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Symposia - General Info

2020 Save the Dates!

NWSSA Events in 2020 

NWSSA Winter Party
Annual pot-luck dinner Winter Party hosted at Marenakos Stone Center. Saturday, February 8th beginning at 4 pm.  We will send out an email invitation with pot-luck sign up in January.

NWSSA Stone Carving Symposiums
Our symposiums offer communal space, educational opportunities, and inspiration for carvers of all levels of experience from professionals to beginners. Immerse yourself in a community of dusty, welcoming artists and experience how stone carving can be such a powerful and versatile medium and a meditative practice.

Pilgrim Firs Stone Carving Symposium - July 11-19th 

The largest of our gatherings, Pilgrim Firs allows for 80-110 carvers to set up workspaces for eight days in July. The camp features cabins and lodges, meals, and recreation set in the beautiful forests of the Kitsap Peninsula. The symposium features multiple invited guest artists from around the world, a beginner’s tent, a jade carving workshop and workspace, presentations, an auction, a party, and nightly campfires. Saturday the 18th of July will be a free, open to the public Sculpture Show.  

Suttle Lake Stone Carving Symposium - Aug 9-16th
More intimate and more rustic, Camp Sisters is set on gorgeous Suttle Lake in Central Oregon. The Camp features cabins, meals, kayaking and hiking. 50-70 carvers convene here for a full week of carving together. The symposium has a strong connection with Japan and has been creating an active exchange bringing sculptors over each year. Suttle Lake features a beginner’s workshop with space and tools to learn, a jade carving workshop, nightly presentations, an auction, a party, and an open to the public Sculpture Show.

Women’s Carving Retreat - June 5-7th

In its fourth year, the Women’s Carving Retreat welcomes up to 20 women to carve outside the Old Alcohol Plant Inn overlooking a marina on Puget Sound. The retreat provides a welcoming and comfortable space to explore stone carving and features Artists In Action, a public Sculpture Show the last day.

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The Dojo

Instructor Tracy Powell Demonstrating how to carve limestone in the DojoBy Tamara Buchanan

At each NWSSA International Symposium our organization creates an area where persons who have never carved, or haven’t carved for a long time, have an opportunity to create a stone sculpture. A large tent is provided. Work tables and bankers are available. All manner and types of tools can be checked out to use. An experienced sculptor is present to make sure that anyone can get started on a project, learn about safety, tool use, stone selection, design and more.

This area has always been called “the beginner’s tent.” The term has never been a true fit for this special place. The area is so much more than a place for 1st time carvers. It is a “seed bed” for people who want to try something new, for carvers who haven’t touched a stone in years and want a refresher, for experienced carvers who want to try out a new tool, work out a design problem, or just need advice on a project. It’s really an on-field hub.

This year, as we set up the tent area, I expressed my exasperation of the term “beginner’s tent” to those who were helping ...but I had no alternative name. The next day, a work-study fellow, Grant, suggested “The Dojo.” I was familiar with the word as we have a Dojo on Lopez Island. It’s a peaceful building in the woods that is used by various groups as a place to exercise, sing, or meditate. The word for me meant a place that was inclusive, inviting, and open. It felt right to me, but was it just a little too “strange” for our group?Attendees going about their work in the welcoming space of the Dojo

Wikipedia says: “A dōjō (道場) is a hall or space for immersive learning or meditation. This is traditionally in the field of martial arts, but has been seen increasingly in other fields, such as meditation and software development. The term literally means "place of the Way" in Japanese. “

“Immersive learning” is certainly what we’re about in our Dojo. The learning often involves stone, or tools, or learning about’s all up to you. As the week progressed, the term The Dojo was embraced by many. Our Dojo was a place of great learning, much patience, and a good share of happiness.

Safety for Sculptors

Northwest Stone Sculptors Symposium at Camp Pilgrim Firs & Camp Suttle Lake
Eye, Ear & Resp Protection

WELCOME to our creative place where everyone is on the safety team and helps to ensure an enjoyable time for all, including our visitors. Be aware of the safe use of tools and considerate toward protection of the grounds and camp facilities. Drive slowly (15 mph) and watch for pedestrians and wildlife.

PERSONAL SAFETY is #1, Wear clothing and footwear that is safe to work in at camp. Safety gear for eyes, ears, and respiratory system is required. Be careful on uneven surfaces and use a light after dark. We want a safe and trusting time with other artists.

SAFE TOOLS & WORK AREA is your responsibility, so keep your workspace safe at all times, and secure it when you are not present. Unplug all power tools when you’re away. Electrical connections should be protected from moisture, particularly at night. Be mindful of your flying chips and the dust you create. Be prepared to add extra sides to your canopy for excessive dust, or to be asked to work in a different area. Inspect your power tools, hand tools, electrical cords, and all connections each day for proper working condition. Visitors may not use or handle your power or pneumatic tools.

VEHICLES Drive slowly!!! Drivers must keep an eye out for people and equipment while driving on the work field and camp areas. If the driver is unsure or backing up, the driver must ask for someone to guide and spot them.
Group Demonstration
DRUG & ALCOHOL POLICY Consumption or possession of alcohol by any guest under 21 on Camp property is strictly prohibited. Consumption is not allowed on the field while power tools are in use.
The use or possession of illegal substances/drugs on Camp property is strictly prohibited.

SMOKING The Camp enforces a no smoking policy in all of their facilities. You may smoke outdoors. You must carefully extinguish all cigarettes to reduce the risk of fire and appropriately dispose of cigarette butts.

DEMONSTRATIONS Please remember to wear safety protection while attending instructor demonstrations.

PERSONAL PROPERTY is your responsibility: tools, equipment and your sculptures on exhibit.

VISITORS Visitors are welcome and should check in with staff upon arrival. Eye, hearing and respiratory protection should be worn while observing work in the carving area.

Thank you, and Carve Proud!

Northwest Stone Sculptors Symposium

What to Bring to the Jade Carving Workshop

Jade Carving Workshop

Deborah Wilson recommends that if you have the following items, you should bring them for the Jade Carving Workshop Jade Carving Workshop at Suttle Lake

• Respirator (3M has a good silicone rubber one)
• Waterproof Apron… if you have one
• Rubber boots, again only if you have a pair
• Ear plugs!! Very important (she recommends the foam disposable ones) and bring a small case to put them in.
• Safety glasses or visor
Bandana - keeps the dust out if your hair
• Rubber gloves, optional
• Sketch pad and pencils etc.
• Plasticine for making maquettes. She usually brings some with her as well.
• Thumb drive to download jade tooling and carving information

Keep in mind, there is an additional materials fee, depending upon the size and quality of jade you select for your project. 

About NWSSA Symposia

NWSSA hosts two a year: Suttle Lake (Sisters) Symposium (for over 25 years) in Oregon State, and Camp Pilgrim Firs Symposium (for over 32 years) in Washington State. Both symposia offer something for sculptors at all levels. Beginners and intermediate carvers come to learn, grow as artists, and try new things in a supportive environment. Professional sculptors gather to work on projects, share information, get inspiration,  and often to help beginners.

Stone and tools are available for purchase from knowledgeable vendors who know the business and are carvers, too. The teachers vary from year to year, but the overriding theme of our symposiums is always the generous sharing of information with all attendees.

For those who attend it is a working holiday with like-minded folks while being fed three meals a day surrounded by everything to do with stone. Evenings are spent by the fire swapping stories, making new friends, and catching up with connections made from past symposiums.

Symposium price discounts are given to attendees who are NWSSA members.

For more information on how to become a member click here.