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AND NOW THERE BE STONE…..  1. Scafti and me

For the last 25 years I have been sculpting and carving almost daily, but I came to this via a love of art and rocks in my childhood and then intaglio etching. I did the formal education thing, getting a Bachelor of Arts. I tried many things: drawing, painting, ceramics and photography. I have a 2000-pound etching press that was my artistic outlet, and for several decades I was a printmaker. Then an opportunity opened up, and now the press sits with dust on it and I am a dedicated and happy sculptor.

My introduction to sculpting came through wood carving. I began by drawing the horses that were to become the wooden ponies for the Missoula Carousel Project in 1991. I was the carousel “artist” with the opportunity to help design the more than forty carousel critters. I couldn’t resist the lure of carving and joined in the efforts to create the horses as well as designing them. I was hooked. Great carousels always have a ring machine to allow the riders to get the brass ring, and I decided ours needed to be a dragon. Since the carousel’s inception, I have added a 6’ x 6’ square Indiana limestone relief sculpture to the outside of the carousel building.

In 2008, I attended a stone sculpture symposium in Marble, Colorado and put a chisel to a piece of marble. WOWZA!! Since then,

I have participated in a number of other symposiums—Silver Falls, Suttle Lake, California Sculpture—where I have taught wood carving and learned more about stone carving. Through these events, the NWSSA has been a great connection to amazing folks with a vast treasure trove of knowledge and skills. It is a wonderful gift that these people are all willing to share their knowledge and love of stone work.

To sculpt year-round in Missoula, Montana requires an indoor space, and so the Stone Studio came to life. My good friend and fellow sculptor Adrian and I found a space that was perfect for the need. With some great tools acquired (thank you Rick), we are busy making stone dust. I have discovered that my wood carving skills are applicable to stone. I go back and forth between marble, limestone, alabaster, and soapstone and am not sure which is most enjoyable. I have a love of hand tools, but find the air hammer and Dremel are my preferred methods at this time. I’m currently using the Dremel for detail carving.

My work with the carousel influences my stone carving. I love whimsy and humor. I like to make fun critters, real or imagined, and my wood carving has morphed into dragons and funny birds and funky creatures. I carve rocking critters for family, and upon commission, am now going to try to make a marble rocking critter from Carrara marble (thank you Carl). I don’t lack for ideas. I move from project to project. Some are simply to learn a skill and will not ever be a finished piece. There is always something either to learn or that needs to be created, and I “art” daily.

The work I did for and on the Missoula Carousel is my legacy to my children and grandchildren. As the first hand-carved wooden carousel created in the United States in 60 years, it is the largest public art project in the state of Montana. It was the inspiration for over fifteen other new carousel projects across the country. It also has been a tremendous inspiration to hundreds of people that they too can create and be artistic.

I enjoy teaching and sharing the skills I have. I have had the privilege to teach at many workshops and schools and have passed on the skills and wisdom from others who have taught me. I want everyone to see the value and joy of art in the world. It is my belief that if we are making Art, we will be happier and better people.

“Scafti and Me”  Actual size (I am about 5’7”) Photo at heading of this article
Scafti was designed and carved for the Missoula Carousel. It is the last critter I carved that will ride the carousel in Missoula. It was created after I had carved the dragon for our ring machine. The ring machine dragon is about 9 feet long and sits in a hand carved tree so that the riders reach for the brass ring as they are riding. As I was carving the ring-dragon, kids would want to know when they could ride it. Well who wouldn’t want to ride a dragon? Thus, Scafti happened. Scafti was carved from laminated basswood, all with hand chisels and gouges. It was painted by some of the carousel’s other great volunteers. I am proud to say it soon became one of the favorite critters on the carousel.

2. Gutter Goyle“Gutter Goyle”   L 29 " X H 8.5” X D 10”Gutter Goyle print
This was carved from a piece of Kansas limestone fence post. I cut a channel in the bottom for the gutter with an angle grinder and chisels. I then roughed out the critter with an air hammer. It was “finished” with hand chisels, files and scrapers. It sits proudly in the flower bed waiting for rain.

“Stone Hinge”   L 9” X H 6” X D 5”
This was carved from a piece of Wenatchee soapstone as a demo-piece for one of my workshops I was teaching in Washington. It of course happened after a trip to England—not sure what the inspiration was.  The hinge is painted with acrylic, and the stone was painted with a clear wax and a tinted floor wax.

“Column Fragment”  L 10” X H 8.25” X D 7.5”
Carousel limestone panelsThis is carved from Wenatchee soapstone. I try to convince folks that it is something I found on one of my trips to Europe and managed to bring it home hidden in my carry-on. I really enjoy looking at all the fragments and minute carvings that all of our previous stone artists have left us to find. The critter design on this piece is from a sketch of some carvings I saw on a cathedral wall in France. It was carved with hand chisels and files.
Column fragment
“Carousel Limestone Panels”  L 6’ X H 6’ X D 2.5”
I was able to convince the other folks on the carousel advisory board that we should have a “small” limestone panel on the outside of our new addition to the carousel building. I thought something about the carousel might be good. I told them we could probably find someone willing to do the carving. Yep! I roughed out the six individual panels (Indiana limestone) in the garage studio using my air hammer and chisels. We then installed the panels on the building and I “finished” carving them in place. This was to let folks watch and advise (tell me what I was doing wrong). It was carved using air hammer and hand chisels, files, scrapers. It was a very enjoyable project. I could pick my and my grandkids’ favorite critters from the carousel to carve. It is also very humbling when I walk by the building and see where I could improve and tweak the carving. Well who knows—I still have my tools and may do some after-hours work. 
6b. Carousel limestone panels relief

 “Sleepy Dragon-Boring Book”   L 22” X H 14” D 14” Sleepy dragon boring book
This is a piece of Colorado marble. I was able to attend the symposium at Marble, Colorado last summer. I actually had a plan of what I was going to carve. Yep—registered late and the stone I needed was not available. I chose a different, smaller stone, and after an afternoon of playing with my air hammer, this critter started appearing. This stone was in the truck with us as we drove to Suttle Lake a couple weeks later. So I worked on it there too. It followed me to our new carving studio in Missoula. I have been carving and finishing it up in our new digs.  I am working with air hammer and using the Dremel for detail carving.

The New Studio
This is a photo of Adrian and my new work space. It is the front half of a friend’s quonset. We are pretty excited and are now carving stone about three days a week. It is a work in progress but already proving to be a great space. We are not sure where this is going, but it sure is going to be fun.
In April, I will be getting a 3600-pound piece of Carrara marble delivered (thanks Carl). That should help keep me off the streets and out of trouble.

Photo of me working on the panels at the carousel. Life size. I am 5’7” tall (taller when I am on the ladder, shorter when I am sitting down)

Limestone Relief Critter”   L 12” X H 12.25” X D 1.25” limestone relief critter
This was a practice piece out of Indiana limestone started before I was to carve the relief carving for the carousel. It was carved using my small air hammer and hand tools. I am finishing it up with the Dremel and some scrapers.

Prometheus Dragon by John Thompson“Prometheus Dragon”     L 12.5” X H 9.5” X D 7.5”
This was carved from Wenatchee soapstone using hand tools and files. This was carved as a sample for a workshop I was teaching. I wanted to try to get more detail in the soapstone carvings folks were doing.

Group photo: Renda Greene, John Thompson & Adrian Hoye