What’s in a Rock? Why, a Bear of Course!


For the last six months, since Christmas, I have been obsessively involved in doing renovations at our new place in St. Albert (small city close to Edmonton). Therefor it was to give myself a break that I decided to take a course on soapstone carving at Picture This Gallery in Sherwood Park (another small city next to Edmonton).

Picture This Gallery and Framing has been in business for a long time and for many years they have brought in artists of every genre to do weekend workshops in their gallery space. This workshop was run by Vance Theoret, a sculptor whose whimsical bears have always appealed to me.

The workshop started with the group meeting at Bedrock Supply to choose our stone. When I chose mine (shown above) I had no preconceived idea of what it would become. Unlike Michelangelo, I was unable to “see” anything striving to escape from this rock.


The course was held outside due to the very messy nature of soapstone carving. It’s amazing that such a soft stone nevertheless allows itself to be cut with a saw, planed, sanded and otherwise abused. This image shows the first cuts with a saw.


Here you can see the shape of the body start to emerge. How will this become a bear? The snout is so long and the ears are solid! Vance, however, was very clear about not worrying about details at this point of the project. It was useful to look at the carvings that he did as many of them were for sale in the gallery.


Here the body begins to emerge even more – the bear may have arms after all! I’m still worried about the snout – and I’m running out of time! How will I get anything resembling a bear within the few hours left in the two day workshop? The heavy planing then the sanding begins…

Once the sanding is done and the statues begin to take shape the group retreats to the back room of the gallery where there is access to water. The water and finest wet and dry sandpaper brings out the color (who knew the colour of this stone wasn’t white??), and the shine on the statue’s surface. This surface is then sealed and protected with an ordinary car wax like Armour All.


Here is the final project. I’ve named him Rufus. I love the pattern and implied texture of the rock. Other participants’ stones yielded colours of white, tan and even turquoise! I was pleased with the results of my first project and plan to take more courses at Picture This. They do everything they can to ensure that the workshop experience is a good one for everyone. Check out their website to see more of their workshops. See you there!



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