I now know how to carve SOAPSTONE, and I love it!

For the past two Saturdays, Amy (my advisor) and I have been making our way across the border to North Augusta to visit some artist friends. Amy randomly found their website during the summer. Last month we contacted them, and they agreed for us to go up to see them and their work.

Gary Barnhart and his wife Caroline are both artists. Gary is a stone sculptor and Caroline is a painter. They welcomed Amy and I (and Jenny on the first weekend) and completed opened their home and studio to us. During our first visit, they spent time showing us their work and discussing their process, themes and past experiences. I learnt about the correct tools to use for the stone, and  found out what the differences between carving soapstone , alabaster and marble were. I found out that, it is indeed okay for me to use some of my wood chisels on the stone, as long as I knew that it would eventually damage the tool to the extent that I cannot carve wood with it any more.

Carving stone for the first time was really fun. It felt really good, and I immediately liked it more than I liked carving wood. It is so far, much easier to shape the the stone compared to the wood. When carving stone, you don’t have to pay much attention to the grain, in the same way you would with wood. With this said, stone requires more patience than stone. Once you clean the surface initially, you have to use different rasps and files to shape it in more specific ways. If the shape is not what you want it to be, then you start the process again on the same surface. Gary told me that, I should expect to let go of at least 50% of the stone between the moment I begin carving, until the moment I have a finished project.  Gary walked me through the basics of making a hole in the stone. Apparently, this too takes a lot of patience! The week between our first and second visits, Amy and I looked at tools on line and we have ordered a few basic ones. Gary sold us the big piece of soap stone that I started carving at his home.

On our second visit, I started working immediately as Gary talked about his experiences as an art student, and the art schools in the 1970s. He shared his thoughts about how he thought one could create a successful form, and spoke about the importance of education among many other things. I gained a wealth of knowledge in just one afternoon. Afterwards, we all sat down on their dinner table and had Amy’s lasagna, which was really good! I am so happy I met them, and really excited about sculpting stone! I can’t wait to see if sculptors in Zimbabwe use similar techniques.

The biggest thing I learnt is that I need to trust my intuition, and let the rock speak to me.

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