365 Days of Earrings

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Unakite for Soapstone Carving Day

Written last night, but Blogger was on holiday for a while on Tuesday, October 18: I chose my stone bear earrings this morning, for soapstone carving day. As we continue to study the cultures of the Northwest Indians, we’re exploring some of their crafts, including mask making and soapstone carving.
Even after 7 years of carving soapstone with my students, I still don’t have a pair of soapstone earrings. Maybe next year. So today I wore totem bears carved from the “Virginia State Stone” that I bought at James Madison's home, Montpelier last summer.

I have been carving soapstone, a little each year. I have some tiny turtles, and some bear-like creatures. I’ve been working on this squirrel for a couple of years now. But only while my students are filing their stone-- I like them to see me working, too.
I bought a hunk of soapstone about 7 years ago. About half remains. I saw it up each year into chunks for the children to carve. Soapstone is amazing—so soft that rubbing it with a nail file smoothes rough edges. Metal files can shape the stone into any form the sculptor imagines.
For most of the children, as for me, that is the challenge: creating in 3D what we can imagine in our mind’s eye. But I find that the process of shaping stone is a great activity for my 3rd graders and their 7th and 8th grade mentors to share: hands busy, time to sit and chat, working with an unfamiliar material while working toward a goal. We made a lot of dust in the courtyard outside my classroom on what the weathermen said was our last nice day for a while. Tonight rain will wash the soapstone dust away. Something else to discuss tomorrow.  

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