17 March 2011

Soapstone Carving

Yeah, I know … not quite the subject line you expected to see here, is it?

One of the really cool things about the Virtual School that The Boy attends is that when they have parent-teacher interviews, they incorporate some kind of neat field trip or other experience at the same time. Fall interviews were held at Fort Edmonton and the kids got to make bannock and do pioneer activities, and all the family is welcome, even if not all the kids are in virtual school. The Reluctant Farmer took all 3 kids to the fall interviews, and the littlest ones definitely had a good time. The Boy has done a lot of that before, but he certainly ate his share of bannock. :)

Today we got to see a presentation on Inuit culture and attend a soapstone carving workshop. Did you know that the word Eskimo is Cree for “eats raw meat”? The Inuit are very different from the other First Nations people here in Canada, their climate and environment have, of course, shaped their culture in unique ways. They eat raw meat in order to get nutrients that might be removed by cooking, but also because there aren’t any trees to use for fuel, so what would you cook with? The presenter told of taking a hockey team south to a tournament, and the kids were picking up branches and leaves to take home to show their siblings, who had never seen a real tree. That’s hard to even imagine!

The carving workshop was really interesting. We were each given a small slab of soapstone (which has nothing to do with soap, actually, but it is soft and definitely shines when polished) and instructed to draw the outline of the shape we wanted to make. The Boy made a sheep and I made a Japanese Kokeshi. Big files were used to take off the largest chunks of stone, then gradually finer files and eventually sandpaper to smooth the surface. It’s amazing to see the pile of dust (which looks a lot like sawdust) that used to be rock forming in your work space!

Here are the finished objects:


  1. i use that pile 'o dust to differentiate subtractive from additive sculpture for my elementary school art students: additive (eg asssemblage) means you add things on and there's no necessary leftovers, but subtractive, like your carvings, is just like in math: you take stuff away and you have remainders!

  2. Nathan and Dawn7:34 pm

    Big-headed Kokeshi and Small-headed sheep say:
    "We are soapstone carvings, but we're not made of soap.
    If you throw us in the bathtub, you'll find that we don't float!"

  3. lucky you! i'm still meaning to get out to fort edmonton. independent study would have been right up my alley when i was going through the yuck of high school.

  4. wow, those things are so cute! Where can I make one? I never got to do anything cool like that with soapstone when I was a kid. In fact, I'm sure if you asked me about soapstone, I'd think it was akind of body wash.

  5. Hi Garden State! Soapstone is cool, isn't it? The tools are very simple and it was a lot of fun. I imagine you can get the stone and tools in a number of places, ours were provided by the instructor. It was a great session and very informative!


Comments have been opened up for immediate posting - the spam filters seem to be doing their job pretty well, thankfully. I love hearing from you, thanks for taking the time to post a comment!