Tips for Sculpting with Stone

While I’m thinking about it.

1.  Pay attention to any seams when whacking away with the mallet.  Put your chisel in the wrong place and that whole thing is going to fall apart and bitter salty tears will be shed.  Use a rasp instead if things are starting to look a bit suss.  Or, you know, don’t buy that hunk of rock.  Back in the past.  When you could have done something about that.  It’s inevitable that the seam will break open at some point.  Fine if you’re practicing, a total bitch if you’re pouring your soul into your life’s work.

2.  Don’t refine the bit you’re holding until the last moment.  Holding a sculpture of a person by it’s head?  That sucker’s neck is going to snap off faster than Barbie’s on Christmas morning.  Do everything else first.  You’re still going to be holding it by it’s head while you’re giving it some sweet as elbows.

3.  Try and save the easily snap-off-able bits like fingers and toes until late in the game.  You WILL snap them off.

4.  Try and keep the refinement evenly paced throughout the whole sculpture, or you’ll do your head in trying to make it all work and then discover later on you’ve accidentally cut it’s foot off.

5.  Keep small details like hands and feet larger than you actually want them to be once the sculpture is done.  You’re going to use easily five different grades of sandpaper on that thing to try and get a decent shine and you don’t want to go around sanding those pinkies away.

6.  Try to smooth as many scratch marks as possible before you start paper sanding with the finer blades (is that even what they’re called?) on your rasp.  It will save you time and the rasp will give you straighter edges rather than getting through with the paper sanding only to discover that your sculpture now has a little bow in it from where you used to have a scratch.

7.  Wet and dry sand paper.  The sandpaper of the gods.  This is not the kind of white powder you want going up your nose.

8.  Make sure before moving onto a finer grain of sandpaper that your sculpture is PERFECTLY smooth from the rougher one.  You’ll end up wasting your time and breaking your heart trying to buff out scratches that could have easily been sorted two rougher grains of sandpaper ago.

9.  Edges?  Emery boards.  The books say use a dowel and blah blah blah, but the books were clearly written by dudes.  Seriously.  Emery boards.


Here’s where I’m up to today.  The Foot Dilemma has finally been solved.  Then I realised I need to do the hands next and ran away.  As would the best of us, I’m sure.  (Note the lack of toes at this point)



Stone carving

Apologies.  Extended radio silence.  Lost in the woods.  Or whatever.  Actually, prolonged physical exhaustion and daily stifling of … everything eventually led to massive life upheavals and here I am at the end of it, the owner of one shiny new small business.  Am delighted while it is simultaneously scaring the crap out of me.

But that is not what I want to talk to you about today!

Today we are going to discuss stone carving, because that is something I have been known to do.  In the past.  When I made things with my hands that involved more than melted cheese.

I used to carve stuff.


I used to stuff things up


I used to make things go preeety freaking abstract….


And sometimes then it sold



I took up stone carving originally when my home life stressed me right the heck out and there was nothing I could do about it.  Whacking away at a lump of rock for a few hours every day helped.  I learnt to be more patient, if nothing else.  And I made it through Christmas and past New Year entirely sober, which is incredible.  (I then texted one of my oldest friends on January the 3rd at 8:56AM demanding to be taken to the pub THAT DAY because I just couldn’t wait any longer.)


I use soapstone, which is cheap and soft and excellent for my purposes because I was never taught to work with tools.  These days I don’t chop off anything I didn’t mean to and then call it art.  These days the pace of my life has slowed down again and I’m in the process of trying not to suffer from some kind of deceleration whiplash.  So I’ve gotten this fine lady back down off the shelf, and I’m not too worried about what happens to her, just so long as she gets finished.




To this:


and this (excuse the furry photobomb):



I’ve actually gotten farther than that today, refining and adding hard creases.  I did a lot of reading of Rodin a while ago, about how he always wanted to portray movement.  I figure – why not try?  So I’m not very good and I haven’t had much practice and I don’t really know how to use tools.  So what?  The one thing I’ve learnt about sculpting with stone from everything I’ve read about the place is that it’s such a self-taught medium.  You sit there and scrape (and scrape and scrape and scrape and scrape…) away and eventually you’ll end up with something.  It might be something good or you might end up with a lap full of dust.

Metaphor for life, and probably for small business too.