Geer's Creations - About Stone

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Most of my sculpture is carved from Soapstone or Alabaster. I also love to carve Carrara Marble.

Soapstone contains talc, which creates the slippery feel that gives it its name. It varies greatly in hardness and density.

Brazilian Soapstone is my favorite to use for teaching. It comes in many wonderful colors. It is soft enough so my students can finish a piece in a few weeks. This makes it "success oriented", since it is easy to work. It will take a good polish, so there is a lot of satisfaction in the feel of the finished piece.

Some of the Colors of Brazilian Soapstone
Welcome Bear-click for more views
Hurry-up Bunny-click for more views
Sniffing Rabbit-click for larger image
Family-click for more views
Embrace-click for more views
Hug Me-click for larger image

One drawback to the soapstones is that metals can scratch them. The softest Brazilian that I use can be scratched by jewelry or a button, so you must be careful when handling it. I seal the surface of all my work with Johnson's Paste Wax. If there is a minor scratch you may be able to simply rub it out with a soft cloth. Deeper scratches may require wet sanding and polishing.

Apple-click for larger image

Italian Green Soapstone is usually translucent green. My supply came from Gian Carlo Stoneworks in Canada. It has an interesting history. Originally the US Government purchased it from Italy during the Great Depression for use in WPA art projects. It was never used, and later was sold to my supplier. It comes to me in the original wooden boxes, packed with wood shavings.

Have a Bite!
Italian Green Soapstone

 

Kat, Virginia Soapstone-click for more views

Virginia Soapstone is the hardest of the soapstones that I use. It comes from a quarry in Albemarle County, Virginia, near Charlottesville. Native Americans used it for bowls and ornaments, which can be seen in museums today.

It is acid and alkali-proof, so it is often used for sinks and countertops, even in chemistry and biology labs. It is soft enough to shape with basic tools, but dense and fine-grained so that it resists staining.

This is the only soapstone that can be left outdoors for an extended time. It is much harder than the Brazilian stone, but can still be scratched by hardened steel.

Kat, Virginia Soapstone

Examples of African Soapstone, Kisii Stone, from Kenya
 
"Cavalier" - click for more views
"Regal Bear" - click for more views
"Honest Bear" - click for more views

Kisii Stone is the newest soapstone that I use. This beautiful stone is found near the village of Kisii in the Tabaka Hills of Western Kenya. It ranges in color from deep gold to rich burgundy, pale pink to mauve and black to creamy white. Each piece has it's own unique combination of color and patterns. The various colorations and patterns running through it are formed as different minerals (particularly iron) leach through the stone as it sits underground. You will often see dancers and family groups made by native carvers from the Kisii tribe of Kenya for sale in African gift shops.

 

Alabaster is a highly compacted form of gypsum. It is available in a wide range of colors. I have three favorites:

Colorado Alabaster has a fine texture and is usually white or pink in color, sometimes translucent and sometimes beautifully veined.

Nurturing-click for more views
Vapors
Colorado Alabaster
Nurturing
Italian Crystal Alabaste
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Sunburst Sail
Salmon Alabaster

Italian Crystal Alabaster is a beautiful translucent white. It has fine delicate inclusions that can be mistaken for cracks, but these do not affect the integrity of the stone. It is found in caves in Northern Italy, often underwater. It comes from the same region as Carrara Marble.

Salmon Alabaster is also a new stone for me this year. It comes from Utah in four-inch wide strips. Designs are limited, but the beautiful color inspires creative ideas.

 

Carrara Marble is the stone that Michelangelo used for his greatest creations, like David and the Pieta. I bought my supply while staying in Pietrasante, from the same quarry in Carrara where he got his stone. It is only a few kilometers from Artspace where my daughter Criis and I studied marble carving in 1997.

Lotties Lamb
Strider, Carrara Marble
Lottie's Lamb , Carrara Marble

Marble is the hardest of the stones I use. It takes about five times as long to work as soapstone or alabaster, but is much more impervious to the elements. The beautiful white gives my sculptures a classic look.

J. Gail Geer
September 3, 2007

 

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Last modified Thursday, July 11, 2013