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Pilgrim Firs

35th Annual Stone Carving Symposium at Pilgrim Firs - Port Orchard, WA

35th Annual International Stone Carving Symposium at Pilgrim Firs Camp, Port Orchard, WA July 8th-16th 2023


Registration has CLOSED for this Event
Thank you for your interest in participating at Camp Pilgrim Firs, we are now at capacity. We hope you'll join us for the Sculpture Show in the meadow on Saturday, July 15th from 12-4 or consider joining us for our upcoming Sculpture Symposium at Suttle Lake, Oregon August 28-September 4th!

Artists & Workshops
Relief Carving – James Horan (Ireland), Elegance in Jade – Deborah Wilson (Canada), Big and Tiny Heavy Cutting and Intricate Detail – Tom Small (Friday Harbor, WA),  May the Circle be Unbroken – Ruth Mueseler (Bellingham, WA), and Beginning/Intermediate Stone Sculpture in the DOJO with Tamara Buchanan (Lopez Island, WA)

The Symposium
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 tools, and a favorite rock (or four!)

If you’re new to this whole thing and don’t have stone or tools, we have the Dojo set up for beginners with everything you need to start.

This event will run from July 8-16, 2023 in Port Orchard, WA. We look forward to seeing you there! 

Guest Artists and Workshops

James HoranRelief Carving – James Horan
Back from Ireland for a second round as our Guest Artist is James Horan. Mainly working in Italian Marble and Irish Limestone, James creates expressive figurative sculpture with a strong sense of humour and humanity. Each sculpture is unique, and hand carved with no editions or reproductions. His sculpture is represented in private collections around the world. and is regularly on exhibition throughout Ireland.

Passaddhi, by Deborah WilsonElegance in Jade - Deborah Wilson
Acclaimed contemporary jade and granite sculptor will be offering a workshop in jade. Her work reflects her love for organic forms and her ongoing interest in utilizing the characteristics that define this “stone of heaven.” A good selection of precut Canadian and US jades will be for sale to create small scale sculpture and pendants. Class limit is 10 people, so register early and watch your registration confirmation for details.

Tom Small InstallationBig and Tiny: Heavy Cutting and Intricate Detail – Tom Small
Hailing from one of the mountaintops on San Juan Island, Tom Small has been working in both monumental scale and small scale for his professional works in basalt, granite, cedar, bronze and glass. During the week, he’ll be demonstrating techniques on a large piece of either basalt or granite and musing on the juxtaposition of scale and his signature meanderings of stone noodling.  Tom’s work can be found  in private collections and public art installations across the Pacific Northwest.

May the Circle Be Unbroken – Ruth Mueseler
An experimental intuitive carving circle, this workshop creates space for the possibility of a tribal community experience and the quiet inner work that can come from the language of stone. Ruth is a conglomerate of art education teacher, silversmith, art foundry worker and 29 year stone carving veteran. Her heartfelt work ranges from miniature to monumental.

Beginning Stone Sculpture in the Dojo - Tamara Buchanan
The Dojo is a large communal workspace that includes our extensive NWSSA tool library and dedicated instructors to guide those of you who are new to this whole carving thing or are looking to expand your skillset into power tool use. Our Beginners Workshop headed by Tamara Buchanan, provides space, stone and instruction on carving and safe hand tool usage. Tamara has been sculpting for over 35 years and her work has won several awards. She loves sharing the process of carving. A first this year, we will have  a Dojo Power Tools area for a dedicated  workshop on Intermediate Power Tools. 
Click here to learn more about participating as a beginner at our symposium

Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center includes 120 wooded acres of which 40 have been developed with cabins, lodges and outdoor recreation areas connected by walking paths through the forested grounds for guest use. It includes a large feild, a lake with canoeing and kayaking, two campfire areas and a floating dock for swimming. It is located 3 miles from the City of Port Orchard and about an hour and a half drive or relaxing ferry ride from downtown Seattle. 
The Camp has a lodge with a shared common area, kitchen area and bathrooms; it features multiple dorm-style rooms that sleep 1-3 people each. There are also 11 duplex-style cabins with private decks that sleep 3 per side. For those who like to commune more closely with nature, limited space is available for tents or trailers.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in Madson Lodge, which also our venue for evening presentations. As weather allows, dining and presentation may take place outdoors.

Financial Aid: 
Thanks to our generous members and the Thursday Auction, funds are available for both work-study positions and scholarships. For information, contact Cyra Jane, Symposium Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BruceRichardsonSquirrelSculpture Walk on the Meadow Saturday, July 15th
Our outdoor art gallery is the perfect opportunity to show your work in a supportive and appreciative environment. We encourage everyone to bring up to 2 finished pieces to display and to invite your friends! Bring pedestals if you have them. Additional smaller items are welcome too.  NWSSA takes a 20% commission.

General Assembly and BOD Meeting Wednesday
Live Scholarship Auction with our auctioneer Al Mangold Thursday
Dance Party! Friday
Sculpture Show Saturday

Registration Rates Member Non-Member
Full Time, Lodge/Cabin $1,095 * $1,195
Full Time, Tent/Camper $ 950 * $1,100
Day Rate, Lodge $190 per day $200 per day
Day Rate, Tent/Camper $160 per day $170 per day

Our Vendors
Neolithic Stone – If you have specific stone requests, please contact Randy ahead of time at 604-736-5201
Bronzestone – Various sizes of polished granite bases.
Braxton Bragg – A selection of tools and accessories for cutting hard stone
Richard Secrist – Rejuvenating deep tissue massage, providing 60, 90, and 2hr massages throughout the week.
Georgia Peterson – Restore alignment and health to stressed muscles.

Download Our Brochure
Register By Mail: Download the Form 

Special Thanks
Marenakos, 4Culture, Washington State Department of Commerce, Star Rentals and the staff at Pilgrim Firs.

Our Symposium Location
Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center is located at 3318 SW Lake Flora Rd, Port Orchard, WA 98367

2022 – 34th Annual Pilgrim Firs Symposium

Group Photo from the July 2022 Stone Carving Symposium in Port Orchard WA
What a glorious week we had at the International Stone Carving Symposium at Pilgrim Firs Camp in Port Orchard! Thank you so much to everyone who participated, bringing your bright personalities, big hugs, and beautiful sculptures to the event. Our auction was a huge success, our dance party was hopping, and our Sculpture Show was awesome and very well attended! Massive props to our stellar production team (Cyra Jane, Renee Roberts, Ed Salerno, and Trevor Contreras), our Guest Artists (Candyce Garrett and Deborah Wilson), our Dojo instructors (Ruth Mueseler and Steve Taplin), and to the great team of work studies whose positive attitude and hard work made the symposium run smoothly .

2022 Camp Pilgrim Firs Symposium Registration

34th Annual International Stone Carving Symposium
at Pilgrim Firs Camp, Port Orchard, WA 
July 9th-17th 2022

Guest Artists & Workshops: Stephanie Robison - Junctions Between Forms and Materials, Candyce Garrett - Expect the Unexpected, Deborah Wilson - Elegance in Jade, and Beginning Stone Sculpture in the DOJO with Tamara Buchanan & Ruth Mueseler

Click Here to Register Online Now!

2018 Pilgrim Firs Attendees
The Symposium 

We invite you to join us at Camp Pilgrim Firs for eight full days of playing with stone, communing with nature and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow stone enthusiasts. Bring yourself, your creative energy, your tools, and a favorite rock (or four!)

If you’re new to this whole things and don’t have stone or tools, we have an entire space set up for beginners with tools and instructors. Stone and tools will be available for purchase by our vendors.

The Campground provides cabins and lodges that are connected by 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.

The Camp has a lodge with a shared common area and bathrooms; it features multiple dorm-style rooms that sleep 2-3 people each. There are also 11 duplex-style cabins with private decks that sleep up to 3 per side. For those who like to commune more closely with nature, limited space is available for tents or trailers. No pets are allowed during the week.

Sculpture Walk on the Meadow

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 takes a 20% commission.

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