I recently added a post on going back to ‘school’ and I am now an old hand of 2 weeks and 1 day’s experience! The group I share the ‘Jade and Hard Stone Carving Course’ with are a somewhat disparate group who include second year ‘Diploma’ students who completed the ‘Certificate’ course last year and are working at the next level up, and we ‘cert’ students, maybe with some prior knowledge of jewellery or lapidary, or bone carving, or who have no previous experience at all.
Our first week sessions were comprised mainly of safety and safe workshop practices, precautions to maintain good health and being introduced to the equipment we will be using. We were also introduced to varieties of stone ranging from what excites us most- jade, to ‘lesser’ stones that we may very well consider our ‘bread and butter’ while we hang out for some of the ‘real’ stuff to come along.
We have touched on design elements and principles (or should that be design principles and elements?) and looked at the work of some of the notable stone carvers we have in New Zealand. These people are extraordinary and to be in awe of. They are people who create works of art that we can only dream of creating. Some of the pieces they have made are internationally recognised for the skill and beauty that are embodied in them. One in particular comes to mind- a piece by Ian Boustridge, a Greymouth artist who has been at the forefront of the jade industry in New Zealand for many years. It is a remarkable piece- a fabulously entwined tendril of pure kawakawa pounamu called ‘Sonic’ that when struck produces a pure sound that is audible for a full 35 seconds!Such a piece one can only aspire to tame imitation of.
Our first assignment was pretty simple and straightforward- design and make six free-form ‘pieces’. We were allowed to choose our own pieces of stone from a collection of off-cuts that previous students have trimmed off the larger stones they have produced advanced assignment works from. There were large(ish) pieces, straight(ish) pieces, chunky pieces, flat pieces and almost everything in between. There were pieces of jade, both New Zealand and overseas (much of the ‘pounamu’ sold in New Zealand is, in fact jade from British Columbia or Siberia- or elsewhere in the world) and other stones such as serpentine, jasper, tiger eye and such. The idea was for the student to see the potential in a piece and then allow the form that lay within to emerge through their working. It was also a chance for the emerging carvers to get their first experiences of the various tools they have available- how to remove stone most efficiently with both a ‘point carver’ and a hand-piece.
Of course the untrained eye just saw pieces of stone and was hopeful that something lay within and could be brought out.
We have 3 more days to complete our pieces with shaping, grinding, sanding, polishing and hanging to be mastered. (Mastered? You must be joking!) Anyway here is where I am at.
This piece I chose more for the interesting flecked texture that I saw in it and a feeling that it would polish up really nicely.It is probably the nearest to what was the intention of the design brief- a simple free-form with no straight lines or surfaces. I still haven’t made up my mind where I will suspend it from! This stone is a piece of ‘Douglas Creek jade’, which I’m informed isn’t jade but is a form of a serpentine.
I picked out a lovely piece of Siberian ‘inanga’ stone that has beautiful milky colour and had some interesting patterning which took my eye.Unfortunately the patterns were ‘de-laminations’ or cracks in the stone and these caused flaking off around one end. I think I will end up with a pretty piece though.
I have a bit of design history from my bone-carving days of course and as a consequence got a bit carried away with ‘over-designing’ but… It meant that I set myself extra challenges but that can’t be such a bad thing, huh?
This piece of stone is true jade and has some beautiful colours and patterns. The off-cut I made this from had a large fracture running through it but I thought I could make s0mething of it.
This piece has been quite problematic and this is due to choosing a symmetrical design that involves removing mass evenly.I don’t know that it has quite worked, but there are again some very nice patterns in the stone that will look good when it is finished.
‘Manu’ has emerged from a really scrappy off-cut.Or is that ‘crappy’ off-cut? I saw the fractures in it but thought that something could be salvaged. As I carved one bit broke off, then another and I nearly walked away from it.I’m glad I didn’t because what I think is a nice bird-like design has come out of it.
When I thought the symmetrical piece wasn’t going to work I decided I’d better make a back-up piece and this black spike is the result.I’m going to suspend it with a hidden attachment and it should hang very nicely.
And my last piece (at this stage) is ‘tuna’,a neat wee design that started as a simple coil which developed a personality and led me, with advice from the tutor to add a hint of gills and fin to end up with an eel which will be suspended from the ‘shoulder’ (if a fish has a shoulder?)
So here I am, 3 days from presentation day and with a bit to do but so far I’m not displeased.