In February 2002, I found myself driving
up to Oamaru, New Zealand, on the eastern coast, to participate
in the bi-annual Oamaru Stone Carving Symposium.
I drove nervously, to say the least! It
took me forever to get used to driving on the left side of the
I made it OK, though, and spent the rest
of my time in Oamaru baning and grinding and chiseling and scraping
from 8am to 9pm with 13 other sculptors.
Below is the 2-ton hunk of freshly quarried
Oamaru Limestone I carved my piece from. Each of the 14 artists
from all over the world got one or two to play with.
Most of us stayed at a local campground,
with two, three or four in one unit. These were campgrounds like
we don't see here in the US! Rooms!
With communal kitchen and showers, and
mini-kitchens in the living-room/2-bedroom units!
You could also tent-stay there, but with
those units being so inexpensive, who'd want to?
I shared a unit with Theo (an art teacher
and very talented sculptor/painter from NZ whose work is very
with strong, clean lines) and Mansour (a
Professor of Art who carves graceful abstract sculpture out of
many kinds of stone; from Egypt).
We all left around 8 a.m. to go carve before
the sun hit too hard on us, and to take as much advantage of
the time - at 9a.m. we had to stop using our power tools until
Most of us stayed until 9 or 10p.m., chipping
througout the day and using power to grind or sand until we left
for the night.
I was lucky - Paul, who worked up at the
quarry, helped me cut out a huge chunk of stone that I'd have
had to chip-chip out with hammer and chisel to get the big gap
He saved me about three days of chipping!
There were many and various ways of approaching
the stone process. Some used axes, some old-fashioned long saws,
some waited until after hours touse power tools, sight-seeing
This is the original drawing for my piece.
It was on a sheet
out of one of those little notebooks you
can carry around in a pocket (I keep one with me at all times
to jot down ideas).
You can see how I started out with the
figures only showing from mid-thigh up.
But when I drew the design on the stone
itself, I had to adjust for how much more stone here was to occupy.
And as I carved, I knocked the tip of the
tall prow off - agh! - so it became a shorty stem. Ah well!
We all went about carving in many varioous
I like hammer and chisels
Rosie weilds a mean ax
Jay used The Big Chisel
Garrick & Peter used Old Fashioned
Chris hung out with the rifflers
Theo was the Rasp Wizard on all
Some used axes, some chain saws, some old-fashioned
saws hand-held by 2 people, some adzes and chisels.
Jay had a propensity for elevated environs....
Quite a few little-old-ladies came up to
my sculpture, put their conservative little hands on the rear
ends of the figures. With said hand on said butt, they would
then turn to their accompanying husband or girl-friend, lean
over as if in some great conspiracy, and say,
"Oh! Nice!" - and then, very
pleased with themselves, with a wicked gleam in their eyes, walk
away - arm-in-arm with their li'l old hubby or snickering with
Many spectators came around to see what
we were doing day and night, so we made lots of friends and had
a great time with both locals and tourists.
I didn't know if I'd be able to finish
my 2-ton piece by the end of the two-week period.
But it turned out I had lots of time, so
I carved two other much smaller pieces out of some of the scraps
from the first.
One was a bas relief-ish kind of thing
of a horse's head, and an in-the-round called The Truth Behind
By the time I started those smaller pieces,
I was practically stone-blind from the glare off the white stone.
So I had a little fun and painted them
with acrylic paint thinned down to a wash.
Very unusual for NZ, and I was amazed and
pleased to see them received very well! And they both sold at
the auction at the end of the symposium. You can see them below.
La Balanza, the big piece, is still in
Omaru - somehow it just wouldn't fit in my suitcases on my return
trip! If you want to see the sculpture, go to Parkside Quarries
and ask Linda to show it to you. (Parkside Stone & Garden
, 37 Airedale Road, Weston, Oamaru)
Oamaru is the place famous for its Blue
Penguins; and just south of Oamaru is a little beach-side town
on Moeraki Bay. On the beach are some pretty awesome round boulders,
the origination of which varies with tradition - the Maoris say
this,and the scientists/geologists say that! Check it out - go
these are the famous boulders
you can see how big they are!
This was an article in the local rag during
our first week in Mt. Somers.
The Oamaru Symposium was terrifc. I was
also invited to the Mt. Somers Stone Symposium, as well!
Some of the people who had been carving
at Oamaru came up, too. It was a good bunch of really talented
Here's the sculpture in the article:
This is how pooped we were at the
ends of the days...
And this was my Spot - where I worked on
the hillside at the Mt. Somers Symposium.
Just pretend the little stick figure is
There was stone lying everywhere, but you
have to be careful not to pick a "dead" one.
If it rings when you strike it, it has
no cracks and the internal composition hasn't gotten water-rot.
to see some of the finished work done at the symposium, and other