Casting and Carving Cement Stones | A Post-Funky Tiki Owl Sculpture

Casting the First Stone

Twinges of misgiving came only hours before attending the first session. My husband had talked me into taking the "cast-stone sculpture class", sponsored by the local Arts Council, on the premise that we got a discount with couples signing up. I must admit that my curiosity at seeing who might be good enough to "cast the first stone" got me to agree.

My husband is an artist. He does beautiful wood carvings, watercolors, pen drawings and has worked in many media. I,on the other hand, had carved a plaster tiki god once in high school that had a strange look on it's face. As tiki gods go.. he is probably one that people would be reluctant to pray to, for fear of being laughed at by island natives.

The Final Result

Source

Choosing the subject

"What are you going to carve," my husband asked (as I knew he would) . "An owl. " I said foolishly, with the full knowledge that he has carved scores of beautiful birds. At this point I knew I should have said "Banana Slug".

"What kind of owl," he further inquired. The question reminded me that there are dozens of species of owl... and only one kind of Banana Slug.

"A Generic Owl", I said... "No specific kind... just a symbolic impressionistic or post expressionist art nouveau type of thing." I said trying to sound like I knew what I had in mind and hoping it wouldn't come out looking too much like that tiki.

A short time later we met the other students surrounded by flowers in a lovely garden on the property of a local antique shop. The art teacher was unloading 90 lb bags of concrete mix from the back of her pickup. We were mostly strangers, who would soon get to know each other by experience trials much as the groups who come together to play "Survivor". Thankfully, there would be no voting.

The teacher, explained what we were would mix cement, garden pearlite, sand and water, into an oatmeal kind of consistency and pour it into cardboard box molds to make our "stones". With an explanation she hoped would not be too technical, she clarified that if it went "splash " when we poured it, it was probably too thin, and if it went "plop"it was about right. She talked about the possibilities of the medium, then gave us all a lump of clay so we could make a model of what we wanted our stone carving to look like.

We made a clay model to give us an idea what we were aiming for in the final piece.
We made a clay model to give us an idea what we were aiming for in the final piece. | Source

Day two: The Sculpting.

The next morning we were again in the garden covered with cement dust from head to toe, wearing masks and goggles to protect us from the dust ( or, in my case, to conceal my true identity as a novice).

Various sizes of cardboard boxes reinforced with tape and bungie cords were dispersed over tables giving the whole garden the appearance of a hobo camp, as the teacher observed.

But here were were working with shovels and hoes, sand , mud and water, maybe not too much different than the makeshift camps of forty-niners who once sluiced the nearby creek bed for the elusive flakes and nuggets of the Mother Lode. Had they been there, they might have recognized us, and thought our activity familiar, though wondering why we were carefully hoarding the sandy mud instead of panning it out.

The curious outsiders who did wander into the garden didn't question why this assortment of people, artists in various stages of development, were standing around boxes full of concrete mixture in hopeful anticipation of the time they would strip away the cardboard and reveal box shaped pieces of concrete with a sense of awe and accomplishment.

A couple of hours of setting up time were required, and as the cardboard molds began to be removed, we were soon stroking the damp gritty lumps tenderly, shaping them with tools and bare hands until our fingerprints began to disappear.

It seems that I seldom do anything that lasts for long. Daily necessarily daily things like laundry, grocery shopping and cooking are not memorable and need to be done over and over. Unlike the spaghetti and meatballs I made last month, which is gone and forgotten, a two foot tall stone owl is going to last awhile, possibly to the regret of many.

The resulting owl sculpture, I would say, is not so much post-impresionist as post-funky, with a little tiki look around the eyes. It will never appear in an art museum, but it's my owl and I made it. So far, it has endured a lot longer than the spaghetti and meatballs, though I probably should check the fridge.

***As an odd footnote: A few years after this, I learned a lot more about owls when I published a children's book based on photos of a tiny Saw-Whet Owl, photographed by my friend, Linda Gast. Another hub tells some of that story.

 

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Comments 19 comments

Juliet Christie profile image

Juliet Christie 8 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

Sometimes we do things and really do not know why but later we understand the lesson


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

I like your owl! Nice photogrpah, too. Love the light shining on his eyes.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Juliet, yes, life is like that.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Donna, I don't really have a digital camera. I do have an iMac that will take a picture of things you set in front of it. Set it on a box covered with a tablecloth and hold the cloth behind it. I've done it several times. And the light? I'm holding a flashlight on it.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

You owl rules and your hub is awesome. Your ability to describe and lay in detail makes reading your stuff visceral and real, and your gift for humor is such fun for the rest of us. Totally LOL @ "... a dozen species of owl and only one kind of Banana Slug." Hilarious. Thanks for a delighful read, as always.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Shades, your enthusiasm is always very gratifying. I'm going to do the Banana Slug next time. It is California's state gastropod . . . or mollusk or something


Ana Louis profile image

Ana Louis 8 years ago from Louisiana

I love your hub, and since I've never studied an owl in detail, I think your Post-Funky Tiki Owl is perfect. I can't wait to see your interpretation of the Banana Slug. I hope you will post pictures.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

My cousin went to college in Santa Cruz... the school mascot is the Banana Slug. LOL. How cool is that?


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I didn't know that! Maybe I can get a commission.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

Your owl is good! Maybe you're a natural! Thanks!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you Christoph.


Veronica Bright profile image

Veronica Bright 8 years ago from Nebraska

It's great that you tried something new! I have always wondered about scultping.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

It was a lot of fun. A lot of people made things like birdbaths or fountain basins-- different kinds of garden sculpture. One would need kind of a dedicated space to do this if you planned to do more. The pices are quite heavy and have the look and durablity of granite once they are fully cured.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 8 years ago from Australia

What a great job you did of that owl,

I attended a similar class at our community house in Melbourne , but we used an already made product called Hebel and carved our images using hand tools it is a very easy product to work.

I admire your tenacity.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

Good for you. I hate feeling so inadequate with others so much more talented around me, but in the end I did it. Congrats on an owl that is yours and unique!


Draw for Joy 7 years ago

Nice sculpture. I have made an owl drawing.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Cute owl drawing. It never occurrred to me that owls might have a cup of coffee to wake up for their night's work.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

So now you know. Many people don't give themselves credit for the talents that they have. Which is why it's okay to venture out and try different activities. You could be mildly surprised!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you for commenting, Arlene V. Poma. It was fun to do, but I think if I ever did another one it would be quite different.

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