Stone sculptors make rock solid art, friendships
Dozens of people roamed the site, running their hands over finished work, and barely resisting the temptation to touch sculptures-in-progress, in spite of the “Do Not Touch” signs. The sculptures, both real and abstract, were displayed atop rough wood pedestals; and as the morning sun rose higher in the sky, each reflected or refracted light in different directions. Such is the beauty of carved and polished stone.
Symposium Director Doug Wiltshire said that at any given time during the week, between 50 and 60 sculptors worked on their art, sponsored by the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association (NWSSA). They hailed from Washington and Oregon, from British Columbia, Italy, Germany, and Japan.
The artists are both men and women, teens to seasoned citizens. Some worked the stones for the very first time, and others have 30 or more years of carving and the arthritic joints to prove it. Some have MFA degrees framed back on their studio walls, where they often work in solitude. The communal sculpture event in the woods at Suttle Lake draws them back year after year because it’s both nurturing and inspiring.
I love stones large and small. I have them lining my walkways, in my pockets, cluttering my dashboard and window sills. But the idea of taking a tool and cutting into one to create something entirely mine had not occurred to me, until this past week.
I had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association annual symposium, this year taking place at Pilgrim Firs outside of Port Orchard. This is the 30th anniversary and many of the NWSSA members have been along for the whole ride (www.nwssa.org ). I had a vague concept of what I might see, but I was still surprised by the volume of stone dust; the noise of saws, blades and chisels; the miles of cords stringing out across the work field linking the easy-up tents to generators and power sources; and, more than anything else, the welcoming attitude of every single stone carver present. And even as memorable as the carvers are, the stones also stick in my mind.
Olivine, basalt, jade, serpentine, alabaster, marble, calcite, jet, quartz, onyx, pipestone, rhyolite, polymictic breccia! For a poet, just the names of the rocks are magical. To see them first in the raw, then shaped, textured and polished, seemed on the order of alchemy.
See this article as it appeared in Westsound Home & Garden
August 1, 2019 - Featured, People & Places
Text by Barb Bourscheidt
Photography by Northwest Stone Sculpture Association, Sharon Feeney, and Barb Bourscheidt
A gentle breeze wafts through the tall trees surrounding the cluster of cabins, tents and canopies in the forest not far from Port Orchard. Friendly voices are mixed with the knock and rattle of air compressors and the rat-ta-tat-tat of hammers, drills and chisels — the tools used by stone carvers who turn common-looking chunks of stone into breathtaking works of art.
For eight days each July, about a hundred members of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association take over Camp Pilgrim Firs Conference and Retreat Center to work with stone, commune with nature and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow stone enthusiasts. They camp in cabins, tents and RVs, gathering together at mealtimes in the camp’s dining hall to touch base on the day’s schedule and to catch up with each other socially.
The symposium culminates with an all-day outdoor “Sculpture Walk on the Meadow,” which this year takes place on Saturday, July 13. The Sculpture Walk is open to the public and is an opportunity for stone carvers to show their work in a supportive and appreciative environment, and for stone sculpture aficionados to purchase original work directly from the artists. Symposium participants are asked to bring one or two finished pieces to display, and NWSSA receives a 20 percent commission on sculpture sales.