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Suttle Lake Symposium 2017

Four carvers volunteered to tell us about the stones they worked on while there. The pieces range in size from 12 pounds to 3,000 pounds; not so unusual a spread for NWSSA stoners.

Ben Kimura
Craig Breitbach
Larry Lawlor
Mitsuo Saiki

Ben Kimura

Ben KimuraThis sculpture is a large piece of Yule marble from Colorado. I began roughing it out in July at the Marble/Marble symposium before bringing it to Suttle Lake. It was important to me, with this piece, to do all of the finishing work by hand. So, after putting down the five-inch grinder, it was and is all hand tooling. I will probably go through way more sandpaper than I would like to admit.

Some of the progress I have made stylistically has been making it a point to tell myself that there are no rules while carving. However, there is always knowledge that I can pick up from other artists.

Ben Kimura, The TorsoI found NWSSA through an ad for the Flower and Garden Show at Volunteer Park in the Seattle Times and went there hoping someone would have advice about where to locate good stones to carve. That’s where I found out about the symposiums, and since then it has been an education, attending these get-togethers and acting as a sponge, trying to listen and learn as much technical know-how as I can, and applying that knowledge to future projects.

The form of this piece emerged through a long discourse with the stone. It was an old stone and had probably been sitting untouched for a number of years. However, underneath the dirt and grime was a pure, very hard marble that lent itself to the forms that I like to carve.

Even though the process in which I carve is a type of direct carving, it is punctuated by taking a step back and drawing the physical stone, over and over again. I believe that if you take time to draw the stone in front of you, whatever stage it is in, it will give you an idea of how you can work with the stone, where the high points in the rock are and where the forms you want to impose can lay.

Being able to attend different symposia has stoked my enthusiasm for stone carving. It was truly incredible to set up at Suttle Lake and suddenly be transported into a different world that revolves around creativity and exploration. It is great to be in a space where everyone is doing, more or less, their own individual carving, however because of the electric energy that is radiating around the field, that individual energy becomes a source that one can tap into.

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Craig Breitbach
Craig Breitbach
I had a great time at the symposium again this year. The main sculpture I was working on at Suttle Lake is a new piece for the Carillon Point Marina on Lake Washington in Kirkland. This will be a two-year installation (along with my “Whale of a Bench” which had previously been displayed at San Juan Island Sculpture Park). The new sculpture, “Spirited,” is a 7 foot, 3000-pound basalt column with two salmon and a water design. I have a tight timeframe for this piece. In fact, I was only able to go to the symposium thanks to the equipment and help from Carl and Ken which enabled me to work on it there! I have to admit I have tool envy for the crane truck.…)
Craig Breitbach
The inspiration for this piece was a past sculpture installed in Oregon City, “River Dance.” (I even stopped to visit it on the way down to the symposium.) This time I am emphasizing the motion of the water more with spiral splashes that surround the salmon.

As always, I enjoy working in basalt because it has rough natural surfaces to contrast the polished and highly detailed images carved into them. But basalt is very hard, so I have to use an angle grinder, diamond grinding blades, and a Dremel for the detail work.

I am finishing the piece at my studio in Fall City and hope to install it mid to late September.

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Larry Lawlor
Larry Lawlor
“To Dance the Tango” Texas limestone 19 1/2” W X 20 3/4” T X 4 1/2” D

I tend to choose intimate moments for my relief carving. Here I have chosen the image of two Tango dancers in a dramatic pose, riveted on each other even though their eyes are closed. The challenge I’ve given myself is to render this image in a believable way. I wanted to create a strong composition that will keep the viewers' eyes traveling through the piece and come to center on the space between them. Finally and most importantly for me, I wanted to create the dramatic feeling and tension between the man and woman.
To Dance the Tango by Larry Lawlor
I’ve been carving for six years now. We moved to the Seattle area seven years ago following the grandkids and I happened on a StoneFest at Marenakos Rock Center with John Fisher as instructor. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I have a background in the Arts. I was a scenic and lighting designer in theater and television and have done some painting in acrylics and soft pastels.

More than half of my sculpture to date has been in deep relief carving. I like staying in the figurative mode and try to capture a moment and feeling.

What is most likely behind my choosing these themes is the desire of an elder person to revisit that core tension and feeling that is universal between humans and animals and place it in stone, making it universal yet personal.

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 Mitsuo Saiki Mitsuo Saiki

“It was my first time using limestone. It was so soft that I had to learn how to carve it as I was carving it. I found meaning in using a stone from USA to carve it. The Buddha statue reflects the one who sees it. So, it is my hope that I was able to convey that with this statue regardless of the faith of the one who sees it.”

Born in 1975, Mitsuo Saiki is a Level 1 certified Stone Masonry Technician. After becoming a student of the now-deceased stone sculptor Ryo Kato at age 18 and serving five years as his apprentice, he returned to the Saiki family business. He uses traditional hand-carving techniques to create works ranging from stone Buddhas to monuments, while also displaying his works at a variety of exhibitions and art festivals and engaging in a diverse range of professional activities.
"Jizuosama" by Mitsou Saiki
In 2005, he embarked on an ambitious two-year project to repair and restore the 300-year-old Kannon statues enshrined on Nakanojo town's sacred mountain of Takeyama. In 2014, as part of a commemorative project celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Gunma Prefecture Stone Industry Association, he carved the stone statue of the Gunma prefectural mascot "Gunma-chan" that is displayed in front of the Gunma Prefectural Government Building. He served as the Executive Committee Chairman of the 2015 Nakanojo Biennale and is known to spend his free time listening to blues with a drink in hand.

"As a stone sculptor, I try to trust my instincts as I search for the points and lines that tell me how to shape an object. However, I have come to understand that it is not the sculptor who decides how to sculpt the stone, but the stone that decides how it will be sculpted."

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