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|art lesson: stone sculpting
Like any artistic endeavor, stone sculpting can be an immensely rewarding experience. Many people, however, are intimidated by the tools and materials needed to create a thing of beauty from a cold, hard piece of stone. This art lesson is designed to take some of the mystery away from sculpting, and to inspire you to pick up a rasp and express yourself through this ancient art form.
what type of stone?
Here are two types of stone that are ideal for the beginning sculptor:
Alabaster comes in a rainbow of colors, from deep green to creamy white. Alabaster can be a bit fragile due to the internal grains that weaken the stone, so we advise care in working around these grains.
Soapstone (see Sea Mist soapstone) is one of the softest materials available to the novice sculptor, and is also available in a rainbow of colors. One advantage of soapstone's softness is that it allows the sculptor great freedom in working with the stone's surface texture.
To familiarize yourself with the art of sculpting, we recommend that you start out with a limited number of tools, a small stone, and that you keep it simple. By experimenting with a smaller stone, a set of rasps, and your imagination, you will get a feel for the stone which will be of great help as you move on to bigger projects. Once you feel comfortable working on smaller scale, use a mallet and a small chisel set to work on larger stones.
The safety gear that every sculptor should use in the studio is also important. Safety goggles, sturdy leather gloves, and a face mask will protect you from the hazards of stone sculpting. It is also essential that you properly ventilate your workspace, as stone dust can be harmful to the respiratory system, and is especially prevalent once you begin using power tools to shape the stone.
Many sculptors would agree that there are two schools of thought among their ranks when it comes to starting a new piece: those who start without a particular plan or goal in mind, and those who meticulously draw plans as inspiration for their work. We think both methods are great ways to go; each works for certain people. Just remember one rule: keep it simple. If you try to create a complex piece as a beginner, you will be easily frustrated.
finishing your stone
Once you are done with the carving of your stone, you will want to finish the surface. This process requires an extra dose of elbow grease, but will be worth it once you see the shine of your sanded stone. Start with coarse sandpaper, increasing to higher grits as you go. Wet sandpaper works well as a final step. Once the stone is dry, you may add a finishing wax to give your piece a permanent glow.
Take your time to familiarize yourself with the tools and materials, and the rest will follow. Remember that the best part of sculpting is having fun. Enjoy!
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