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Pilgrim Firs

Pilgrim Firs: Genesis

There is something inherently special about carving on a field with 110 sculptors from all over North America. This was my second year of carving on this block of Texas limestone. When Scott at Marenakos said he had a stone for me, I had no idea it was a 4000-pound block. It had a mud seam on the back, and I needed to remove this, because in time, it would have separated from the main block. That piece was about 500 pounds. John Lafortune guides the placement of Genesis

Now that the stone was ready to carve, I had no idea what I was going to do. I made a cut in the top left and went on from there. It took two symposiums to carve this sculpture. The story behind this piece is something like a black hole in space. All the energy and matter is getting sucked in, and on the back side, a new energy or world is created. The top left cylindrical shape represents a sun and the bottom right cylinder a moon.

Genesis by John LafortuneWe titled this piece “Genesis”, and I think it’s fitting for the space and for the client it was made for. I need to thank Wade Zick and Pilgrims Firs Camp for acquiring this piece to be on public display. I was planning on taking three years or three symposiums to complete this, but in the end it all worked out. It’s hard to see in the pictures, but I added a lot of different textures to this sculpture. Dale Enoch taught me a new technique called “corn rowing”, which is using a very sharp point-chisel and a hammer to make erratic lines in the stone. This was done on the Sun element.

Carving at a symposium is something I really love to do. You just feel all the energy and hear it too. It is an amazing place to create a sculpture and have many, many people come and talk or even give ideas as to what you’re working on. If you are thinking about coming, give it a chance—you will be amazed by the great people of this group. John Lafortune looks pleased with the placement of Genesis at Pilgrim Firs Camp & Conference Center

John Lafortune

2019 Camp Pilgrim Firs Centerfold

I know I say this every year, but this time I really, really mean it. You definitely want to be at the Symposium at Pilgrim Firs this July! I promise. We have workshops galore, awesome Guest Artists, new staff to break in, our Saturday Sculpture Walk, presentations, communal meals, campfires, kayaks, and the list just keeps growing. 2018 Pilgrim Firs Group

Let’s start with the Dojo – our community learning hub that hosts the tool room and the Beginner’s Workshop. Instructors Tamara Buchanan and Ruth Mueseler will be on hand to mentor beginners. Anyone who doesn’t have their own workspace and tools to bring is welcome to work in the space – we provide bankers, tools and mentoring. Marenakos is graciously providing us with limestone as well so newcomers have something to cut their teeth on. If you’ve never carved before or are just starting out, this is the place for you!

Our jade tent and workshop will be in full force Monday through Saturday. Dale Blankenship, creator of mind-bendingly detailed jade carvings, has stepped up to lead the workshop. Steve Sandry and Julianne Kohn will be assisting. The tent is decked out with every tool you need to take a small piece of jade from start to beautiful finish during the week. Dale will have small pieces of jade for sale and Washington Jade will be sending along some larger hunks they’ve hunted locally for those who’ve really been bitten by the jade bug.
Jason Arkles
This year we are very excited to be offering a workshop in figurative marble carving with superstar Jason Arkles at the helm. Oliver Harwood up at Studiostone in Vancouver just happened to have 15 spare identical blocks of high quality Italian marble and we got them for you! Everyone in this workshop gets one of the 190 lb. blocks and is asked to bring a figurative maquette and their favorite tools. (I will host a maquette building workshop at my studio in June, details to registrees.) We’ll have at a couple of pointing machines available for use but bring your own if you definitely want to learn that technique for exact replication – it’s one of Jason’s specialties. Jason, by the way, is one of those guys who lives and works in Florence, Italy carving life size marble statues and travels the world putting on workshops. We know him from his podcast, The Sculptor’s Funeral, which focuses exclusively on the history of figurative stonework. You can listen to it for free online and I highly recommend it.
Time Flow, Dale Enochs
From Indiana, large-scale public artist Dale Enochs will be joining us as a Guest Artist and we are happy to welcome him! He works almost exclusively with limestone, combining it with various metals to create stunning abstract work that define space. He’ll be onsite doing daily presentation on texturing and surfacing, focusing on the ways those techniques can enliven sculptures through visual contrast.

Let’s take a moment to talk about scholarships. You’ve been so generous the past few years during our often hilarious auction that we have a healthy scholarship budget built up. Those funds cover the instructors and guest artists listed above as well as our work study crew. Last year we had 16 amazing work studies and I’m hoping to have at least as many this year! Also, though, we do have straight up scholarship funds available for you as you need. If you can’t afford the full cost of the symposium, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can work something out. If $100 or $200 will get you here with us, we have that for you.

This year, also, we will be transitioning the position of Field Manager. Pat Barton has been just amazing to work with the past  (well, more years than I’ve even been coming to the symposium) number of years and we’ve all benefited from his knowledge, generosity, and efficiency genius. He’s passing the torch this year to the dynamic duo of Trevor Contreras and Ed Salerno, mentored by Gene Carlson. Make sure you forget your hoses and break a bunch of things so they get properly broken in this July.
See you on the field!

-Cyra Jane, Symposium Director

This Year at Pilgrim Firs 2018

Our second year at Pilgrim Firs Camp in Port Orchard reaffirmed that the July symposium has found a great home for our group and our spirit. As intense as last year was, this year was just as relaxed. The entire event went so smoothly thanks to the combined efforts and positivity of so many of the over 100 attendees and the fantastic staff of the venue. The guest artists this year, Candyce Garrett and Chris Pellettieri were both spectacular teachers and inspiring artists. Candyce works in large granite and basalt at her home in New Mexico and spent the week splitting and pinning a large granite triangle and demonstrating a variety of surfacing techniques. Chris has spent the last 25 years carving limestone in a large warehouse in the midst of Manhattan; his week was focused on a limestone figure carving, hand tooling demos, and working with veterans from the JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) just nine miles south-southwest of Tacoma).
Jeremy Kester

Kentaro Kojima demonstrates stone splitting techniquesThis was the first time we coordinated with the JBLM to bring veterans to the symposium for a few days so they could experience the healing and meditational aspects of our craft. Rick Johnson was instrumental in sparking off the collaboration between our groups, and Dan Michael came up to give focused instruction. We also rolled out a new pinning and sleeving station this year – Pat Barton and Dan Colvin both built some sturdy tables for the core drills and during the afternoons Dan and dedicated work study folk helped pin a wide variety of sculptures and bases.

Speaking of work study folks, we had a grand total of sixteen work studies and three scholarships funded from the auctions last year – what a fantastic crowd of enthusiastic, hardworking people! The auctions this year, coordinated by Monika Hawkinson, raised over $14,500 so we can do that again next year! For the stone auction, we had a bunch of cut-offs from Will Robinson and a generous lot of stones and tools from Arliss Newcomb. Additionally, Gus Schairer brought a table-full of donated power tools and accessories, some for the Dojo and some for the auction. The Dojo, by the way, is our new name for the Beginner’s Tent, as it is far more apt for what that space provides to the symposium. Tamara Buchanan and Grant Bowman set up a Tool Room there this year to better manage the growing selection of tools that are available for newcomers and seasoned carvers alike. Steve Sandry and Lisa Svircic

This year I got to experience the jade tent for the first time, and was so impressed by the hard work of Deborah Wilson, Steve Sandry, and Julianne Kohn in keeping that area running and sharing their knowledge with everyone working there. Deborah and Dale Blankenship both shared slideshows of their work in jade during the week, as did Tom Small of his most recent work in glass and stone mixed media. Our scholarship exchange student from the California Sculptors Symposium, Karen Cope-Swatton and Ben Mefford, who attended CSS as our exchange this year, gave a presentation on that symposium and her innovative figurative work. And then we had a rousing geology lecture by Trevor Contreras and Michael Yeaman gave an overview presentation of the “Elements of Sculpture” book as featured in a weekend intensive on Orcas Island earlier this year.
The pinning and sleeving team working with Candyce Garrett
Of course, then we have the huge contributions from our symposium staff. Pat Barton and Renee Roberts each put in so much time and effort in making Camp a great experience for everyone. Pat’s contributions to the field (and the auction this year via the Pat Barton Fanclub Coffee Mugs courtesy of John Lafortune and Therese Kingsbury) are integral to the success of this event. Renee puts in so much work as registrar, keeping track of hundreds of threads to pull together, and with Barbara Davidson on her team, they keep all the registrations and financials running smoothly. John Lafortune as the announcer/emcee is spot on. I love working with these people and am so happy you all allow me to do this job!

We all had such a wonderful time carving, learning, communing, laughing, swimming, dancing, carving some more, and then carving again. I’m already looking forward to 2019.

Cyra Jane Hobson

Symposium Director

2018 Camp Pilgrim Firs Centerfold

Members register on-line by May 31st receive $100 Discount off full time rate at check-out.

2017 Camp Pilgrim Firs group

It’s our second year at the Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center in Port Orchard, Washington. Last year, our inaugural camp there, we started the week with something like 70 people registered and once word got out that the place was magical for us, more and more carvers arrived and descended upon the field and the energy grew and grew, making for one of the best symposiums in years! The trees! The more intimate field! The lake! The food! The campfire by the lake! We all loved it and I know so many of us are excited to return. 

Candyce GarrettFor our guest artists this year we have Candyce Garrett joining us from New Mexico. Candyce works in monumental granite and other hard stones, giving them lightness and life through implied motion. She’ll be demonstrating surfacing techniques, chainsaw usage, and a whole slew of other useful things. Many of us know her already and every time I’ve talked to her, she is just ecstatic about coming up here to Pilgrim Firs to share the week with the awesome members of the NWSSA (that would be you!).

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2018 Camp Pilgrim Firs Symposium Registration

31st Annual International Stone Carving Symposium
at Camp Pilgrim Firs, Port Orchard, WA 
July 7th-15th 2018
Members register on-line by May 31st receive $100 Discount off full time rate at check-out.

The Symposium PilgrimFirsFeild

We invite you to join us at Camp Pilgrim Firs for up to eight full days of playing with stone, communing with nature, and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow stone enthusiasts. Bring yourself, your creative energy, your humor, tools, and a favorite piece of stone. If you don’t have stone or tools, we have an entire tent set up for beginners with tools and instructors.
The Campgrounds provide cabins and lodges that are connected by serene walking paths through the forested grounds and three full meals a day, so you’ll have the ultimate freedom to delve into carving and building friendships. Evenings are filled with slideshows, informational talks, a riot of a fundraising auction, a music-filled final night party, campfires and even nighttime swims in the lake. Stone and tools are available for purchase by our vendors.

The Camp has a lodge with shared common area and bathrooms; it features multiple dorm-style rooms that sleep 2-4 people each. There are also 11 duplex style cabins with private decks that sleep 3 per side. For those who like to commune with nature, limited space is available for tents or trailers.

Sculpture Walk on the Meadow Saturday, July 14th
We’ll host an outdoor art gallery that’s a perfect opportunity to show your work in a supportive and appreciative environment. We encourage everyone to bring a finished piece to display and to invite your friends! Bring pedestals if you have them. NWSSA receives a 20% commission on sculpture sales.

Register On-line:  [Click Here],
or via SnailMail: download [ Registration Form ] send with with payment to NWSSA, Attn: Cyra Jane, Symposium Director, PO Box 27364 Seattle, WA 98165

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The New Shed at Pilgrim Firs

by Pat Barton
The final day, September 12, 2017. The shed is partly loaded, time for a quick photo. Next we will load in the steel tables, and remaining tents and tables. Thanks to Sharon Feeney, Ed Salerno, Steve Sandry, Leon White, Kirk Mclean, and the Boss, Gene Carlson.At our first Symposium at Camp Pilgrim Firs, the membership voted to have Camp Pilgrim Firs as our new home. The camp management agreed to let us build a shed next to the guitar groups shed. It had to be similar in design and color.At our first Symposium at Camp Pilgrim Firs, the membership voted to have Camp Pilgrim Firs as our new home. The camp management agreed to let us build a shed next to the guitar groups shed. It had to be similar in design and color.

Steve Sandry also showed off his carpenter skills by being the saw man and cutting and fitting all of the trim.Gene Carlson, a retired builder with many years of experience, volunteered to be the General Contractor, Chief Architect, Excavator Operator, Materials Purchasing Agent, Lead Carpenter and High Climbing Roofer. Steve Sandry, another retired contractor, was the number one saw man. He did all of the cutting and fitting of the trim and built the doors.The master contractor, Gene Carlson, he made this project happen. He ordered the equipment and materials, and worked his magic putting the shed together. Boss, you did a great job."

The project started on a very hot July 25, 2017. Gene had a small excavator delivered from a local rental company. It arrived on time at noon, and he had the area where the shed was to go cleared and leveled by late that afternoon. That included removing 2 large stumps. The next morning Gene returned and cleared some areas for the camp.

Next, building the shed. After contacting management at Pilgrim Firs, it was determined that the camp would be vacant on Labor Day weekend, they give their staff that weekend off. We were told that we could use a couple of cabins to sleeping bag in. So on a hot Saturday August 2, 2017, seven of us started building the shed. We installed the foundation blocks, and built the deck on them. Next, the walls were framed as the members for the trusses were cut and assembled. That night we had a potluck dinner of smoked pork ribs and corn on the cob. The following day we put up the trusses, put siding on the walls and sheathing on the roof. Some of the painting was done.
he floor is done assembling the trusses on the flat surface.” Thanks to Carl Nelson, Steve Sandry, Che - Maya Kilmer's husband , Gene Carlson and myself. Photo by Maya Kilmer.
Thursday September 7, 2017, a smaller crew returned to finish the roofing, the remaining siding and the trim. Steve built and hung the doors and most of the painting was completed.
On the final day, September 12, 2017, we finished up the trim, the flashing and the painting. The last thing to do was to load up the shed with our tools, equipment, tables and tents. Potluck dinner on August 2, 2017, after a long hot day. Then it was time to hit the sleeping bags.

A special thanks to all of the extra help that we had that last day. NWSSA’s storage shed at Camp Pilgrim Firs was done.