This July I was invited to Port Orchard, Washington to take part in and instruct at the North West Stone Sculpture Associations ( 30th sculpture symposium. Every year there are international invited guest instructors ensuring a vibrant and varied display of methods and styles. I was welcomed in Seattle airport by the president of the NWSSA Carl Nelson and made feel welcome at every step along the way.
Pilgrim Firs camp and conference center was a fantastic venue,beautiful setting, good food and kayaking and lots of coffee. On the first day I was overwhelmed by the size of the event, 80 people carving under gazebos in the sun! I set about carving a block of California Marble given to me by Carl. I decided to carve a reclining female figure, focusing on composition and negative space brought about through the process of direct carving. All around me people were carving  Alabaster,Basalt, Dunite, Granite, Jade, and Soapstone. Clouds of dust rose for the first few days as sculptures took shape. It was a fascinating site to see such variety of sculptures appear from the dust. As the week went on I learned as mush as I taught and developed and interest in Jade (by all accounts and addiction, to be continued). People would come and go, chatting briefly or asking advice. All good natured, all engulfed in stone carving.

The Symposium is well organised and ran smoothly thanks to symposium organiser Cyra-Jane Hobson and the wonderful Renee Roberts who administrated the hell out of it. The people are welcoming and all levels and interests in stone sculpture are catered for. I soon learned that the symposium went hand in hand with partying (but I wont bore you with  the details). I had also made many new friends, learned about several ways of carving hard stones if I ever feel mad enough to move away from limestone and marble. I am drawn back to the North West, its a beautiful place, but I think the core of my enjoyment was the people involved. After 1 short week I had completed my sculpture, and another in conjunction with a Canadian artist, John Lafortune,furthering international relationships via alcohol and dust! I am really happy with the sculpture I managed to get done. It can be seen here online or viewed at Karla Matzke Fine Art & sculpture park, Camano Island, Washington

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Karla Matzke, of Matzke Fine Art. Karla has taken two of my pieces into her gallery and I look forward to working with her over the coming years.

I highly recommend the NWSSA symposia, for beginners, and experts they are great events well run by interesting people. The week showcases the best of stone sculpture, sharing of knowledge and a collective interest in the methods and styles employed by each artist. As one of their annual T-shirts said of the eclectic mix of people

“I’ve found my weirdos”

James Horan


Read more about this symposium here….