract, were displayed atop rough wood pedestals; and as the morning sun rose higher in the sky, each reflected or refracted light in different directions. Such is the beauty of carved and polished stone. 

Symposium Director Doug Wiltshire said that at any given time during the week, between 50 and 60 sculptors worked on their art, sponsored by the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association (NWSSA). They hailed from Washington and Oregon, from British Columbia, Italy, Germany, and Japan. 
Some continued to work through the day on Saturday under individual open-air tents, chiseling, sanding, blasting, and sanding again. The tents circled a vast open field with a massive compressor at the center, air hoses snaking through the grass to the tents to power each sculptor’s tools. The hiss of the compressor alternated with the whir of drills and the chime of chisels. Early in the week, the sculptures were rough – barely suggesting a figure, an abstract shape, or a face. Saturday, the finished (or almost finished) work was displayed for the public.

The artists are both men and women, teens to seasoned citizens. Some worked the stones for the very first time, and others have 30 or more years of carving and the arthritic joints to prove it. Some have MFA degrees framed back on their studio walls, where they often work in solitude. The communal sculpture event in the woods at Suttle Lake draws them back year after year because it’s both nurturing and inspiring. 

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