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Carving a Cement Stone Into a Post-Funky Tiki Owl Sculpture

Updated on November 10, 2017
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank wrote humorous bits for her college newspaper many years ago. Her funny observations have continued in print and online.

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


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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    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      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.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 years ago from California Gold Country

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

    • profile image

      Draw for Joy 

      11 years ago

      Nice sculpture. I have made an owl drawing.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      12 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!

    • agvulpes profile image


      12 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.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      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.

    • Veronica Bright profile image

      Veronica Bright 

      12 years ago from Nebraska

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

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you Christoph.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      12 years ago from St. Louis

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

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

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

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      12 years ago from California

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

    • profile image

      Ana Louis 

      12 years ago

      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.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      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

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      12 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 imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      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.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Juliet, yes, life is like that.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      12 years ago from Central North Carolina

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

    • Juliet Christie profile image

      Juliet Christie Murray 

      12 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

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


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