Stone Carving Course - Spring 2018

Stone Carving Course – April 2018


starting a stone carving

Sometimes the hardest part is making a start.

After selecting their stones the carvers paused a moment to think about how to tackle their carving.  It is one thing having an idea in your head, and quite another to realise it by sculpting it in stone – especially if you haven’t carved before.

So, those moments of ‘working out’ initially are well spent.  I encourage everyone to draw on the stone, an outline which they can work to.  Even if sketched really simply, it confirms where stone needs to be taken away, and this gives confidence to start chiselling.   Once started, the shapes very soon begin to emerge and a feel for how the chisel cuts, and how much weight is required behind each mallet blow gives further reassurances and belief.

stone carving course - everyone busy with their sculptures

It is such a heavenly sound – a group of stone carvers chisel, tap-tapping, concentration and a rhythm of hammers.  It is a happy sound and I love hearing it.

Day One

Day one is about roughing out the shape.  Everyone soon gets to grips with the tools and I visit each work bench often to help with chisel hold, angle of cut, how to take stone away efficiently, and remind not to grip the mallet too tightly.

Spring 2018 stone carving course, Lastingham, North Yorkshire

How to make a start on a stone carving - Spring 2018 stone carving course in Lastingham

Spring 2018 stone carving course in Lastingham, North Yorkshire

Carving begins on the spring stone carving course

beginning the sculpture on the stone carving course

A well earned rest after a morning of stone carving


Day Two

Now the shapes are more or less roughed out, the day is spent refining the details, working on the flow, balance and rhythm of the sculpture, and thinking about finish.

At this stage almost everyone admits that their arms and hands are feeling that they worked hard the day before.  Luckily the next stages involve more delicate tasks –  the detail and refinement are carried out with a smaller chisel and mallet, used more gently.

Alabaster carving

The day brings the coming together of the initial ideas and the wonderful realisation of what has actually been achieved.  New skills learned and really beautiful sculpture.

Thanks to all those who carved with me over the weekend and whose brilliant work appears here.

Bird carved during the stone carving course

The finished bird is shown here along with the little brightly coloured plasticine model made beforehand as a guide for the sculpture.

Bird carved in stone

The lighthouse is so evocative, I can hear the ocean – waves crashing on the rocky outcrop.  It was carved from the real life experience and tells the story of joy and relief felt by an exhausted crew steering their trawler home after many days out at sea – the lighthouse signalling they were close to shore.

Stone carving of a lighthouse

This bird, loon like, was carved straight from the imagination.  It stretches its head outward as it moves through the water and carries a whale like tail.   The idea wasn’t without challenge, the long thin neck  and getting the stone to balance given the extended head.  The effect of the bird powerfully advancing forward is real.

a loon type bird being carved in stone

A bird of the imagination carved in stone

A long eared owl – the carving was invested with such emotion right from the start.  It comes too from a real life experience of suddenly, unexpectedly spotting an owl and for many moments bird and human stare at one another.  Afterwards awareness of the owl’s wildness, alertness and elegance, drawn up ready for flight, and the eyes and the gaze.

long eared owl stone carving

Long eared owl stone carving

Sometimes the feeling of a piece comes from its simplicity and flow.  Here a bird is almost abstracted, head and beak tucked in, with impression of wing and tail curving away.  The pale stone selected, and smooth finish add to the impression.

stone carving of a dove

Flow is a strong part of this carving too, where the flame like shapes weave and flicker to make a larger flame form.  The centres of each part are drilled through so that they can be enlarged into piercings through each lobe.

Stone carving from the spring stone carving course in Lastingham

For this sculpture it was important to get a likeness, of a family pet spaniel, lots of photographs of the dog were used as guidance.  The stone was used to create the head of the dog, beneath would be the name, incised in lettering.

Carving in stone of a dog

This project was all about lettering, so during the first day we concentrated on practice, learning the sequence of cutting a letter, becoming neat and sharp with the corners and serifs, and working on different letter styles.  Lettercutting is a delicate and precise art, so there were rows and rows of practice letters – all showing a gradual improvement and confidence.  The aim was to carve the house name, and an old stone from a derelict piggery at the farm was used for this.

Letter cutting in stone during the Stone carving Course in Lastingham

A start was made on lettering the house name