Sculpture by Jeff Powell
Original artwork in stone, metal, and who knows what else
Stone Carving Class Information
I teach stone carving with Sue Toorans.
We've been doing this since the fall of 1998, so it's been a while now.
Here is some more specific information, followed by a course overview and
a materials list.
The class introduces students to the process of carving stone with hand
tools. Beginners start with alabaster or soapstone - both fairly soft
stones that can be easily carved. The instructors provide tools for
beginners to use during the class and assist throughout the process.
More advanced students are always welcome to take the class too. It
provides a regular scheduled opportunity to work, get feedback from other
artists, and a chance to both learn and share the knowledge you've acquired.
The class is very informal. The first session involves about 1 hour of
lecture on tools, tool use & care, and shaping techniques. Students
pick a stone from those available from the instructors (about $1.00 per
pound) and begin working. Several sessions of shaping work follow. As
students approach the start of polishing, a brief demonstration of polishing
technique is given to aid in the process and then students are turned
loose again. The instructors work one-on-one with students during the class
for some portion of the time, and may also spend some time working on their
own sculptures as well. (Many students appreciate this work as it allows
for easy demonstrations as things come up, and also shows students how
the instructors "really" work.)
The class covers the following major points, though not necessarily in the
order presented here.
Because stone carving with hand tools is a slow process, you can expect
to spend a fair amount of time completing your first piece. Past experience
says the quickest students will probably spend 4-6 weeks shaping their stone,
2-3 weeks polishing it, and one more evening signing and waxing it.
However, these are just estimates (and optimistic ones at that) and may
not apply to any given student. Some students complete their first stone
in 4 or 5 weeks if they work at home. Others may take longer than 12 weeks
just to get the stone shaped. The instructors will work with you individually
as needed to guide you towards completion.
- Discussion of stone types and properties. Selection of a stone.
Beginners will get their first stone from the instructors. It will
usually weigh somewhere in the 8 - 20 pound range and is intended
be something that can be completed in a 12 week class, working
only one night a week.
- Selection and design of your sculpture. Beginners are strongly
encouraged to work in the abstract to avoid several problems.
(Figurative work is fine - and even encouraged - once you have
the basics down.) As class progresses, students discuss their
sculpture with the instructors and each other, gaining insight
into the success of their efforts and potentially adjusting their
plans if needed.
- Discussion of the issues that stone presents to the artist. Natural
flaws, inclusions, density and hardness changes, and even color
changes can (and should) be taken into account by the artist as
the sculpture progresses.
- Initial shaping of your stone with hammer & chisel, and other hand
tools. This will include instruction in the proper use and
maintenance of the tools to achieve the desired results.
- Final shaping of your stone with rasps (called rifflers by the pros
for some unknown reason) and other "file-like" objects. Again,
instruction in the tools is provided.
- Polishing with wet-dry sandpaper and waxing. Discussion of
additional polishing techniques may be presented as well.
- Power tools are discussed for those that want to work on substantially
larger or harder stones. Power tools are not used in the class
for various reasons, but the interested student will learn enough
here to allow them to purchase those tools and use them in their
personal studio if so desired.
Things to Bring to Class:
- Your Stone. First time students will get their stone from the
instructors for about $1 per pound. You'll be taking your
stone home each session, and you're welcome to work on it
there if you have tools.
- Safety Glasses or Goggles. You may be using a hammer and chisel
which throws small chips of stone. Even if you're not, the
person next to you could be. If you wear glasses anyway, you're
probably fine. If you'd rather wear goggles, that would be
fine to, but be aware that they fog up regularly. I
personally think they're more trouble than they are worth
and wear safety glasses instead.
- Dust Mask. Some processes throw more dust than others, but no one
needs to breath rock dust for 2+ hours a week. If you don't own any
masks, don't worry. The instructors have dust masks available
for purchase at a nominal cost.
- Large Bath Towel. This is a part of the cushion you're going to use to
protect your stone from the table, and to collect the bulk
of the dust and chips you create. During the class this towel will
get really filthy (and sopping wet while polishing), so don't
bring a family heirloom.
- Cheap Work Gloves. Many of the files you will use are toothed on
both ends. That means you may want gloves to protect your palm.
A cheap pair of yard gloves is a good investment. Don't get
anything nice, since file teeth will tear them up.
- A Plastic Bag. Needed only when you're polishing. Your
stone and towel will be soaking wet at the end of class and
you'll want to get them home without staining your car seats.
Bring a bag big enough to hold your stone wrapped in your towel.
For first timers, a plastic grocery bad is probably plenty big.
- A Margarine Tub, Dishpan, or Similar Container. Needed only when you're
polishing. This is how you keep water at the table when you're
working. This is not something you'll be storing leftovers in
once class is over.
Other Things to Bring if You Have Them:
These are not required -- particularly for new students -- but people
working on more advanced projects should bring them to class:
- Stone Carving Tools. The instructors provide a selection of tools
for beginners. If you're on your second or later class,
or if you're just in love with the media, you'll want to
get and bring your own tools. Ask the instructors for
advice on what to buy and where to buy it. Many people
find stone carving a wonderful excuse to buy new tools.
If you really want to buy tools now - before class starts -
you can read my discussion of
which hand tools to buy.
- Sand Bags Filled with Kitty Litter. These are really useful at
times to hold a project in various positions. Bring them
along if you can. We have some, but we can always use more.
- Large plastic tub, dishpan, or saucer for a planter. When you're
polishing, this is even better than the above mentioned
margarine tub. it lets you have more water available, and
to keep your stone in the water while you're sanding it.
Other Things to Know:
Please use the "Contact" button above to send me questions about
classes, materials, or related items.
- Dress in Layers. Sometimes you'll be working harder than others,
and those times you'll be warm. Sometimes you'll be sitting
and thinking -- and you'll get cool. Depending on the time of
year and the studio, the temperature can be problematic too.
- Dress to Get Dirty. You're entering a messy world. Dust and slop
are part of the process, so wear clothes you won't mind getting
really filthy. In fact, plan on getting really filthy.
- Ask Questions. Your instructors will spend time in the class
wandering around and talking things over with you. But they'll
also do some work of their own - many students have told us
they appreciate the chance to see someone else do some work too.
If you have a question and the instructor is nose down into
something, ask! Yell even! That's what we're here for, and
there's no such thing as a dumb question... except the one
that goes unasked.
- Our class tends to be a very social affair, with lots of conversation
going on around (and over) the hammering and filing. Quiet types
are more than welcome, but you can bet that the entire class will
be trying to get you to open up. That's just the way things have
worked out. Carving is not a quiet activity anyway in most cases,
so we just go with it and make more noise.
- Have Fun! That's what we're here for!