How long does it take?

I sometimes feel like a kid on a family car trip when I am carving something that does not coming easily.

Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?

I am hungry, Tommy is touching me

All kinds of random thoughts besides the caving at hand.  My carving time is mostly the Zen state.  I go into the carving shed, I carve.  Time has either stood still or flown by depending on how you look at it .By the time I come out of the carving shed I have the beginning of something and I am spent.

The car ride carving times are plain annoying.  It generally means one of a few things;

I shouldn’t be carving today but going fishing instead

The piece does not want to be a an eagle or a bear or whatever I had planned

Lastly I don’t really have a plan and the cuts are forced.

What does all this mean in the life of a carve?

That’s life.

Good days with bad but just keep going

We’re not there yet.

Shy Turtle




Internet dictionary definition (I think Merriam Webster)


a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing.
the art of making collages.
a combination or collection of various things.
So, in my world  a collage would be a combination or collection of various animals.
I have only done this a handful of times but they mostly come about because I see more than one animal or bird or even elephant truth be told, in a single piece.
And as my job is to carve out of the rough boulder what is inside it voila a collage carving of soapstone
Collage and et voila would be the sum total of my french so if someone has another word for this melting pot of animals that can be viewed  as one main animal or another depending on which side you view it from , let me know.
This type of art is not as difficult as making a dancing bear balance on one leg but, differentiating each form within the rock takes a fair amount of fine detail work so that I am happy with each aspect.
I have posted 2 below – enjoy




Curves, dimensions, layout,planning.

Curves sound the best and since I am partial to carving bears , there are lots of curves. A fully fed healthy bear has big gorgeous curves, a bear that needs to bulk up is sinewy but still has muscles that give it curves.

If you think about it, even if you are untrained and an artist or an architect you mostly know when something is out of whack but you might not know why it is out of whack.

The head could be too small for the body, the muscle in the back leg is a little too far back or too far forward.

These all matter for the overall piece.  Regardless if the carving is realistic or abstract, curves matter




Humour in Art

Gotta have a sense of humour.

Even if it is your little interior voice and the work in progress is fine art, high art, serious art.  Have a little chuckle and things will all go well.

I love what I do yes but my sense of humour comes through to with the pieces I carve for fun.

when I go to an opening or attend a function I am introduced as a Carver or an artist.  That’s what I am . If I was introduced as a sculptor I would look around for who elese was there.

I have been judged for not carving classic, for not being native and for doing too much of the abstract work.  Having a sense of humour gets you through and allows me at least to keep carving and creating

A sense of humour if very important


Spring Chicken, Fat Bear in a Little Boat are the two I can think of that have caused some buzz.

keep going

Don’t be afraid of breakage

This is a constant theme with life in general.

Go big or go home.  You can’t win if you don’t try. Failure breeds success.  But, it still sucks.

When I have been carving away and things are going well.  The boulder is turning into a rock, into a bird, that becomes an eagle and then you drop it – crash , bang , in pieces.

That might be part of the reason my carving shed floor is covered in soapstone dust, (and to keep out the critters that don’t seem to like it)

People can speak about non-attachment all they want and we all probably want to get there but, when you’re ego tells you this will be sold the day after it’s on the site and the beak is gone and there is a compression fracture.

A dedicated artist does go at it again, at least I do.  The beak will go a different way or the wings will now be tucked in but it is not fun.

The best response to a piece breaking came from a  friend and fellow carver ; Dan Davellar who had carved a 7 ft tall plinth ( fancy column) and in the process of setting it upright it fell over – smash, bang, multiple pieces of plinth.

Here is the response; He set it up on the ground , in pieces at the next outdoor show he did as art the way it was.


We could all take a lesson from this.


The are other types of stones

Yes but, I love working with soapstone.

I have tried limestone and was in fact offered a large load of stone for free, gratis, no charge but,,, there are fossils in limestone.  You find bits of ore in soapstone and Canadian soapstone is very hard but, limestone with the fossils, you never know if you can make the cut from A to B as you planned.

I managed a bear out of the limestone, pictured here and I am happy with it but it was a rough go to complete.

Czech Limestone Polar Bear With fossils

There is also granite.  Hard as a rock.  It does come in different colours and a friend of mine; The Rogue Stone cutter has made some amazing pieces but, it doesn’t have the colour variations or the nuance that soapstone has.

I have been known to make little inukshuks in gravel parking lots but they are very small and not carve-able more for piling

Soapstone is also pipestone, serpentine, it has a variety of names and colour variations, Canadian is black or dark green, it can be red brown, white , pink.

I believe soapstone will keep me coming back for a long while.


How do you do that?

Sounds sort of zen and new age and as a retired mechanic I think I am far from that but, one foot in front of the other , one cut, one level of sanding before the next.

Making art is a form of meditation.

Meditation on a cushion may give you piece of mind. Meditation through executing art gives you piece of mind and a product at the end.

No one gets anything worth while right the first time. Persistence pays. Belief in what you see in your art and the meditation factor of having the peace to focus in my case on the stone.

I have said before that my 1st bear did not look like a bear (many thanks to one of my sisters for buying it).  I do ‘it’ by keeping doing.  Practice makes better.  Never perfect because if it was perfect it probably wasn’t done by human hands.

There is perfection in the imperfection.

I keep seeing bears and eagles and collages in stone and so far no one has locked me up for it.  I am always learning and looking at things in my every day life. I talk to other carvers and artists and learn about tools and types of stone and different types of ventilation and then I just begin.

Fear of failure or lack of practice is probably a bigger hindrance than ‘not being artistic’.  Over the years my carvings looks different but, I am different.

I do it by keeping going with what I love to do.

Carve and repeat


Political statements are a hard sell

I am very concerned as a person, about global warming, the plight of nature and sometimes it comes out directly in my art.

Unlike the famous artist / activist Ai Wei Wei the pieces I have done haven’t caused an uproar just a shiver of uncomfort.

I have spoken before about how hard it is to sell these type of pieces but, it is just as hard to get them into a show or gallery.  The gallery for Johdan Stone Art is virtual therefore the physical galleries my pieces are in have their own clientele and I am generally one of a roster or a guest artist.

I am very proud of making a statement and statement don’t necessarily make people warm and fuzzy.

Every artist and person has to find their own voice and as long as it a respectful one be confident in you.

The pieces I am posting below might not work on everyone’s mantle but, they are a part of my art, what is your art?  Have you found your voice?

It’s a dirty job…

It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.  Chaos begets art.

The art calls and the mess is made.  Soapstone carving belongs out in a field with the wind blowing or at least nature’s ventilation system.

Soapstone as a soft stone creates tons of dust.  In fact, one good carving session on a big bear could end up with my shop creating  3  -5 of those big plastic buckets used in restaurants.  Dusty.

Making sure I have a breathing apparatus if I am carving in the shed is very important. Even if I am doing a small piece I have been known to pick up a little mask from the dollar store just so the dust isn’t’ breathed in as I carve.

So we have ;off cuts (which are small rocks), we have dust and then how does the ventilation system, the light and power make out with all this flying around ?  Very carefully.

An artist is a person who is about the details and to make great art you have to see the end game but also the details that get you there.

Safety and clothes that can be laundered are huge.

From great chaos great art is made

It’s a dirty business but, very rewarding

All bears are not alike

Bears in nature come in all colours and sizes and temperaments. Carvings reflect this if you look really closely.

A grizzly bearing his teeth is an aggressive figure.  ‘Don’t mess with me buddy,’ ‘Don’t fish in my stream’.  A bear stretched out on his belly is either full from his meal or just happy in nature.

Between  bear families there is a huge difference.  A grizzly has a much different face then a polar bear.  They are both magnificent creatures but, the polar bear has a longer snout and the ears are different. No mistaking one for the other.

Any bear can be looking down sniffing around for food or the scent of something but, the stance of a grizzly doing that is much different than a polar bear.

The spirit bear is essentially a grizzly with the genetic trait of being a blonde.  There is a lot of history behind the spirit bear but, the stance and look is grizzly.

Many clients seem to be drawn to touching the grizzly carvings because of the roundness of the haunches and the smoothness of the stone but, any polar bear on the prowl is unmistakable.

Which is your preference?