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Whidbey Island 2001: Impressions of a Novice - May/june 2001

Dennis and Pam orchestrated a retreat that was peaceful, safe, educational, delightful, delicious and extremely filling. I am a newcomer to this type of creating. Both the mystery of the stone, and my intrigue with the people lured by the mystery of the stone have my thoughts whirling.

Who stands before the core of the earth with a chisel and tears? I listened as the veteran sculptors wandered through the stone garden. Ah, this soapstone has such rich red and browns!” “Umm, the alabaster has pink and peach hues, and white veins - Perfect for a torso.” “Wow, a block of marble, unscratched, with dent or chip, the goddess of the garden with the most secret mysteries.”

Each would stand holding the stone with a far away look in their eyes. I thought the stones pretty, impressive and heavy. I had never looked at a stone in that way; with the stone carvers’eye. Now I’ll never be able to walk by a stone without imagining a relationship with it. Perhaps I will be frightened by it, or eager to get my hands on it - I will never be quite the same.


Building Community Through Sculpture - May/June 2001


The Northwest Stone Sculptors Association has built a com-munity of artists in the Northwest, including artists from British Columbia, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and now even California. Though we know each other, the communities in which we live may not know us in a way that can serve us both. We grow through our community’s support for our work.  Our community grows through our expression of the evolving human condition and our interaction with the universe in which we live.

What follows is a description of a nascent idea to create an interaction between the Northwest Stone Sculptors and the communities in which we live.   The idea grew from discussions among Northwest Stone Sculptors that began at the Camp Brotherhood Symposia in 1999. This summary is proposed as a starting point for discussion that will continue during Camp Brotherhood 2001.  A fuller description will be available at that time and will grow out of those discussions.

It is hoped that members of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association will consider the ideas and identify the resources that will help this project grow to fruition. Specifically we need to identify members with contacts in Public Television or the community who can help develop support and potential sites.  As a group we also need to discuss how we could grow this idea to serve the entire community from which we are drawn.  The idea below starts with Seattle but it is not intended to end there, any more than our Association ends there.


Public sculpture helps define a community and its local neighborhoods.  Within Seattle, Capitol Hill has the “Black Sun” by Isamu Noguchi, the downtown has “Vertebrae” by Henry Moore, and Fremont has “People Waiting for the Interurban” by Richard Beyer. These are but a few pieces that James Rupp and his colleague Mary Randlett have catalogued by city districts. Together they make up part of Seattle’s heritage of expression and include abstract and representational pieces that recognize our Native American, populist, and lumber industry past, a bit of whimsy and numerous links to Asia.  In this proposal we would like to expand the idea that sculpture defines a community and propose that sculpture can create a community.

The Northwest Stone Sculptors Association is a non-profit organization that develops educational opportunities, provides a support system, and facilitates interaction with regional, national, and international communities.  The Northwest Stone Sculptors Association proposes to build on its educational experience to engage the wider community in the creation of its own sculpture. The purpose of this proposal is to undertake a three-year project that results in an installed public work created by Northwest Sculptors in conjunction with a visiting artist. We propose to engage the community by working with a Public Radio station to create spots that publicize the project and identify the steps in a public sculpture’s creation as they unfold. The steps would include identifying a site, gaining funding, creating a design, executing the design, installing, and dedicating the piece.

Brief Project Description

Through this project we will identify an artist who would work with the Northwest Stone Sculptor’s Association to develop the design of a piece that would use Northwest stone and stay in the Northwest. A Community Project Oversite group would work with the Board to oversee the development of the project, including the hiring of a project manager. That project manager would have primary responsibility for developing the details for the project’s execution.

The project would stretch over three years in order for the location to be identified, the design developed for that location, and the stone brought in for sculpting. The sculpting itself would occur collaboratively between the visiting artist and the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association.  The piece would be designed during the Camp Brotherhood symposium in the year 2002, and its construction would occur a year later.

We face a dilemma that we need more detail and support before we can get funding for the project. There are several considerations:

1. A designated artist

We need to identify a world class artist who is intrigued by the opportunity to work with the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association to create a monumental piece using Northwest stone.

2. Potential Sites

We need to identify a list of sites where such a piece would have an impact, be viewed frequently, and possibly allow public viewing of the piece’s creation.

3. A link to a public television

We need to identify a television station interested in working with the association on this project. One suggestion has been to work with a community college station where students may be motivated to experiment with the project.

4. Funding

A small group approached the Allen Foundation and were encouraged to develop the idea. The suggestion was that details regarding the artist, the television, and community funding would encourage further consideration of a project to create a piece. There was absolutely no commitment from them but they did say that creation of public pieces is within their realm.

5. Energy and organization

We need to create a group to oversee the project, and pursue the details until enough is in place to seek community support and then foundation support. During Camp Brotherhood 2001 we will explore the interest of the Association and consider whether and how to proceed.

Your input is welcome. Chip on.


Wiki-Up Wanderings: The Bent Root Society


I have often felt that my relationship with stone carving is different from others — that I am somehow alone. I think up reasons for this: I keep doing “touchy feely” pieces, I only do “soft” stones, I use hand tools.

This year at Camp Brotherhood I found out that I was wrong. In B. Amore’s meditation workshops I was reassured that we — the stone carvers — are much more alike than the obvious differences would indicate. As we shared our thoughts around the circle, the dirtiest, roughest and toughest among us expressed truly poetic and often tender emotions about working with stone. It was a much-cherished revelation for me. This relationship with stone transcends gender, age, kind of stone we work on, style, and the commitment we give it in our lives. I felt myself to be one of the group in a way I never have before. Thank you all.

So who are we who do this art? What is the common thread that runs through all of us? Isak Dinesen, in Out of Africa, described the coffee tree plantation where she lived. As she surveyed the fields, she could pick out some rare individual plants that were different from all the others. They had lush foliage, lovely abundant flowering, and put their surrounding neighbors to shame with their size and beauty. The odd thing was that when it came time to harvest the crop, these stand-out plants produced hardly any beans at all. The quantity of beans, of course, was the measure of a plant’s value in the plantation’s working economy. They always allowed a few of the lush plants to remain however, if only for the lift they gave to the soul.

The really interesting part was this: It seems the cause of this profusion of glorious creativity on the part of the plant was that its taproot had hit a stone in its searching for groundedness.  The root bent itself around the stone and kept going, with the result that it produced few beans but wonderful flowers.

It seems to me that artists are like the bent root plants. The creators of great works of art, music, and drama give the world joyous things to look at, to feel, to listen to and to see. We nourish the soul of the world, but may not be the heavy producers in the economy. We, the stone carvers, even go to the extreme of embracing that stone.

I became a member of the Bent Root Society – in appreciation of all bent roots who are creating great works of art. I think that we, the stone carvers of the NWSSA, are somewhat like that. It would make a great T-shirt. Shall I do one for next summer’s Camp B Symposium?