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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: James Horan

James Horan with BIRTHRIGHTI currently work in Co County Waterford (South East Ireland). Art is my main occupation, it is what I spend most of my work-time doing. It is not always my main income. Like many artists I have had many jobs to enable my sculpture habit. I was encouraged, artistically, as a kid. I don’t know if I was any good at art then, it didn’t matter. I loved coloring, drawing and making. I think my parents’ philosophy was “go and be happy.” Art School was the next step in that process, and lots of luck. There is a saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” Without hard work, I think it is impossible to be a professional artist. I’m not sure there was a conscious “why” to becoming an artist, I just was and am an artist. I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an artist. One of my earliest artistic influences was the great illustrator of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, Quentin Blake. For me, those stories are inextricably linked with Blake’s illustrations. Those characters came alive in my imagination. Perhaps that is where my loose interpretation of human form stems from.

"Scuba Explorer" limestone 2016 30x 8 x 10 inch held over kilkenny marble base using perspex rodsWhen I first attended art school I thought figurative clay and bronze was what I wanted to do. Realistic figure modeling was it; I wanted to be like Rodin. But the art school had a stone carving area…. It did not take long to find my way there. The older students, equipped with hammers and chisels, were a frenzy of dust and noise. Their forms emerging from rocks. I was hooked. I remember my tutor asking, “Do you know Eric Gill’s work?” I said no and his eyes lit up, “you’re in for a treat.” He brought me straight to the library and found a book about Gill, then Jacob Epstein. It was an awakening. Gill, Epstein, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska are still the strongest influence on the form and style of my sculpture. I have also found inspiration in my contemporaries, even the ones that don’t carve! In terms of themes and motif, I can find inspiration in anything from a Mother with a child, drunks fighting in the street and our species’ insistence on being at war. Swimmers and Icarus figures are currently holding my interest, they defy gravity. To make a stone look weightless is a wonderful challenge.

James Horan "Reclining Female" 30 x 15 x15h cm I think our life experience pushes and pulls us from one place to another; it doesn’t immediately influence my work. I think life’s influence is more subconscious. Ideas take time to filter through. Mostly my inspiration comes from a chance encounter or a glimpse of the unusual in the everyday. There are, however, two things that clearly stand out as a push in a certain direction. Firstly, an exhibition, in my 3rd year of art school. Michael Quane a well-known Irish sculptor had a solo exhibition in a gallery beside the art school. He works in stone. He also went to the same art school as I did 15 years previous. I was amazed by the sculpture. I visited the exhibition several times. More importantly, he was a living Irish figure sculptor, working in my local area. Becoming a professional artist went from dream to a real possibility. A more recent influence inspired a full exhibition in 2015. In fact, I am still making pieces inspired by two books I read in 2014. The first book was “Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Uganda,” by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire. The second was “Whistleblower, Soldier, Spy: A Journey into the Dark Heart of the Global War on Terror,” by Tom Clonan. These books had a common theme: war. One book highlighted the specific horrors of war, the other that we as a species were constantly at war, conflict, rebellion, etc. This will be a recurring theme.James Horan "The Mighty Oak" 2018 Kilkenny Marble 36inch h 2

James Horan "Little Miracle" 2006 irish limestone father and child 26inch h 1I make expressive, figurative, sculpture. I exaggerate the proportion of the figure, large hands and feet usually. This started almost by accident but grew into a style and useful compositional tool. Adding weight to an area or focusing the attention on a certain section. I use negative space, to ensure a sculpture inhabits rather than invades the space it’s in. To be able to see through the stone helps make the stone feel malleable. I have heard my sculptures described as sketches in marble. I want the work to have potential energy, not be too refined. As a result I think my work borders on an unfinished look sometimes. I don’t like to high polish everything and refine it to infinity. When I decide a piece is finished, it can feel arbitrary, but I tell myself it’s a subconscious experience. I see a block of stone as 100% potential, each time the chisel hits the stone I remove some of the potential, I go further down a path to a specific destination. Eventually I pass the point of no return, where the form is there, but very rough. After this point I am refining the shape. Too little work and the piece looks unfinished. Too much and it can look flat and even lifeless. I want to express myself with every sculpture. I am not sure I have an overall expressive goal, at least not a permanent one. The most consistent aim I have is honesty. To be making sculpture for me, because I love to do it. I think this is at the core of all art, the art I admire and aspire to, at least.
James Horan "Game Over Generation Alpha" 105 x 100 x 40cm
I make sculpture that is purely about aesthetics too. Taking a block of stone and transforming it into a figure that is compositionally balanced. This balance comes at the expense of realism through distortions of proportion and exaggerated movement. Every few years I get focused on a more serious theme. Usually a social commentary idea, often dark humored. These narrative ideas overwhelm my practice for six to twelve months, culminating in an exhibition. Afterwards, I usually make a few very simple compositional pieces again. It seems to be cyclical. The same happens with scale. I will long to make a big sculpture, once I do, I relish making smaller work again. For now I have abandoned very small work. I am curating a sculpture exhibition due to open at the end of May and also currently designing for a large private commission for a garden which I hope will take up most of the summer.
James Horan "Swimmer" 2017 Irish Limestone
James Horan "Don't Push The Red Button" Cevec Marble 50 x 20 x 25hcm 1Direct carving is my method, and this certainly influences the final form. With direct carving, the ideas grow or change in a very organic manner. Some direct cavers let the stone dictate the design or start point but I mostly use cut stone, which means shape is rarely suggested unless through strong veining. I feel I need to know my design, fully in the round before I start, I then need to set about re-producing the idea exactly. Most importantly I must be willing to change the design at any moment. I use air hammers and tungsten tip chisels, and an array of small hand hammers for delicate work. Occasionally I have access to softer limestones, alabaster or soapstone but I prefer the medium hardness of marble and Irish limestone. They are very versatile, having the hardness to take great detail and be sited outdoors and the softness to carve by hand with hammer and chisel. I work on two or three pieces at a time. One being finished while the next is half way and the next just starting. Each of these stages requires a different energy level. Heavy physical work at the beginning gives way to delicate decision making and finally almost meditative surface finishing.
James Horan Father child and Maternity child 6 inches high
The Icarus legend has inspired several of my sculptures since around 2006, I think. The most recent one was simply called “Icarus,” an Irish limestone piece I completed in Dec 2018. This piece really shows the variety of finish available in the stone. Polished, the stone turns almost black. Rough tooling shows a great texture and lighter color. It is very satisfying to create a sculpture with minimal contact with the base/ground. Aiming to achieve weightlessness and movement takes a little planning. I drilled the holes for the dowel pins before starting to carve the sculpture. I felt the piece would be too delicate to drill once completed. “Icarus” required a lot of drilling to get the negative spaces right (It’s hard to know if the drill or the chisel is best sometimes). I also began to add extra elements to sculpture. I first did this after returning from Pilgrim Firs with some jade!

James Horan "For a better world press play" 2017 carrara marble 25 x 18 x 12 inchesI made a sculpture called “The Mighty Oak” from Kilkenny marble (a darker variant of Irish limestone). This piece was a female figure holding a jade acorn. I left the stone honed in this case, suitable for outdoors. I also used a round base which helped with the circular flow of movement. Both “Icarus” and “The Mighty Oak” are based around compositional challenges and simple beauty. In contrast, an ongoing theme of warfare (anti-war,) has preoccupied me since 2014. “Game Over, Generation Alpha” is an Italian marble sculpture of a male figure sitting on a predator drone flying it via games console. This was one of six pieces in an exhibition called “Behold Man: Apes with Guns.” Each piece dealt with a different aspect of modern warfare. Spending seven or eight months thinking about war and its effect on society was a real drain. Although I designed a couple more pieces after the exhibition in late 2015 it is only now I am starting to make them.

James Horan Exhibition 2006 5 large limestone figuresI organize sculpture exhibitions to promote 3-D art in Ireland, in doing so I have exhibited with many people who inspired and encouraged me early in my career. I have also managed to swap art works with some exceptional artists too! The social aspect of these exhibitions is important to me. I joined NWSSA at the first Camp Pilgrim Firs. Surrounded by stone, and enthusiastic carvers, I had the time of my life and met some great carvers and new friends; also new carvers and great friends. The experience helped me remember that stone is fun. That the joy of stone carving is why I use stone over any other medium. To continuously learn as I work is part of what drives me. Joining NWSSA at Pilgrim Firs reminded me there are many techniques to be learned from the honed masters or the beginner with vigorous energy and fresh eyes. I felt the welcome of the group. I felt at home, united by a passion for stone sculpting. I look forward to seeing my NWSSA friends again soon!

James Horan www.jameshoransculpture.com

Artist Spotlight - Daniel Cline

From a single point, all things formDaniel Cline

I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario. For as long as I can remember, I have made sculpture. My sculpture process has developed over my whole life and has been devoted to stone sculpture for the last thirty plus years. Originally, I made things from various clays that I convinced my mother to make or buy and I learned the fundamentals of stone sculpture from my brother Sandy Cline, a renowned soapstone sculptor. As a young kid, I sanded his sculptures and made a few small stone pieces. My interest in sculpture led to making stop-motion animation films with hand-sculpted figures moving about the scene. This in turn led to film school; unfortunately, my graduation coincided with the recession of the 80s, so I returned home to figure out my next move.
OCTOPUS ESCAPE BC marble 2 feet tall 2017 by Daniel ClineAt the same time, my brother and his wife were living at my parents’ home before moving to a place up north. During this time, I started to sit out in the garage and carve soapstone with Sandy. We would just talk about everything and sculptures would be carved. After I had made about twelve sculptures, he asked if I wanted to go to the Ottawa Christmas show with him; that was 1985. At the show, I sold six and made about $1,000. Good for an unemployed film graduate in the 1980s. 

Next, he was planning a three-week trip to Florida to do art shows. Let’s see: Niagara Falls in the winter with no money or warm in Florida and selling art! Each weekend we did an art show and spent money on new tools and stone at Montoya’s sculpture supply store in West Palm Beach. 

During this time, my style and technique developed in the shadow of my brother’s work. At that time, I learned his techniques and processes and as time went on, I developed techniques and ideas that led me to other ways to carve stone. His work is primarily soapstone, quarried in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. I carved hundreds of sculptures from this stone but I was always attracted to various other kinds of stone for their unique qualities: the translucency of alabaster, the opaqueness of limestone, the inner depth and luminosity of marble and so on. Additionally, I began to explore power tools, air chisels and grinders to work faster and on harder and bigger pieces. As time went on, I started to do my own shows and started to show in galleries. In 1990, we moved to BC. 

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Artist Spotlight : Joseph Kincannon

Joseph Kincannon - photo by Holly Kincannon
Joseph Kincannon and the Portal of Stone
In 1979 I entered the world of stone through an unusual portal; a portal at a cathedral, to be specific, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

1)	Cathedral St. John of the Divine, West front with S.W. Tower in view, 2009 - Photo: Holly KincannonAs cathedrals go, this mammoth edifice is a 19th century show of American might. It’s a cathedral to beat all cathedrals… in size, anyway. The interior floor is two football fields in length. The ceiling height is 120 ft. at its highest and with massive granite walls sheathed in a thick skin of limestone. The place is dirty, dank and cold just like the city it sits in, and I loved it instantly. I had never seen such grand architecture. There was nothing timid in the construction of this building. I was immediately struck by how the roaring city outside is silenced upon entry.

2)	Roughing out statue blocks placed in 1920's of Cathedral central portal, 1988 - Photo: Robert Rodriguez

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Artist Spotlight: Oliver Harwood

Oliver HarwoodAs an art student I was influenced by two accomplished sculptors who followed their passion in very different ways. I explored figurative sculpture inspired by John Fisher while working at his Italian studio, and conceptual sculpture under John Greer, my art college professor. Both these artists have taken their careers to a very high place, a lifelong pursuit and though they may not know it, I owe a lot to them. I regret not diving deeper into both figurative and conceptual art while I had the opportunity to work with them. There is something innately beautiful doing figurative work as well as satisfying bringing a theoretical concept into the three-dimensional world.

But being a head-strong young artist, I moved away from both figurative and conceptual art and started my own exploration of metaphorical art. As I got interested in a subject, I would explore the topic through several sculptures that often spanned years.


“Zephyr”. Limestone. 1994 20”x20”x20” by Oliver Harwood
One of my first stone sculptures – "Zephyr" – God of the Wind.

“Formation” (detail), marble, 1995 by Oliver Harwood



"Formation" Art college days, the dance between the material and the artist.



“Inner View”, marble, 2001, 104” X 42” X 10’ I removed the surface and changed the structure of stone from crystal to muscle.  This was part of a series that went on for a few years trying to get beneath the surface of things… “Inner View” Marble. 2001 104”x42”x10’
I removed the surface and changed the structure of stone from crystal to muscle. This was part of a series that went on for a few years trying to get beneath the surface of things… 

For me, what I call metaphorical art is sculpture that brings two or more unusual elements or representations together in a new way to suggest a meaning. For instance, the 
“Shifting Culture” series combined the idea of ship hulls with iconic ancient civilization architecture. The ship hull is a fascinating manufactured object, made of a rib cage and skin, but instead of containing water, like us, it displaces it. A ship is in a precarious balance between weight and displacement, always trying to remain buoyant. My fascination with ancient cultures came from my first degree in history and anthropology. The “shifting culture” series developed from my concern over the loss of value placed on history. The great civilizations of the past have become commodities, bought and sold in markets around the world. I created a series of boat hulls transporting our displaced and commercialized history.“Lost City”, limestone, 2008, 26” X 10” X 8”

Staying with the boat hull, but moving away from archeology, my next series looked at the divergence between reason (the mind) and nature (the body). In “Symbiosis,” we are the rational “tokens” transported by the organic world almost against our will through the timescale of life. My question… What happens to an organism that chooses mind over body, that prefers an artificial constructed environment more than the biosphere that sustains it?

“Symbiosis”, (detail) tufa & slate, 2010, 23” X 8” X 6” by Oliver Harwood


This series ended with the carving of a coelacanth (my interpretation) which is known as a living fossil. Definitely one of the strangest carvings I have ever done.

For these sculptures I found some wonderful boulders of tufa that were completely organic looking – filled with random holes, deposits and micro crystals. “Coelacanth”, tufa, 2012, 52” X 20” X 12” by Oliver Harwood

Tufa is formed when carbonate minerals precipitate out of a solution, like how stalactites form in a wet cave. The only difference with travertine is that travertine is precipitated from a hot (geothermal) solution usually making it a bit denser and harder.

I have carved stone for 20 years and seldom get tired of it. I have recently been exploring other materials either for large scale or to express things that can’t be captured in stone.

Some of my greatest memories came from the early years. I loved Art College, but there was a strong bias that “good art” was purely conceptual. I have often joked with my friends that it took years to recover as an artist from art school! For me, art in all its forms is expression; words are expression, movement is expression, even silence and stillness is expression! Everything has a context, every object is part of a space, every story echoes against a wall of history. As artists, I believe we are the interpreters, whether consciously or subconsciously, we fashion form, colour, texture, sounds, patterns, movement into new identities.

Beginning “Song of the Deep” in Saint John, NB. Summer 2018It was a great experience to attend the Saint John International Sculpture Symposium this past summer for six weeks. Working alongside seven other sculptors to cut through tons of granite, each creating our own vision for a public art piece.

The sculpture I did is called “Song of the Deep” and it invites people to listen to the voices of nature in a new way and hear the life around us. It asks the viewer to consider the music of the ocean … a whole orchestra of sounds and songs we don’t hear. I created an audio graph of a particular Humpback whale song; the visual pattern of the resonance. The Humpback whale in particular is known to compose intricate and beautiful songs up to a half hour in length that transmit up to a mile through the ocean. The songs overlap in depth and volume beneath the waves.

I am intrigued by wave forms … not the ocean wave forms but sounds waves and patterns. They are beautiful and alive in their invisible world. Full of energy and direction until they dissipate into stillness. Song of the Deep (detail) by Oliver Harwood

For this sculpture I was inspired by the Bay of Fundy with its massive tides that create their own resonance and rhythm, forming macro and micro ripples through the biosphere. These wave patterns merge with sound waves and songs to create intricate and complex overlapping harmonies. The whales are the largest voices in the natural ocean and come to the Bay of Fundy in the summer as their primary feeding ground. We had a wonderful trip to Saint Andrews one day to go out and see them in their habitat.

The sculpture I made has three main elements, the visualization of the whale song supported by granite blocks that have been split, like the song is splitting the earth and stone and reaching into the sky. The side stones form the outer shape, some say it appears as the jaw of a whale, and the resonance patterns extend into these stone, creating new sound patterns.

Song of the Deep at Sunset “Song of the Deep” 2018. 13’tall x 8.5’ x 4’

Part of this project is also interactive, viewers can listen to the whale song depicted in the sculpture on their own phone. The link is: https://ocr.org/sounds/humpback-whale/

It was a great opportunity to share knowledge with artists from Europe and Turkey. It seems a lot of the European artists use nine inch flush mounted blades on extra powerful grinders. I think grinders in Europe are rated differently than here as they get much higher wattage for the same size tool. We had 7” grinders with 7” flush blades. One of the biggest lessons in a symposium is not having the luxury of slowly working your stone down, one has to cut straight to your finish surface. You just take a deep breath and go for it! We would often burn through one 7” sintered diamond blade a day – and that was with water. The symposium was well organized and provided everything we needed to stay focused on our task. The evenings were full of laughter and stories and a few invented games that corresponded to the amount of alcohol consumed … but we all hit the pillow by 10pm exhausted from a heavy day’s work. We worked hard six days a week for six straight weeks, often the whole day with a gas powered saw. "Song of the Deep: By Oliver Harwood

The stone we had, came from a quarry that used dynamite, so there were lots of fractures in it and it would not split in a straight line! This was one of the biggest challenges for me; I needed to split through several large boulders at exact right angles, so I ended up drilling all the way through, with holes 5” apart! It meant one full week of holding on for dear life to a big quarry rock drill that shakes you to the core. Fortunately, after being shaken silly, all the rocks split perfectly.

It was a great experience, setting out to do this sculpture, working through all kinds of hurdles and getting it all together on the 2nd to the last day! There were a few sleepless nights along the way but it all came together in the end. The best part of the symposium of course was the camaraderie with the other sculptors and interns and organizers, there was seldom a dull moment.

The last few years I have been consumed with an art related business so have had very little time for my own artwork. Spending six weeks carving granite really drove home the importance to create regularly … to focus on developing one’s voice and ideas at least some time every week. I have set a few new art goals and am looking forward to next year’s Pilgrim Firs already.

:) Oliver



Artist Spotlight: Dale Blankenship

Camera Man, Alaskan nephrite jade 2014, 12" h. Dale BlankenshipThese 73-year-old hands have been carving jade for nearly forty of those years. Nary a penny earned for the effort. Several reasons for that. Mainly the ample financial rewards earned by these hands working on telecommunication electronics and main frame computers dissuaded any thoughts of pursuing a life of starving artist. The attached ten digits remain busy in these twelve years of retirement but as yet still monetarily uncompensated. Though a price was incurred in those forty years. Fortunately that matter was resolved satisfactorily the past year by carpal tunnel release surgery on both wrists.

Lacking formal art instruction and without mentored guidance in the ways of lapidary these hands underwent a hit and miss sort of education in glyptic sculpture. That would be with emphasis on the 'miss'. Somehow, eventually, the corresponding two feet managed to secure a solid footing on this business and forward momentum was achieved.

Blue Octopus Afghanistan lapis lazuli Chatoyant Tiger's-Eye 1984 4"w.  3" h. Dale BlankenshipIn the early years there was experimentation with any number of gemstone materials. Mostly of the cryptocrystalline quartz varieties. But one day these eyes set upon this unfamiliar green block of stone called jade. Things have never been the same since. Partly owing to acquired skills but appreciably owing to a stone obligingly compliant to often unreasonable expectations this chap in a younger shop apron was catapulted from beginner carver to awarded master in record time. So began a decades long love affair with jade.

For benefit of the readership it must be pointed out that there are two stones chemically and mineralogically different that legitimately are referred to as 'jade'. It is a bit of unfortunate circumstances going back some two hundred fifty years why this is so. A mineralogist in 1866 realized the duplicity and attempted to correct the matter by calling one jadeite and the other nephrite. Helpful as the distinction was the subsequent one hundred fifty years have failed to eliminate the confusion factor for the general public. Two stones continue as one name. It is nephrite exclusively that enter and leave this carver's workshop. Saturday Morning Cartoons "Saturday Morning Cartoons" Both children - British Columbia nephrite jade Antenna base - Wyoming nephrite jade Television cabinet - Wyoming nephrite jade Television speaker cover - Australian nephrite jade Television screen - Siberian nephrite jade 2017 TV 4.5" h.

What makes nephrite jade such an ideal medium for the gemstone carver is its physical structure. Nephrite is a rock made up of a variable but somewhat consistent conglomeration of minerals of a specific mineralogical group. The primary mineral constituents initially were fibrous and parallel. During the subterranean metamorphic process of heat and pressure the fibers became distorted, compressed and cohesive. Mineralogists refer to this interlocking distortion as 'felting'. The result after baking in earth's oven and left to cool on the window sill is an especially tough substance that resists deformation. Nephrite, but with one minor exception, is in fact the toughest natural material on this planet. Jadeite comes in second at about half toughness and for a different structural reason. The Mohs hardness of nephrite ranges from 6 to 6 ½. But nephrite is many, many, many times tougher than diamond with its hardness of 10. For the carver this toughness lends to jade's ability to hold up to especially fine and intricate details.

GRIEF Arkansas Crystal Quartz 1984 5" h. Dale BlankenshipThe carvings Grief and Blue Octopus were a temporary hiatus from jade during an early interval of depleted personal jade inventory. Grief was carved from a single Arkansas quartz crystal. Although a good carving material in its own right its appeal did not surpass that of nephrite. The entire carving is of a frosted surface but for the two polished tears streaming down the woman's cheeks. The intent of the carving was to project to the viewer raw emotion. Although that effect seems to have been achieved well enough, the subject is a bit macabre. No other attempt along such a theme has been made since.

It so happened during the hiatus that a nearly forty pound available piece of especially fine and highly desirable Wyoming jade was brought to this jade nut's attention. At any other time the purchase of such a superb homogenous colored rock would not have just severely impacted the family budget but would have outright destroyed it. But at that time my particular telecommunication skills were in high demand. The overtime was brutal. The resultant paychecks were obscenely swollen. The jade acquisition became a done deal. Had my personal clairvoyant-on-retainer not been out sick on that day there would have been a second mortgage taken on the house to buy more chunks from the original 860 pound boulder. Opportunities for Wyoming "apple green" are increasingly rarer with an inversely proportional increasing price. Current four figure prices per pound not including the decimal are outright scary. The carvings Just a Trim and Mother's Board Meeting were made from the purchased piece.JUST A TRIM Wyoming nephrite jade 2012 6" h.Dale Blankenship

An early path was set toward carving thematic nursery rhymes and fables. But it was learned that such a theme artistically tends toward banality. Perhaps not in jade but certainly in other mediums. The pursuit of avant-garde artistic uniqueness is an elusive one. Whatever one does almost invariably someone else somewhere has done it before. Nonetheless there are artists seeking the less repetitious who wander about on less trodden paths. The path most often chosen by this artist is that of narrative sculpture. Captures of moments in time of otherwise unremarkable pedestrian events. The attempt always is to portray verbs as opposed to nouns. For some yet undiagnosed reason the artistry portion of this brain's dopamine receptors fail at abstract and organic forms.
Mothers Board Meeting Wyoming nephrite jade 2007 5" h.
Because of nephrite's toughness but not so much its hardness the usual stone sculpting methods are ineffectual. Single-mindedly beat on a chunk of nephrite with mallet and chisel and one will miss every call to lunch and dinner for the next decade. Nephrite's toughness is why aboriginal cultures used the stone for hammers, adzes and anvils. But it is tractable to abrasion. The jade cultures of yore used the much harder quartz, emery and corundum sands to fashion implements and amulets. Today, of course, manufactured diamond grits are the preferred choice for cutting and shaping.

This carver's workshop is fairly well equipped with a myriad assortment of tools. Most of which are motorized. Many of which are self-made. There are several saws with diamond impregnated rims ranging from 8" diameter to 18". The saws are the heavy hitters early on in a carving project. Grinding is such a slow tedious chore that one wants to cut off as much waste material as possible. The word 'waste' used rather liberally as most trimmed pieces become candidates for later smaller projects. The saw cuts may be performed on a lapidary trim saw or for larger projects a pivoting drop saw. An arbor mounted diamond grinding wheel comes into play following the saw work. Smaller diamond grinding wheels are used next if appropriate. Then comes the detailed grinding. Small diamond burrs mounted on some variation of a bench arbor might perform much of the shaping. Or else a motor-driven flexible shaft with hand piece and small burrs will consume a significant proportion of the project interval. Lastly comes the tedious sanding. Jade carvers learn and relearn the inevitable fact that once the piece has attained the desirable shape the work is only halfway done. The sanding goes on seemingly endlessly. The coarser sanding may be done by hand with shaped pieces from grindstone blocks. Later stages of sanding most often are done with diamond impregnated pastes applied with a motor-driven rotating tool which may be nothing more than a hardwood or bamboo dowel.Wild Ride Wyoming nephrite jade 2018 5" l. 3" h.

To emphasize the tedium of sanding consider the carving Cameraman. The carving's shape rather much looked at eight months into the project like it is seen now in the photograph. But it took yet another seven months of several stages of sanding to achieve the final desired finish. It can be disheartening at times to realize that the intended shape has been obtained but as much interval again is required to complete the sculpture.

Tippy Toes Alaskan nephrite jade 2014 6" w. 4" h.The Cameraman carving was a particularly challenging subject. A 1:1 model was crafted of wood and clay. Initial cuts were made with a saw then came the grinding. And more grinding. What turned out to be a constant dilemma was creating the tripod legs. Not only are there angles within each tripod leg that must match the others but that all three tripod legs required the same angles to arrive at the same corresponding platform position. No small number of templates were created from phenolic sheet (electronic insulative material) to act as guides. It was a painstaking process of grind, measure, compare, grind, measure, compare.

The dioramic Saturday Morning Cartoons was one of the less tedious and more fun projects. Except maybe for making those little vacuum tubes, transformer and speaker and such inside the close quarters of the cabinet. As sculptors know, achieving proportion with human figures can be challenging. And faces can be exasperating to get right. When the entire head is smaller than a walnut the detail work is quite protracted. Achieving eye and ear symmetry can take hours.

Scooter Ride Siberian nephrite jade 2005 4.75" w. 5" h.It had been the intention this year to begin depleting the years of accumulated jade scraps to use in smaller short interval projects such as amulets and jewelry items. For some reason these 73 year old hands could not resist embarking on yet another months long project. And only recently yet another jade candidate for a larger project somehow found its way into the shop inventory. Oh, but if there only were another forty years of opportunity.
CHICKEN DINNER Siberian nephrite jade 2004 4.25" w. 4.5" h.

Artist Spotlight - Larry Lawlor

“Hands”, alabaster, 2015, 6” X 16” X 6” by Larry LawlorLooking for something to do, I found the world of stone at Marenakos’ StoneFest 2011. I have done other artistic endeavors in my life but not sculpture and never stone as a medium. John Fisher was the carving instructor that year and those of you who know him can understand that I was hooked by the end of that week.Larry Lawlor

Now after seven years of carving, I have settled on a set of preferences that guide me. I like the feel of hand tools much more than machine tools. Because of this preference I stay in the softer stones, limestone, alabaster, chlorite, marble. I am the most challenged by working in the figurative mode. It is the best of times for me when a piece of stone begins to tell a story, that moment when carving a hand or face is actually in proportion and becomes alive. It’s not just a surface but the muscle and bone underneath. I must admit that abstract doesn’t pull me in the same way.

“Sleeping Dog”, limestone, 2011, 24” X 7” X 9” This is one of my earliest carvings, my first attempt at a horizontal three dimensional piece. It is based on a typical pose of our Dalmatian, Batia.Early on I stepped into relief carving as a way to talk about a story or recognizable moment. Themes of mother and child in either animal or human form and interesting people, moments or relationships, draw me the most. I have come to love the challenge of perspective, shadow and light, strong undercut edges, texture, movement, composition, all in a shallow carving with a frontal view.

I have a background in drawing, rendering and some painting, which probably explains the draw toward relief carving. It’s all about light which is the strongest element of all in sculpture. Controlling how light reflects on the surfaces, gives you your highlights, middle values and darks.

I also work in a more three dimensional way, though, I still am carving in the figurative with front and back points of view. At first I stayed with limestone but hanging out with the NWSSA artists has broadened my understanding of different stones with their different characteristics. It’s been
“Garden Spirit” limestone, 2017, 12” X 12” X 10”  Larry Lawlor wonderful to become aware of the translucent quality of alabaster, the deep blacks and grays of chlorite or high polish of marble.“Mother Spirit”, limestone, 2013, 9” X 16” X 8”     She also watches over the garden.

I enjoy gardening and have produced a number of pieces for the garden. I carved a sculpture with two pieces in it that represent Nurturing and Protection which speaks to my own sense of my relationship to the garden. I owned two pieces of limestone that were three sided and 18 and 22 inches tall. I decided to put one face forward for Nurturing and two faces forward for Protection. I’m pleased with the results and they have been watching over my garden for the past three years. There are also some cheerful stone entities and motherly spirits that watch over the garden.

Another area of carving that I’ve become aware of is that of “Free Carving” verses “Modeling.” My preference is free carving where one has an idea in mind or has a stone that says what you might find inside and you start removing stone. The finished piece might not be what you first envisioned but the trip along the way has been open, immediate and creative at every step, but not safe. You could end up with a pile of chips as a finished product.

In modeling you do your exploration usually in clay to find the finished product. Starting with a strong idea of what you want, you can add, remove, smooth and draw in the clay until you have found the sculpture you are after. You can work in a smaller scale as well. The carving process then becomes a copying and enlarging of your model into stone. Each method is not easier or harder than the other, just different in experience. In both cases you still have to pay attention to the needs of the stone. In free carving, you are free to explore and find the finished piece and in modeling you are challenged to reproduce your model faithfully.
 
 Marquette for “Child’s World”, modelling clay   . “Child’s World”, limestone, 2016, 14” X 20” X 18’      The child has found a frog.

I have used modeling or a “maquette” for three sculptures so far and I would like to describe the one which was my major exploration for the modeling process. I had previously purchased a 400 lb. equal-sided block of limestone. It came to me that a child squatting looking for something in the grass would fit into this stone. I attended a summer class in clay figure modeling which got me started in handling clay; took pictures of a neighbors’ child; did a bunch of drawings; found a picture of a child bending over in overalls on line that I really liked; bought 10 pounds of modeling clay; made an armature from copper wire and, after some days of fiddling, I produced a model I liked in a half scale to the possible finished piece. I also fitted a wire frame around the model that gave me the outer edges of the block. I could then measure the model itself and from the outer edges of the block to the model - times two. After a few months of carving, changing a few things as I went along, I had a stone carving that was very close to the clay model. I look at this piece now, a few years later, and wonder if it was worth it to create a lawn figure. The object the child is looking at in the grass is a frog.


Over the last few years, I have had a number of commissions and all have turned out well. It is a new learning experience and a challenge to carve for someone else. It is one thing to carve for yourself with all the general fears one carries about a successful carving, but to add the idea of satisfying someone else as well can be unnerving. I have found that letting go of outcome and just carving, works for me. I had the happy experience to be paid more than the asking price for one of my commission pieces.

I have also had the novel experience of selling some of my already carved sculptures. The first time was at Camp Brotherhood a few years back. Someone wants to buy one of my pieces?? – WOW! I sold two that day and was later told they got really good prices!
“Laughing Wind”, alabaster, 18” X 14” X 16”
Most recently I sold a sculpture at this spring’s Flower & Garden Show. It was a large piece of white alabaster titled “Laughing Wind.” The piece is a woman’s face with open mouth laughing while holding back her billowing hair. It went through three manifestations, first a baby in a basket, then a woman blowing over her hands and finally, “Laughing Wind.” I was volunteering the last day of the show when I watched this couple standing in front of the piece, the lady with her hand on it for a long time. They asked if I would take less for the piece. When I said no, they seemed happy to pay full price. My last view of “Laughing Wind” was of it covered in the woman’s coat, riding in a flimsy garden cart they purchased there, with them pushing/pulling it down through the crowded isle of the show. I’m a very lucky guy!

My last two carvings seem to be following the times. With all the energy right now for women striving to achieve their rightful place, I wanted to add my expression of it.

The first is from a piece of chlorite. I call it “Proud” and it depicts a young African woman looking over her shoulder conveying her pride in who, what and how she is.
Photo: 24. Pride

The last piece is from white marble I finished this January. I have been struck lately by sculptures some of the famous cemetery in Staglieno, Italy. More specifically by Sammartino’s “The Veiled Christ” and Strazza’s ”The Veiled Virgin,” The work of these two 18th and 19th century Italian sculptors, clearly show the human features that lie beneath a veil yet show the features with a strong emotional impact. I wanted to try my hand at it. Also, I wanted to get more negative space into my work and wanted to make a statement to reinforce current women’s struggles. Drawing a sense of my collective idea on each face of the block, off I went into free carving mode, finishing with “Lifting the Veil.” I decided somewhere along the line to leave the veil material coarser than the sculptures from my research, I think, to suggest more aliveness to the piece.
Photos: 27. Lifting the Veil

Right now I’m in a two-month slump and need more stone. I have a persistent feeling that I’m just a beginner in this whole business and in many ways that is true. I suspect that for all of you carvers that are reaching into the unknown, at any level, feel a similar way. I feel gratitude for finding stone carving at this time of my life and comradeship with the many fine carvers I have found these last few years.