About the Sculpting Process.
I arrive at designs in various ways. If the stone I’ve decided to carve is irregularly shaped, I look at it from various angles on numerous occasions, until the stone “tells” me how to proceed. Often, ideas for designs are suggested by pictures I happen to run across – pictures of cavorting cranes, of dancers resting, or of herons taking flight, for example. Sometimes I’ll decide on a theme, which I then develop by means of drawings. With all of these methods, I’ll often make clay “sketches” of the envisioned piece, in order to work out design problems.
Speaking of problems, the worst ones arise from stone that has internal cracks or (especially in the case of some types of alabaster) pockets of powdery stone or even dirt. Stone is most unforgiving, and many hours of work can be lost if a piece breaks apart during the carving process, or if a dirt pocket occurs in the wrong place.
Carving the Stone.
I use an angle grinder with a diamond blade to rough out the piece. The tool is used to cut deep, parallel grooves in the stone, and the material between the grooves is then removed by using a hammer and chisel. This process continues until the desired design is approached, at which time I switch from a diamond blade to a diamond grinding wheel. As the piece progresses, I alternate between this tool and a die grinder with silicon carbide or diamond burrs attached.
After the piece is roughed out, I switch to a very small, flexible-shaft grinder, again using silicon carbide or diamond burrs. And for softer stones such as limestone or Carrara marble, I also make extensive use of steel, tungsten carbide, and diamond rasps and rifflers.
The process of finishing the piece varies according to the hardness of the stone. For very hard marbles, I use diamond hand-pads of varying grits, and then diamond pads on a water-fed angle grinder. The final polish is achieved by applying a paste made from diamond dust, which is buffed by means of a slow-speed angle grinder with a felt pad attached. For softer stones, I begin with a 60-grit diamond pad, and then switch to wet-or-dry silicon carbide sandpaper. I begin with 80-grit, and work through finer and finer grits, until I finish with 2500 grit. In some cases, I also use the diamond-dust paste described above.
A wonderful aspect of this process is the way it gradually reveals beautiful colors and patters in stone that are initially only dimly visible – and sometimes not visible at all. Along with its visible beauty, finished stone has a tactile dimension that provides additional opportunities for aesthetic enjoyment.
The Stone used in the "Gallery" Pieces.
The white marble pieces were carved from stone that originated in the famous Carrara marble quarries in Tuscany. “Salmon Woman and Raven,” “Respite,” and “Reflection” were carved from limestone quarried in Utah. Both Carrara marble and Utah limestone are almost pure calcium carbonate. They are marvelously uniform in structure and texture, and are especially pleasurable to carve.
The pyrophyllite of which “Liftoff” is made is aluminum silicate hydroxide. It is about the same hardness as alabaster, but tends to be more consistent and takes a better finish than many alabasters.
“Avian Dreams” was sculpted from a hard marble that is very tricky to work. It is brittle, and tends to shed pieces at crucial stages in the carving process. When finished, however, it is absolutely beautiful, with striking patterns, and unusual color combinations (including surprising bits of apple green).