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In February 2002, I found myself driving up to Oamaru, New Zealand, on the eastern coast, to participate in the bi-annual Oamaru Stone Carving Symposium.

I drove nervously, to say the least! It took me forever to get used to driving on the left side of the road!

I made it OK, though, and spent the rest of my time in Oamaru baning and grinding and chiseling and scraping from 8am to 9pm with 13 other sculptors.

Below is the 2-ton hunk of freshly quarried Oamaru Limestone I carved my piece from. Each of the 14 artists from all over the world got one or two to play with.


Most of us stayed at a local campground, with two, three or four in one unit. These were campgrounds like we don't see here in the US! Rooms!

With communal kitchen and showers, and mini-kitchens in the living-room/2-bedroom units!

You could also tent-stay there, but with those units being so inexpensive, who'd want to?

I shared a unit with Theo (an art teacher and very talented sculptor/painter from NZ whose work is very bold,

with strong, clean lines) and Mansour (a Professor of Art who carves graceful abstract sculpture out of many kinds of stone; from Egypt).

We all left around 8 a.m. to go carve before the sun hit too hard on us, and to take as much advantage of the time - at 9a.m. we had to stop using our power tools until 5 p.m.

Most of us stayed until 9 or 10p.m., chipping througout the day and using power to grind or sand until we left for the night.

I was lucky - Paul, who worked up at the quarry, helped me cut out a huge chunk of stone that I'd have had to chip-chip out with hammer and chisel to get the big gap I needed.

He saved me about three days of chipping! Thanks, Paul!

There were many and various ways of approaching the stone process. Some used axes, some old-fashioned long saws, some waited until after hours touse power tools, sight-seeing by day.

This is the original drawing for my piece. It was on a sheet

out of one of those little notebooks you can carry around in a pocket (I keep one with me at all times to jot down ideas).

You can see how I started out with the figures only showing from mid-thigh up.

But when I drew the design on the stone itself, I had to adjust for how much more stone here was to occupy.

And as I carved, I knocked the tip of the tall prow off - agh! - so it became a shorty stem. Ah well!

We all went about carving in many varioous ways:

I like hammer and chisels

Rosie weilds a mean ax

Jay used The Big Chisel

Garrick & Peter used Old Fashioned tools

Chris hung out with the rifflers forever

Theo was the Rasp Wizard on all his pieces

Some used axes, some chain saws, some old-fashioned saws hand-held by 2 people, some adzes and chisels.

Jay had a propensity for elevated environs....

Quite a few little-old-ladies came up to my sculpture, put their conservative little hands on the rear ends of the figures. With said hand on said butt, they would then turn to their accompanying husband or girl-friend, lean over as if in some great conspiracy, and say,

"Oh! Nice!" - and then, very pleased with themselves, with a wicked gleam in their eyes, walk away - arm-in-arm with their li'l old hubby or snickering with their girl-friends!

Many spectators came around to see what we were doing day and night, so we made lots of friends and had a great time with both locals and tourists.

I didn't know if I'd be able to finish my 2-ton piece by the end of the two-week period.

But it turned out I had lots of time, so I carved two other much smaller pieces out of some of the scraps from the first.

One was a bas relief-ish kind of thing of a horse's head, and an in-the-round called The Truth Behind the Moon.

By the time I started those smaller pieces, I was practically stone-blind from the glare off the white stone.

So I had a little fun and painted them with acrylic paint thinned down to a wash.

Very unusual for NZ, and I was amazed and pleased to see them received very well! And they both sold at the auction at the end of the symposium. You can see them below.

La Balanza, the big piece, is still in Omaru - somehow it just wouldn't fit in my suitcases on my return trip! If you want to see the sculpture, go to Parkside Quarries and ask Linda to show it to you. (Parkside Stone & Garden , 37 Airedale Road, Weston, Oamaru)

Oamaru is the place famous for its Blue Penguins; and just south of Oamaru is a little beach-side town on Moeraki Bay. On the beach are some pretty awesome round boulders, the origination of which varies with tradition - the Maoris say this,and the scientists/geologists say that! Check it out - go here to see.

these are the famous boulders

you can see how big they are!

This was an article in the local rag during our first week in Mt. Somers.

The Oamaru Symposium was terrifc. I was also invited to the Mt. Somers Stone Symposium, as well!

Some of the people who had been carving at Oamaru came up, too. It was a good bunch of really talented folks.

Here's the sculpture in the article:

This is how pooped we were at the ends of the days...

And this was my Spot - where I worked on the hillside at the Mt. Somers Symposium.

Just pretend the little stick figure is me!

There was stone lying everywhere, but you have to be careful not to pick a "dead" one.

If it rings when you strike it, it has no cracks and the internal composition hasn't gotten water-rot.

Go here to see some of the finished work done at the symposium, and other pertaining information.


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