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President's Message

President's Message Sept-Oct 2014

The winter months are coming up and for some stone carvers it's the time where they hunker down in their studios and get a bunch of stuff done, for others they take advantage of the longer nights to read, relax, plan and contemplate. I fall somewhere in between.
Carl Nelson

Lately I find myself in the studio, motivated by having attended Silver Falls, visited Corky's Olivine quarry and, recently, the Abstract on Orcas weekend. See Michael Yeaman's presentation online.

Additionally, I have just finished reading Denis Dutton's book, "The Art Instinct". And since, have had several wonderful conversations and email interchanges with Lee Gass. As a biologist, Lee has great insight into the evolutionary aspects of Dutton's ideas. I find myself thinking about Dutton's book on what constitutes art and those qualities by which great art should be judged. If you are new or unfamiliar with art criticism, which I am, watch his TED Talk.

His ideas are starting points for many good discussions (remember, he's looking at ALL art and he's an art critic), I'll throw them out for you to contemplate.

In his opinion, great art has: complexity, serious content, emotion, purpose and distance.

Even more detailed in his "constellation" of what we should consider as constituting art:

Direct Pleasure, Skill and Virtuosity, Style, Novelty and Creativity, Criticism, Representation, Special Focus, Expresive Individuality, Emotional Saturation, Intellectual Challenge, Art Traditions and Institutions, Imaginative Experience.

I believe, in the context of his "art instinct", the words in this "constellation" need to be refined, or regrouped, so as to provide a more succinct accessible and useful vocabulary stone sculptors could use to talk about their work.

I hope these ideas will give you something to contemplate while you are carving or when relaxing. Let me know what you thnk and if it might be a workshop you would attend.



President's Message July-August 2014

A big THANKS! to all those who gave on May 6th to the GiveBIG campaign. Because of your generosity, a total of a little over $2,670, including the match from the Seattle Foundation, was raised. THANK YOU! Your giving helps fund the running of the symposiums, the tools, scholarships, and some basic administration of the organization. Our July Camp-B board meeting will review and discuss the highest and best use of your contributions. Again, THANK YOU! to all who gave. Carl Nelson

By the time you read this, Camp B will be over and Silver Falls will be about to occur. If you can make Silver Falls, I strongly encourage you to come participate, there is much to learn and a great gathering of instructors.

This coming fall we will once again ask what you would like to see for workshops, so look for an email survey. In preparation for the survey, and as an elaboration from last year’s responses, I’d like to ask for your help with ideas for discussions we could hold, either at people’s studios or other venues, on thought provoking topics.

Some examples:

  • When nudity becomes nakedness, what’s the difference? 
  • What does Darwinian Theory predict about what we value in Art? (From Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct)
  • Art(ifacts) to What End?
  • Man or Machine Made – How and when does it matter?

Please add your ideas to this list by sending me a topic or an idea that you think would be worthy of an evening or afternoon of discussion.           

Finally, are there workshops from last year you would want held again? We will be holding a polishing workshop and one or more figurative workshops. Let me know so we can get it on the survey and plan.          

Looking forward to seeing you at Silver Falls and the fall workshops.

Carve On!



President's Message - May-June 2014

It's been a real pleasure to watch the Camp Brotherhood and Silver Falls symposiums come together. Ben Mefford, under Barbara Davidson and Pat Barton's tutelage, is leading the 'Camp B' effort and Doug Wilshire working with his team of Tom Urban, Rich Hestekind, Lee Imonen, and Kim Lewis have put together this year's Silver Falls. We have a really good lineup of instructors and activities at both symposiums. For those who cannot make both, it will be a difficult choice. Carl Nelson

At CampB this year, Jade Carving will be mentored by Deborah Wilson and Nathanial Cook. Deborah will be working with a small number of carvers on medium scale Jade pieces and Nathanial will be mentoring work on smaller pieces. Gerda Lattey will be teaching direct carving of basalt and we have arranged with Marenakos to provide basalt for those who wish to give harder stone a try. Jason Quigno will be teaching what he calls his weightless forms in Limestone. He calls his style flowing and graceful and keeps the lines and forms simple to push that feeling of peace so that people notice without being told. Google him or check out: or 


I've enjoyed the Silver Falls working title of "Where East meets West - from classical processes to modern technology." In this context they've assembled Kazutaka Uchida to mentor carvers and talk about his work on a small basalt piece, Matt Auvinen to mentor and talk about his assemblages work in marble using classical techniques and forms, Tracy Powell to mentor and provide his perspective on soft stone carving and Stuart Kendall to talk about advanced custom stone cutting equipment for large scale projects, such as his work on the Ten Thousand Year Clock. There will be many opportunities to talk about their art; their approaches to carving and how new technologies will impact the carving process.


There are so many good people and things to be learned at each symposium.


And finally for those of you are interested in learning to carving or refining your skills and have been putting it off, please consider attending one or both symposiums. As I often say to folks, all you have to do is register and show up with a good attitude. We feed you; provide a place to sleep, all the tools you'll need to learn and awesome mentors. Please come.


... Carl


President's Message - Jan-Feb 2014

There may be some hard choices about how to allocate your time in the next four months. They are filled with many opportunities for stone carvers. There is something for every NWSSA member and for anyone wanting to know more about stone carving and pursuing their creative life and careers. 


There will be a three day hand carving workshop starting April 25th on Camano Island at the Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park, which is a wonderful introduction to stone carving as well as great place to hone your hand carving skills.   

For those already carving, beginning May 5th, two NWSSA veterans George Pratt and Michael Binkley will be holding in Vancouver, BC a five-day no nonsense intensive professional carving workshop for those who make (or want to make, a living carving stone). 

The week after that is StoneFest, where for the tenth year, Marenakos brings stone carvers, stone masons, letter carvers, landscape designers, architects, and those who simply love stone, together to make great things in Issaquah. 

For those with an interest in figurative carving, Sabah will teach a one day workshop on head/face carving at his studio on Feb 15th, to be followed on March 15 by one on figurative carving. These are a great way to get the hands on hands-on basics of figurative carving and one-on-one instruction from Sabah.

Tim Reisenauer, a psychologist, will be holding a one-day workshop the first of March on using your personal strengths to find your personal carving style. This workshop comes with an on-line survey that you will use in the workshop to talk about your strengths and how to use them in pursuing your work. To learn more visit and take the “VIA Survey of Character Strengths.” Even if you don’t go to the workshop you’ll find it interesting, especially if you are a fan of the books: the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or I’d Rather Be in the Studio by Alyson Stanfield.

So many good things that will make your time carving productive and meaningful, hope you can make some of these events.

Carve proud…