I've done a recent workshop in soapstone carving in Broken Hill. It was a two-day event, a Saturday and a Sunday with about eight hours of tuition each day. I was presented with a group of six students who have done various workshops before, however they were all completely new to stone carving.
There is a fairly long way before one gains enough experience working with stone to be able to produce what one wants. To be able to control your chisels and blows, to understand the limitations of stone as a material. So there was quite a bit of ground to be covered in two days.
The big help I had was the choice of the stone on behalf of the Regional Gallery, who ran the workshop. Soapstone. Great material to start with. Hard enough to still qualify as stone and soft enough to be carved with a standard kitchen knife. We had a whole stack of different rasps, sandpaper, and of course wax for final polishing.
Due to the shortness of time I was in a bit of a dilemma whether to just let everyone pick up a piece of stone and start hacking at it and hoping that with a bit of guidance they would find their way. Or, I could spend some of that precious time and introduce the traditional way. That is, don't touch the stone until you know exactly what is it you want to carve. This approach requires one to first think through several drawing ideas, sketch the idea, then model the idea in clay so that one can see the three-dimensional object from all sides and make some choices. And then, and only then, start carving the stone.
Apart from the obvious benefits, what this approach helps with is that you don't have to try to realize your artistic intent while you are trying to get a grip on a chisel at the same time. Despite using some of that time for the preparation the remaining time was more that enough to create some of the following artwork. Do remember, that they had no previous experience with stone.
|Starting point – pieces of soapstone.|
|The workshop. Notice how everyone has their clay models at hand.|
|After the drawing and modeling in clay, the carving starts.|
|A good set of rasp is really needed when use of a chisel
might be too rough.
|And some of the final artwork.|