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Wrap-Up for Soapstone Carving Workshop

michael binkley sculptor in stone carving workshop instruction class

I was asked by the North Vancouver Community Arts Council to lead a soapstone carving workshop for beginners. We were very happy to have Melanie, Darrell, Don, Colleen and Charlotte join me for three consecutive Tuesday evenings in February.

We used Brazilian soapstone, from Gian Carlo Stoneworks, as the medium, as it is very soft and easy to work with knives, rasps and rifflers. It became apparent after our first session that everyone wanted to try using chisels, too, so I included those in the tool mix for the remaining sessions.

I bought more pieces of stone than needed and this gave the participants the opportunity to freely choose a stone without having to argue over only five pieces. As with all my workshops, I like to encourage creativity, instead of everyone following the same pattern of sculpture. I have always been inspired by the shape and colour patterns in stone to get my sculpture compositions, so I try to encourage others to do the same.

soapstone michael binkley sculptor

Some dove right in with gusto and others were a little timid. I think we all have a little creativity in us, however the older we get, the more we and society tend to teach us “I can’t.” This workshop was an opportunity for everyone to break that barrier.

Darrell has experience working soapstone and wood and she came prepared with an idea to carve a relief of a big horn sheep head in profile. She chose her stone quickly and did not need too much encouragement to get started. Melanie brought a few ideas on paper, but first chose her stone and then developed her composition after studying the shape and colour of her block. A fantasy goldfish was her sculpture and she incorporated the outside rind of the stone as part of her finished art work. Charlotte pounced on her stone, saying she was drawn to the colour of it. After observing its shape for a while, she imagined a seated figure and set to work. Don chose his stone for its shape and it took a while for him to decide on a composition, so he worked the outside edge of his disk-like piece to get the feel for the process and how to use the tools. Colleen chose a stone that she saw going in two directions – a bird or a seated figure. I chose a piece that seemed to want to become a seated frog.

michael binkley sculptor in stone carving instruction class

While everyone worked diligently, some got further ahead in their creations than others, but sadly no-one was able to completely finish their sculpture before the workshop ended. We did however, go through the process for sanding and polishing and I am hoping that I will receive photos of their finished pieces sometime in the future.

Everyone said they enjoyed the experience and complimented me on a great workshop. Leave a comment and I’ll show you my frog sculpture!

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