Soapstone dust is essentially talc. It blows around, drops to the ground and can be very slippery underfoot. These would all be reasons why my carving shed looks like this.
The amount of dust in this photo is much less than the amount there is after working on a bigger piece. The large pails that people use for making wine or restaurants use for lard , I can fill 4 or 5 of those with dust collected from this workshop.
That is the very important reason why if I am carving indoors I have a mask on. dust is a huge factor in carving soapstone. The saws , blades, dremels etc.. are all in excellent working order but, have to be replaced on a regular basis because the dust bogs them down.
What you can’t really see is that I use an old kitchen table (as long as it’s sturdy – no need to go to the art supply store) and out of range of this photo is an old recliner from the living room of my house.
While I do work on pieces on the table, being able to sand and feel the carving while I am holding on to it gives me a sense of dimension that I don’t get when looking at it from different angles . Sometimes feeling around the piece works better than sight alone.
Of course with the dust from any carving, all of the carving clothes stay in the shed, don’t ask me how I get out of the shed…
And important to all creatures; two and four legged and no legged if we includes snakes and such.
I think this might be part of the reason why when I carve mom and baby bear together, those pieces find their forever home very quickly.
The big huge bear that could kill you with a swat is nuzzling and snuggling her baby.
Say it together – AWWWWWW.
It does give you that warm and fuzzy feeling.Also, carving in soapstone, the colours of the stone add an extra dimension with the colours. You can see that the best with the mom and baby on the left. The terra firma and the two bears are all one piece of soapstone.
I know ,very cool. Conceiving and then bringing these little vignettes to life are a big part of the joy of carving.
I have covered this before but, it’s not a bad thing to say it again. Sometimes the most important artist tools are the least expensive and the least high tech.
Pictured here are; a file, a hand saw and a sharpie (okay a cute drawing of a bear with a sharpie)
The basics get me where I need to go.
Yes, I have power tools and a face mask, a compressor and diamond tips but if I couldn’t file the details or feel my way with a certain cut , I could be on the line of a big car manufacturing making product. These little basics help to make it personal, make it an artist’s creation.
Some of it is taste. I
only use a black sharpie and some one else might use the rainbow of colours. I have 3 or 4 files and a few rasps because I am particular about the feel and the look but the basics are a necessity.
Unique, hand made, hand carved, one of a kind. You need the basics to get there. I think so anyway.
This is a close up of the walrus. Isn’t is amazing?
The deep grooves you can see are from me the carver giving the impression of how heavy this guy is and what happens to his fat when he is laying out on the rock. The colours; dark light, green, brown and black are all apart of the natural stone. The stone this big boy is carved from is Brazilian. I think you can see why many carvers use it. The markings of the stone are natural.
An artist does best when they can bring out what is already there and show it off.
Truly, nature in all it’s glory. When I move a boulder here and there and horizontal and vertical I am picturing how best to highlight the stone and to work with the natural features of it.
Above is the close up. As a reminder here is the complete walrus .
Seems like a contended guy. I am a contented carver being able to do what I love.
Visit the website if you get a chance: johdansoapstoneart.com
Anyone that looks at one of these bears has to smile. The dancing bears that I carve have a sense of action, but also, don’t take themselves too seriously
The only serious part is the balance. Getting the balance right for a dancing bear is the key. Before the bear is even roughed out I have to decide which way he will stand and what type of stance (hands up, down, one of each) and then the stone has to be made totally flat on what will be the bottom.
It might seem like this can be done at any point in the process but that wouldn’t be the case. Balance starts from the bottom up. Having the dimensions to know that the bears weight will be distributed properly and that, although they could tip over, properly positioned it won’t happen.
And then , just fun. I don’t have highly technical or formal names for any of my bears and that is truly the case with these ones. They reflect my thoughts and that’s how it should be with art.
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.