Weekend symposium in Chemainus a sign of what an international sculpting festival would be like

Renowned carvers impress the audience with their creations from marble

It’s not etched in stone yet, but the building blocks are definitely in place for an international sculpting festival in Chemainus next year.

B.C. Marble Products hosted several renowned carvers for a weekend symposium in a preview of what’s to come and numerous people stopped in to check out some truly incredible works of art.

“Lots of things for people to look at,” noted B.C. Marble Products co-owner Steve Thorpe-Doubble.

“Everybody that came really enjoyed it,” added business partner Tom Smith.

It was an especially great weekend for resident Chemainus carver Daniel Cline to talk with people about his craft. He also appreciated having the company of some other elite fellow carvers.

“It really showcases out of the box thinking,” Cline’s wife Ingrid pointed out.

“It’s a really nice reciprocal thing that’s going on,” Daniel indicated. “People are really enjoying it.

“It’s so nice when another professional peer respects or likes what you do. That’s the best compliment.”

Cline’s humpback whale pod piece that he’s been working on all summer was the star attraction and drew plenty of oohs and ahs from those seeing it up-close for the first time.

Christa Rossner, who was actually a student of Cline’s at one time, came up from Sooke to join the carving crowd.

“The one thing about this is it’s a welcoming environment,” said Rossner. “Obviously, we’re helping showcase B.C. Marble Products.”

While grinding away to create a giant feather, she said marble is her stone of choice.

“I absolutely love it. There’s nothing like marble. Marble is the creme de la creme and this is very good marble. It’s beautiful to carve. You can do detail in it and you don’t lose it.”

Rossner was the president of the Vancouver Island Sculptors Guild for a couple of years and spent 14 years on the board. Now, she’s the executive director of the massive Sooke Fine Arts Society show that runs for 11 days at the end of July each year and contains both two-dimensional and three-dimensional art.

Rossner doesn’t think it’ll be a problem to attract an international audience here.

“It’s a great location, it’s right off the highway,” she stressed.

Ray Scudder of Duncan only started doing marble work about nine years ago through his friend Richard Gibson, but admitted he’s been hooked ever since.

“I’ve got about 55 hours into it,” Scudder said of his project. “I haven’t got tired of it.

“It’s just to signify the importance of motherhood, women. I needed it to have some flow. Women are very symmetrical.”

Stephen Cole is a mixed media artist whose Rising Stone Studio is located on Gabriola Island. He knew from an early age that sculpting might be in the cards for him.

“I started in my mash potatoes and I advanced to carving cheese on the couch,” he quipped.

An artistic nature was always in Cole’s blood and never went away.

“Most of my life I’ve tried not to and everything I’ve done has turned into art,” he explained. “I can’t stay away from it. I finally surrendered.”

Cole also does painting and casting. “I kind of go all over the place,” he said.

“Marble is my favourite. You get the creative rush biggest in the sculpture, for me.”

Setting up at B.C. Marble Products with the other carvers proved ideal for Cole.

“This business, they are so inviting, so generous,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to have made this connection.

“I’ll be here any time they let me through the gates.”

Gibson, who got Scudder started, was also responsible for bringing others into the symposium.

A 22-year member of the West Coast Sculpture Association that doesn’t exist anymore, Gibson is hopeful of a revival for the group and would really like to see more young people taking up the craft.

“Everybody here is 50-60 years old,” he pointed out. “It’d be nice if the young people pick up the torch and run.”

Gibson said the marble on the Island is more valuable than Italy’s.

“This marble is so unique,” he indicated. “It’s carveable with a chisel.”

Looking around at the other carvers, “this is a revival right here,” Gibson noted. “I got five more people just because I knew everybody.

“I think people need an all-around ‘yahoo.’ This is just amazing, I would say a miracle we can do this.”

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