My favorite carving stone

A Journey Corsage;a Memory in Stone blogGuarding Silence close uprenewal foir poster

When people think of stone sculpture, they usually think of marble or soapstone. However, alabaster has been used for carving as far back as 3500BC. Alabaster is my favorite carving stone, with its color variations from translucent white to multi-color reds and greens. It also varies in  hardness, softer than most marbles but harder than soapstone, and slightly water soluble so that it should not be used for outdoor sculpture. It is believed by some that alabaster has spiritual properties . It is know as the “drawing stone” because it is thought that alabaster draws energy from other stones and has the ability to draw things to you or away from you,  depending on what your needs are. Photo 1, “A Journey” shows the beauty of white translucent alabaster from Italy, while photo 2, “Corsage” is a lovely pink and white alabaster from Colorado. Photo 3, “Guarding Silence” shows a surprising color variation in a piece from Utah and photo 4, “Renewal” is a beautiful multi-colored stone from New Mexico.




Buying and displaying art

Waiting overhead lightingWaiting lit from one sidemorning sunafternoon un

Often people hesitate before buying a piece of 3D art because they are unsure of where they will put it when they get it home. With wall art, you will hear, “I can always find a spot for it”, but not so with sculpture. The fact that a sculpture requires a physical space, in what may already be a full house, should not discourage the buyer. While sculpture can be showcased on a pedestal, it can also be displayed on countertops, coffee tables, bookshelves, etc. in and among all those things which make up our daily lives. In a way, that kind of placement is far more intimate than pedestal display. As with all art, lighting is an important element to consider. Unlike wall art, special lighting is not needed to display sculpture at its best. In fact, sculpture takes on whole new forms, depending on the way light hits it. The changing natural light through a nearby window or placement near a lamp that highlights only one side of the sculpture provide new ways of viewing the same artwork. Let art transform your living space not just decorate it.

Photo 1 “Waiting ” shown  in overhead lighting, photo 2 shown as lit by lamp light. Photo 3 “Open” lit by morning light through a nearby window, photo 4 by afternoon light.


Finished and titled

shell fragments

shell fragments

enhancement from exposed shell fragments

enhancement from exposed shell fragments

Body Image post rock limestone  H 21"

Body Image
post rock limestone
H 21″



After drilling, then setting the sculpture on the base to make sure it was aligned properly, I removed the sculpture to finish up the sanding and polishing the surface. I will glue the rod into the sculpture but not the base so that it is easily separated for transport. I decided to name the piece Body Image. Assigning a title to a piece is an important part  of the process for me. Since this piece is carved from post rock limestone, it has shells imbedded which appear in places  as flaws( photo 1) on the surface and enhance the shapes in other places( photo 2). I feel it mirrors the image we have of our bodies, flawed but still with a certain unique beauty.

mounting sculpture continued

showing shellhow much cut off

as seated

Before drilling your piece, you have to sit it on your base and  mark a drill guide line, so that when mounted on the rod, the piece will be oriented as you planned.  In the first photo you can see how an imbedded shell caused a large piece to break off the bottom. Photo 2 shows the drill guide line and  how much stone had to be removed  because of the break.  The final photo shows the piece mounted,  with the drill guideline  perpendicular to the base. Since both the piece and the base are so heavy, I will not cement the piece to the base so it will be easier to transport.








mounting sculpture

While working on a new piece, it is necessary to always keep in mind how it will be displayed. Is the piece designed to be stable enough to stand on its own, or will it need to be mounted on a base for stability. The post rock limestone piece I am working on now is imbedded with shells and shell fragments which makes mounting the piece tricky.  First you have to determine how the piece will sit on the base, drill the base, then drill the piece and insert a rod into both to support the piece on the base. The tricky part is drilling the piece without a shell causing an unwanted fracture. So far I have had 2 fractures and have not yet succeeded in finishing the mounting, but I have not given up.

variations in alabaster

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When people think of stone sculpture, they usually think in terms of marble. Historically, alabaster has also been used extensively because it  is easy to carve and is extremely beautiful. This stone is stunning in its beauty with colors like green, red, white, gold, cream and just about everything in between. Most of the alabasters I carve come from SW US. Alabaster often has internal grains that add to the beauty but increases the breakage factor. The level of hardness also varies.


Stone variations

I have been working on a piece of post rock limestone. This is an interesting stone because it has shells imbedded in the stone, some of which are visible and some are hidden. On the grassland  prairie’s in olden days, these sturdy stones was used as fence posts,  since lumber was scarce. It is an adventure to carve since you never know where a shell may pop up. Here is an example of an earlier piece I carved from this material, titled  “Seeing Shells”.Seeing Shells front view

Covering the basics

There is a lot of mental work in teaching someone the basics of something you’ve come to do almost automatically.  I started by covering the use of the different hand tools and the types of stones. Each stone will respond  differently to the type of chisel used and the force applied. I think by trying the various tools on different stones, instead of starting off with just one stone, helps put tool usage in context. Of course you can not possibly cover all the variations, but at least by having the student try several stones with the tools before beginning work on one piece, it becomes clear that working with stone is not static but a continual learning experience. A discovery of what the stone has to offer.

direct stone carving

Beginning a new carving  without a preconceived idea of what the finished piece will be affords many challenges. You look at the stone and wait for the shape or color to suggest a direction before you start carving, then with each new chisel mark you have to decide all over again. It is exciting to see how your imagination and perceptions guide you in the carving process.  The biggest challenge is to find one direction and pursue it. Otherwise you may end up with a stone that has been whittled  down  to nothing.

First blog post

Today my student  arrived to start 5 days of carving and learning. I consider the first day a big success. We covered  hand tool use and some of the basic characteristics of different types of stones.  I know I learned a lot from her about exploring new ideas and 3D design. We spent about 5 hours carving. I feel I am fortunate to have such an accomplished sculptor here to talk with and learn with.

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