Art School: Semester 5, Week 8

Stone Carving In The Winter

Greetings everyone! New week, new idea. I am going to put an image up top in each of these posts for a while (at least) to see if it changes how many people read the entire thing or not. Maybe an initial picture will cause people to sink into the prose more readily? I hope to figure that out. You’re my guinea pigs on this! Feedback is welcome!

I have a few photos in the relevant sections below as well, but the one of my messy feet is from Friday afternoon. I was eating lunch and taking a break from working on my final sculpture for sculpture class. The mess was, as you can see, pretty impressive. (And yes, I am sorry that pic is a bit blurry. It’s not your eyes.) It’s stone dust, ejected from the stone by a diamond blade in an angle grinder being used in a rather damp environment. Whee!

Anyway, I think everything else fits into the usual categories below, so without further ado…


You might recall this was “Reading Week,” also called “Spring Break.” So, there was no design class this week. But that doesn’t stop me from doing something.

I happened to see the design instructor as he was setting up for a presentation about the makerspace (which is, I think, his baby) to the other Fine Arts instructors. I offered him my headphone button fixer thing, and the laser cut cardboard model of my proposed stool for his class (which you folks saw last week) to be used as examples. He said yes, and that means he saw the laser cut model before class this coming week.

He was actually happy I’d done it, as I was the one to demonstrate the scaling stuff and make it come together. All in all, I think I am so far ahead here that I am going to be just fine. Unless the actual cutting of the wood turns out to be a disaster.

This week we do presentations about our designs to see where things are at, get feedback from the class, and then we refine. Then it’s off to make scale, laser cut, cardboard models, and then we start cutting plywood, I think. (And if some of that sounds familiar, it was supposed to happen two weeks ago, but we were snowed out, and then reading week hit. So now we do that stuff (or at least the first bits) this coming Tuesday afternoon.

Aboriginal Carving

There was a “make up” carving class this week. The instructor had to be on campus anyway for the above mentioned makerspace demo, and a few students took him up on his offer to run an extra session, including me. I showed him my carved spoon:

And he basically told me to start another one. He was very nice about it, of course, but it was clear he wanted me to stop fiddling with that one and try another. Don’t get me wrong. He’s pleased with this one, but it was time to move on to another project. (That’s what you get for working ahead!)

I think the new one will be simpler — much simpler — but it’s barely started at this point. No pics yet. I will try to get some carving time in on it this weekend.


There was no formal carving class, but there was a crit of Jess’s multiple cast project. Here’s a photo of her work that was missing last week:

There is so much going on in that work it’s hard to catch it all. Really. Here’s a short list:

  • All the doughnuts are cast from the “mother doughnut,” which is the upside one in the middle on the right, atop the blue one. Jess really wanted the original (clay) doughnut she made in her ceramics class to be included in the work.
  • Most (if not all) of these had pigment added to the hydrostone they were cast from. That was a semi-risky move on Jess’s part, as the pigments we have are for another product. But they seem to have worked, and they made the unpainted surfaces look very interesting and even somewhat natural.
  • Jess really enjoyed painting these things. The colours are all mixed — not straight from the bottle — and required multiple layers to get right. She expressed some surprise at this turn of events since she doesn’t seem to think of herself as a painter. (It’s no wonder she’s a friend of mine… I’m no painter either.) The instructor (Devon) also says she’s not a painter, and yet she actually said something like “I like the painterly surfaces here” and then immediately followed that with “I can’t believe I said that!” It was very funny.
  • The paper the doughnuts are on was screen printed by Jess. It’s a study done in the 1960’s by some scientists who were paid by the sugar lobby to convince everyone that sugar was OK and fat was bad for us. With that (and the colours) Jess is commenting on what we eat these days, and the reasons behind it.

My impression was that her crit went really well, and I think that was deserved. The work is very strong, and has a lot of layers to it. I’m really glad I was there to hear the discussion, and even participate in it a bit. Very nice.

But I didn’t only show up on Thursday for Jess’s crit. Last week I showed you a large stone I’d been given to use as a base for my final sculpture in this class. This week I pulled a chip off it and polished it up a bit, to try and see what I will be working with:

As best I can tell, it’s a sandstone. The dark ring is (I think) a shell embedded in the rock.This was hurriedly sanded and some wax was put on it, so I could assess the colour and talk with Devon about it. As I was doing that I realized that the stone has an opinion about what it wants to be: it’s a bowl. A really big bowl, about two feet in diameter, and a foot high. Sometimes this happens… the stone (or other medium, I suppose) just screams out what needs to happen. This is such a case, and who am I to argue?

So I showed Devon the polished stone scrap and talked about the bowl idea. She really liked that, I think. The thought was that the other stones I have can become things inside the bowl, or that come out of it in one way or another. So I got out my tools and got started. A couple hours later:

Allow me to explain a couple of things:

  • The orange tint to the photo is because I am carving outside under a safety orange canopy. Langara’s primary colour is an electric orange, and we’ve currently got a couple of school canopies setup outside to carve under, since the previous awning blew away in a windstorm a couple of months back. (Yes, these new canopies are lighter and more flight-worthy than the previous awning which was airborne at some point, but not all decisions in large institutions make any real sense when you study them too closely.)
  • The green and white you see on the stone is spray paint that was put there by someone who used the stone as a backstop for something they were painting. That could have happened 20 years ago. It will be removed in the final work.
  • You’re looking at the bottom of the bowl.

That was on Thursday. I went back on Friday and did more work:

Now you’re looking at the top of the bowl. Don’t let that view fool you, the opening I have started carving is not very deep. Not at all. Maybe an inch and a half? There is a huge amount of stone to remove. Huge. Vast, even.

Beyond that, with a ruler and the internet I have come to some interesting conclusions:

  • The stone is approx 2' x 2' x 13". That’s about (or perhaps a bit over) four cubic feet of stone.
  • On average, sandstone weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot.
  • Thus, that stone weighs about 600 pounds, give or take.

Yowza! I am surprised I can move it at all! Even if it is on the light side (given the density range of sandstone) it would be 450 pounds or so.

So, Friday’s work has convinced me that this bowl is going to be a huge project all by itself. What that means for the overall plan I don’t yet know. I need to see how it goes and how rapidly I can get it shaped. I am using power tools, of course, but it is still a huge job, and there is no way for me to lift it onto a table at this point. I have to work it on the ground until it is a lot lighter, which is less than ideal.

Still, I will keep at it, and make progress as rapidly as I can. Sunday is supposed to be sunny, so I suspect I will spent several hours working on this then. Maybe some on Saturday as well, but there is rain in the forecast, so I am a bit dubious. We’ll see. (Note that any forecast for the Vancouver area that is predicting things more than two hours into the future is just a wild guess at what the weather will be like. They might as well be reading entrails.)

Wish me luck on this project. I am going to need it!

Other School(ish) Stuff

Various bits for the plastic shredder have been ordered or purchased, so at some point soon I will need to work on assembly of that with teammates.


This showed up in my feed the other day, and I found it very interesting. Apparently Da Vinci wasn’t convinced the Church’s timeline for the creation of the planet wasn’t quite right, and included things in at least one of his paintings to point that out.

And here is the usual Art School Post Index. So you can see these stories in order if you want to.


This is the view from the SeaBus terminal in Vancouver, looking north towards North Vancouver on Wednesday morning, Feb 20. This is just after the big snowstorm, and while you can’t tell all that well from it (but click to enlarge it anyway) the trees on the mountains are all dusted white with snow, as are the roofs of all the buildings.

It is a picturesque place to live.

Two days later — today as I write this, Friday, Feb 22 — we were back to this:

That’s the central quad (though I have never heard anyone use that term) at Langara College being snowed on rather heavily. That’s what I was working in at the start of my carving session today. Then it turned to hail, and then it was just cold and breezy. So, kind of pretty (at least in the photo) but not much fun to be working in.

Two more photos from today’s SeaBus trip home:

That’s two tugboats pushing a container ship into dock. This is not the dock with the damaged crane. Instead, this site is closer to the SeaBus route, and a bit west of the site where the crane was smashed. This is the first time I’ve seen a container ship in the process of docking (or being docked) so I thought I’d share the picture.

And speaking of the damaged crane:

the low, orange bits to the right of centre are all that is left of the damaged crane as of 5 pm today. This morning there was a crane on a barge connected to the structure, but the lighting was awful (given the snowfall) and I didn’t even try to take a picture. Tonight, though, the snow had stopped and the sun was out and behind me as I took that photo, so it was pretty well lit. And you can see the crane on a barge is gone, and the remaining structure is pretty small as these things go. So much for a huge impact on the port as a result of this incident.

And In Conclusion…

Not funny this week, but very interesting. This video discusses how “copyright enforcement” works on YouTube, and it’s not even remotely what you might think. Well, OK. Actually it’s not at all what I thought, and it might not be what you think. An interesting watch, if you ask me, but then again I can be interested in almost anything (except sports and celebrity gossip; those are boring).

Anyway, I recommend this to you. It’s an interesting exercise in reality vs. law.




Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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