Side by Side


Beginning my sculpture of two birds

The stages of carving a sculpture are always good to record – I rather like looking back at progress and seeing just how far I’ve come – something to show for my aching hands!

detail of carving progress of two birds sculpture

This is a sculpture of two birds together.  Initially I thought they might be a pair, each an individual carving, but I wanted them to be closer than that – more obviously a twosome, a partnership.  Twins even.  Or birds re-united and staying close, side by side.  So the sculpture is in one piece of stone, the birds a couple forever.  I made a quick sketch of them before starting, as a guide for my carving.

sketch for my sculpture of two birds

Often when I quickly sketch an idea, it is about the intention and character of the (in this case) birds, the rhythm and flow of the two together.  The look and attitude.   A point comes in the carving when the actual piece sort of takes over, and becomes the personality and the drawing is forgotten and discarded.  I do try and get the feel of the sketch, but sometimes the stone has a strong say, and the carving has its way.

Carving progress of my bird sculpture

During the carving stages it feels as though I’m removing such a lot of stone, and I think ‘it must be done now’ or ‘oh no, I’ve taken too much away!’  I’m always surprised just how far and deep the carving needs to go, how much I have further to chisel and wonder why I didn’t commit to it sooner.  I still feel as though I’m just learning this and it strikes me with each carving I do – and I tell myself carve deeper, carve more convincingly.  You can see here the pencil lines drawn back onto the stone showing where I need to remove more (when I thought I already had the shape somewhere near).

progress of my two birds sculpture

And so progress is made, slowly, surely with mind, hand and heart.

Carving stage of my bird sculpture

As I get closer to the actual shape I want, I change tools and use a flat chisel to neaten and refine the form, taking away all the ridges left by the claw chisel.  My birds sculpture will be finished smooth. I’m carving more slowly still, only taking off small shavings at a time.  Care, and a bit of timid is good at this stage.

Bird sculpture being carved

Now for the lovely bit, giving those birds a connection, perfecting the neck arches, beak curves and a look in the eye which confirms they’re a team.





  1. Comment by Ellen Abbott:

    love this! it’s so similar to when I carve my wax models. there’s always a point in which I despair that I will ever get it right. usually after that I move with more confidence. fortunately, if I take too much off, I can add it back.

    • Reply by Jennifer:

      Ah Ellen, yes, it is moving with confidence! Oh for it to happen every day!

  2. Comment by Caroline:

    Thank you, Jennifer, for this fascinating exploration of the inner workings of your creative practice. There is something quite cinematographic about your description… as you bring the stone birds to life before our eyes.

    • Reply by Jennifer:

      I’ve had in mind for ages to make a little animation of a stone carving – from block to finished sculpture, so it is interesting you describe the process this way – perhaps this is my cue to get on with it!

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