PLACE WHERE STONE BEGINS TO FLOW,
BEGIN TO GROW,
MOMENTS OF MOVEMENT ARE CAPTURED.
The engine room of the whole proccess, the place where I wonder
if the piece is going to look alright, a place seeming eternally bathed
in dust, and none to warm in winter either, although the move
back to Nelson certainly helps.
However the whole proccess is pretty straight forward in principal,
draw something, remove the excess bits then smooth up what's
left. Flippant description you might think, BUT the biggest
problem anyone is going to have carving stone has nothing to do with
the stone itself. It's head stuff so to speak, the only truly
limiting factor, you can change that if you want to.......
The images above and below demonstrate the proccess nicely and in order
of events. As a basic principal it helps to draw something,
that's your focus, (a tip, if
you use a sealer on your drawing it has a better chance of surviving).
Start by removing the stone that
obviously should not be there, this way at any one point you will
have "something" definable to work with, ( but don't let on to anyone what it is,
even if you can see it yourself ) Forget what it
"should" look like, it probably won't at first, but if you
consistently remove the "well
that shouldn't be there" bits, then the work will evolve
to creation......... If pushed you can always call it modern art.
A sketch on a piece of paper would be a good idea for many, even
the worst sketch can turn into something quite impressive in 3D.
All in all it is just a process of continual refinement so the whole piece develops as a unit.
The despair begins to fade near the end.........
As you get towards the end and are trying for a bit of flow and finish,
use directional light to highlight the ups and down of it all,
sight your work surface against a background to get a sense
of whether it needs more smoothing or shaping, look along
any surface as this will exaggerate any imperfections by foreshortening
them. Be prepared for imperfections, (meditation
may help at this point) The biggest secret of all is
probably the old carpenters maxim, "If you can't hide it, make a feature of it".
If there is something that hasn't gone quite right, exaggerate it a bit
(or lot) so it stands out. I suspect a lot of modern art
works this way. Take the pic's above, the right eye wasn't coming out
well even for this piece, so I added more detail to draw attention and
get you thinking.....
To summarize: Draw the outline as accurately as you can,
Make your first cuts to define the basic shape so you have a form to
work with by cutting around the outer edge. Then sculpt out the deeper
sections to somewhere close to their final depth. Work the whole
piece, rather than finishing a section at a time. Then just start rounding out a little here and there,
getting progressively finer...............
A whole subject in itself. In outside use for this softer, more
porus, stone I use one of several treatments depending on the
- A water based silicone sealer that repels water yet allows the stone
to breathe. If the work is outside in a cold climate internal
water can freeze and blow lumps off the sculpture even with a silicone sealer.
- An aliphatic resin glue diluted with water to form a relatively
tough finish, it soaks right into the stone with discolouring it.
- Resin glue with a silicone finish
- Nothing at all if I want the stone to "green-up" and get a live look.
This piece I designed in a very broad sort of way on paper first,
I started hitting it with an axe, albeit a small one, interspersed with a chisel or two...........
and slowly a form developed, inventing it as I went by developing the "feel" of it............
which was dictated in part by the purpose of the piece, a memorial to Charlie.............
Tool preference is one of those subjective things, not unlike
one's preference for particular flavours of icecream. But I
like them all, so if it's got an edge, I'll use it.
Not everyone agrees with this principal I note, but I'm
sure the true "artiste" will use whatever is at hand, right or
wrong just isn't an issue.
For working most of the stone displayed within this site,
old wood chisels do the job admirably on this soft stone, cheap
as well. Hammers, just use what fits and doesn't tire
you, the harder the stone the heavier the hammer although a lighter
wooden mallet serves well with the softer stone. I prefer this for the
most, going for speed of the hit rather than weight, to do the job.
A good farriers rasp or wood rasp is a handy thing for shaping
larger flat areas and floating around the big curves. Compressed
air is manna from heaven, you can run air tools and the like but
for my money, the airgun is the most valuable. My air
supply is a fairly simplistic device made from an old truck compressor
mounted on an LPG cylinder for storage. The rest consists of an
old electric motor (It's Neils actually) a couple of pulleys that were
floating around the place and I paid money for the hoses. It
works a treat, sounds the part, (complete
with a car muffler to quieten the intake),
looks................ well just like something I threw together,
Notice that some of the chisels have rounded ends, I've done this
because it seems to help prevent excessive stone breakout as well as
decreasing the amount of score marks by creating a tapered lead in on
Also handy for creating curved surfaces when used as a scraper. I
also use the occasional V wood chisels which are handy for
outlining things although my knife is the main tool I use.
Weighty things for getting the point across, a rasp, my
prized knife, (somewhat shorter these
days). It has a laminated steel blade and holds it's edge
The knife is my tool of preference for most things, with me
being strong of wrist there is little I can't do with it, and that
gives a hint or two about the hardness of the stone.
Big hammer is for serious removal, wooden mallet for the more
delicate shaping. The axe didn't quite fit in the picture......
I also cut the big blocks with an old large toothed crosscut saw
about 5 foot long. They even have stone cutting races in this
part of the world.....
As well as the above,
on my workbench will be an assortment of well used emery cloth, a
multitude of pencil stubs, a large toothed hand saw, an
empty coffee cup, and rubble.
It's messy work and you should wear a mask and goggles.....
So there are no great secrets to share. The GOD of SCULPT demands
little more than a token face full of dust from time to time, (unlike the GOD of MECHANIC who always
seems to call for blood and crossed threads).
There is not a lot I can say about design either as it never came easy
for me. Some will tell you they are releasing what is already in
the stone but I prefer the creator approach.
I decide, so it is. Those that have done the AVATAR Course will
understand what I'm on about.......
Used in buildings throughout New Zealand, both young and old,
and more recently, a favoured material for sculpting, it
has created and enhanced many fine old buildings.
It is a variety of Limestone known in geological circles as "Totora
Limestone", but most commonly as Oamaru Stone. It is quarried
from NZ's only limestone quarry producing building stone.
Laid down in the warm seas of 35-40 million years ago it is formed
mainly of sand-sized bryozoan fragments containing large numbers of
micro fossils and very occassionally larger molluscs,
brachiopods, corals, and echinoderms.
PARKSIDE QUARRIES have been mining it since 1906 and is renowned for
producing fine grained, even textured stone, free from
joints and impurities, making it a premier building material.
These qualities combined with it's rich cream hues, make it a
superb sculpting stone as many a New Zealand sculptor will tell you.
For the most part, in my opinion, it is best suited to
larger works, the bigger the better, as it doesn't take fine
detail well. Not that this wee fact stops me from making many