All about the alabaster

Fat Bastard  Bear Spanish Alabaster

I am a carver with laser focus.

Well, with some kind of focus.  Left to my own devices I carve soapstone and then from the soapstone bears generally appear.  But, as I have covered in other posts I do carve other things besides bears and other mediums besides soapstone.

(From time to time)

Don’t be offended by the name of this bear;  Fat Bastard.

He really is.  Not only is he heavy but, being made of alabaster he was a b$#%  to carve. Ensuring that those lines you see were not going to break off and be actual fissures in the stone was the main hurdle.

Yes, I could drop the  stone, as I recommended before to see where it breaks but someone gave me stone to make a bear out of.  There is a different pressure when the client brings their own stone.

I have done a few pieces of alabaster and they all cause ooohs and ahhs because of the depth in the carving and maybe from what I carve out of it.   Carving alabaster is more difficult I think.  I also think carving wood is more difficult than carving soapstone.

 Kudos to all of those artists that do it on a regular basis.

It’s good to get out of a comfort zone from time to time.  In this case the medium is different by the message is the same. I am drawn to bears.

Think Pink!

I have to admit , I went through a pink phase.

There were no sparkles involved, well maybe a few as mica has been known to show up inside soapstone but, I was interested in the different colours of soapstone around the world , how it carves and what is is called.

Asian soapstone tends to be white or pink and versions of.  Brazil has a wide range of browns and greens.  Canada has black and darker greens.  Indiana has red pipestone.

We could go on,  I am not a geologist, just a carver.  when I found the light colours of soapstone, they are very soft.  This makes them a bit more fragile to work with, (I would liken Canadian soapstone to granite) and the variations on tones were amazing.

I have posted only 4 photos here but the pink progress of my carving lasted through many more pieces and I love the result.  with bear carving I found that etching back over the carving made the bear look more whitish with pink muscles underneath.  The texture within the stone is most subtle then say a Brazilian stone that could show; browns, greens, blues all on one stone but the understated look of pink soapstone has me hooked.

Think pink.


No one can buy it if they don’t see it

Dreamer ( 3rd place at Canadian wood carving champ 2009)

The Dreamer bear pictured above finished 3rd at a Wood carving Championship.

Yes it is soapstone and yes it was essentially a wood show. The piece was entered as other media and won 3rd. I have found over the years that while I can’t be every where and do every thing sometimes you have to think outside of the box.  After all, if no one sees your art besides friends and family ( who can only buy so much) your art is essentially your hobby,  For your pleasure and not for your income and livelihood.

I personally did a lot of outdoor shows and indoor  events. Getting out there and hoisting the 10 by 10 tent and sit in the rain storm and windstorm to wait for people to come by.

It did get potential clients to see my work but, it was both hard on these old bones lifting and carrying and then sitting but the pay off wasn’t as much as the effort mostly.

The Wood Show, Call for Artists, Tendering for Public Art projects and other out side of the box venues give you a bang for your buck and a client view that you might not have.

Local TV shows, co-op students wanting to test fire a talk show, the neighbourhood meet and greet – all interesting ways and you are not scrambling with the billions on the world wide web (that we are on right now).

The only caveat that I have kept in mind over the years is; either get paid directly for the work or be able to quantify your efforts to the outcome.  For example; if I have work in a local paper 3 months ago and a person wants to buy that bear now – good investment of my time.

Being a full time professional artist is probably similar to being a full time professional actor.  The pay is only astronomical for the 1% but, if you can keep food on the tale and a roof over your head doing what you love is never work.


August 20th is the beginning of TIFF season.

For people outside of the GTA that is ; The Toronto International Film Festival.

A huge deal around the world, lots of excitement, wonderful films and parties.

And.. wait for it.

One very special year a carving from this Canadian Artist was chosen to be the Award for the Best Canadian Feature Film.

TIFF Award Winner , Best canadian Feature Film

I hope they warned the recipient how heavy soapstone was before they handed it off.

Very proud to have supported other artist in this way and as TIFF season is upon us, if any one is in Toronto, going to Toronto, watching blogs about Toronto.

Keep in mind four letters



Old school carving

It’s a hot summer and my usual gear for carving is not going to cut it . No pun intended


Safety first when using any type of tools power or just sharp objects.

In the photo above I have on jeans, long johns, t shirt flannel shirt, mask.  Other time I have replaced the thick clothing with thick coveralls.  As with any carver there have been times when the equipment failed or got away from me and I have cut through the material protecting me.

Luckily there have been no trips to ER for carving.  I had many more trips in the ambulance as a race car driver.

But, with any combination of protection it can get really hot.  I carve and you can’t carve if you are going to pass out from the heat.

So, old school carving. I have work to do on the walrus so out if goes on a table in my backyard, sturdy chair and the basic equipment; blade, sand paper and a try of water (for wet sanding).

Carving outside on grass is no fuss , no mess and the soapstone dust blows back to where it came from.  Not as easy in the city.  On pavement or other hard surface, soapstone dust is slippery and if I need to use electrical tools or a compressor, inside the carving shed for me.

Mother Nature is Queen though, and I feel the need to carve.  So I can find a way

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Protect the art


Soapstone begs to be touched for the smoothness and what I carve generally has lots of curves and nuances.  I apply lacquer (Plastikote) to most of the finished pieces instead of beeswax just because of the touchability.

Soapstone being a soft stone can be easily nicked or scratched by a ring or a fingernail if there isn’t some sort of protection.

The coating also brings out the natural colours in the stone.

I work with quite a bit of Brazilian soapstone as do many of the native carvers that live near me.

The number of colours in the stone and the softness makes it a joy to work with.  Canadian soapstone is very hard and requires diamond tip tools if you want to get detailed with the piece.

There are a myriad of colours in the stones, and shapes and creatures waiting to come out. Carving is a constant treasure hunt.

Gone Fishin’

I would rather see bears catching and eating fish then doing anything that smacks of being a human behaviour.  I have captured bears in people positions but not for today’s post.

This came to mind as there have been a lot of sightings in the past little while of bears in suburban BC.

While it happens from time to time especially with the smell of food (people food smells like food just like the forest and stream food smells like food), lately there have been a lot of bears mingling in urban landscapes. Forest fires, funky weather and human encroachment on what was wilderness each play a part .

I have carved political statements in the past about my thoughts on global warming and shrinking habitats but, today is a Monday and I think the appropriate carvings for a Monday are fishing ones.

These three carving of bears with their fish are one full piece of stone.  The bear is not a separate carving to the water or the fish.  Texturing the stone in such a wave to get the froth of the water and carving in lines to give the hint of the path of the stream make these special to me.

Soapstone lends itself to the suggestion of moving water and there was no need to have the fish be a different colour then the bear.

I have carved pieces before where I made the fish or the base separately but for this Monday we’re keeping it simple.

All one piece and all about fishin’.

Turtle Days

There are times when a person is making art, creating art, dreaming about art.. that one focus keeps popping up.

No matter what you do, something reminds you of that one thing.

This happened to me with turtles.

I was commissioned to carve a turtle , actually ; a collage with a turtle and a snake .  The carving was a gift  or a University Professor whose actual expertise was a certain type of turtle and a certain local snake.

There is pressure involved in this type of commission. Putting in a lot of time researching is essential to success. The carver has to maintain focus on what the client wants.

If the turtle head was the wrong shape or the tail was not correct, it was going to be a disappointment.  Every dimension needed to be planned out.

It all worked out very well and the students giving the gift were pleased and so was the recipient .

But, for weeks and maybe for months after I was thinking of turtles and carving turtles and seeing turtles cross the road near my house.

As an artist, when you see something in the rock it has to come out.  Boulders into bears but also into turtles.


And now for something totally different

A few years ago soapstone was all the rage in home decor.

There were soapstone counters, sinks, soapstone bowls, fireplaces, whisky cubes you name it.  Soapstone as the new granite, the new marble,.. just plain new to the home decor industry.

As any A personality will tell you, my thought after the initial – ‘not a bad idea there are so many great properties to soapstone ‘ was

I can do that.

So I did.

I carved a sink and the base for a faucet.

It is very nice if I say so myself and makes a person picture the water swirling around the bowl.  At first I thought dry sink (no hole for the drainage) but in this day and age I am not sure how useful (no matter how pretty that would be) so I out in a hole for drainage bought the hardware for the taps.

I am not sure how many people would think that a carver of bears would be the maker of a sink.

But, I can do that.

Sink and Faucet Block Combo
Sink and Faucet Block Combo

Action bears

There are action heroes and heroines in capes and costumes.

While I appreciate these girls and gals and their exploits , my carvings tend to be an ode to Action Bears.

Action Bears are in action when they are not eating, sleeping or nuzzling their babies to be sure.

What powerful action heroes they are.

The power and the majesty that they possess and show over with nary a care if we notice.  To watch bears in action, I just  can’t get enough of the Nature shows, and going into nature to peep at the bears if possible.  I print off pictures from the world wide web and am on the lookout for anyone that wants to share their bear sightings.

The carvings posted below are all bears in action.

Moving, swimming, stalking.  The power of their muscles and the way they turn their heads to survey their surroundings truly a site to be seen.

These action types don’t need the glitz and glam they have the muscle and movement to get the job done.

Just for fun.