Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Matics

Under the general headline of "tooling up", this summer I decided to invest in a pneumatic hammer, something of a specialty item, in an effort to speed up some of my process a wee bit. The hammer, for those who might not realize what they are, uses compressed air to drive a chisel and, if handled properly, hits the chisel an awful lot faster and more often than I can. 

I am a long way from handling it properly. But I am trying to practice, and the tool itself is a thing of beauty. It is made by Trow and Holden of Barre, Vermont, where the old factory still stands. The granite workers of Vermont swear by the tools they make there, and so do I. The tools are tough beyond belief and  the people who make them will discuss your needs in detail with you, and I have ordered custom tooth chisels and special small flats from them in the past and been delighted with the results. 

A bit of work in the studio was indicated to prepare for the new set up.

I have a big workbench, so I cleared the end closest to the door, screwed some shelves into the wall. The new compressor sits off the end of this, and the hose can reach outside so I can work there. The shelves hold the hammer and chisels, fittings and the wrench that fits! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Middlebridge Group

A few years back I decided that I should host some weekend workshops in stone carving at my own studio here in South Kingstown. I was inspired by the utter lack of interest that was shown the classes when I signed up to teach- several years running-  with the South County Neighborhood Guild. The Guild hosts literally hundreds of classes in everything from youth camps to senior yoga, and are about as busy and as active as an outfit can be. I suppose the specialty nature of what I have to offer had a way of just getting lost in the shuffle, despite whatever publicity I could assemble on my own.

So, one summer a few years back I decided to host in my own yard. I soon had two classes full to capacity, and because if the incredible convenience of strolling out my door to work, I was able to offer these at a good discount.

We also potlucked out lunches together, having a fantastic time as a result. I laid on the ice tea and sodas, and we stayed cool under my awning. Some of the work produced has been great, even though everyone was essentially a beginner. I've decided to call us The Middlebridge Group.

I've been doing it every summer since.  Sometimes the class runs, sometimes not quite enough people sign up and we have to skip it, but whenever we do get to have the class, we all agree it to be quite worthwhile.

This year, the classes will be July 23-24 and August 20-21. 10 am to 4 pm- Middlebridge, RI (my studio near the Narrow River, in South Kingstown) Students can choose between using limestone to do a relief carving or soapstone to work in the round. The price for the weekend, $90, includes two days instruction, access to all the tools you need and one piece of stone, as well as cold drinks all day, and the fun or sharing it all! More info and to enroll,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brigid's Reeds

Right about this time every year, I am just getting recovered from the school year, and starting to break into my summer routine. I am looking forward to a patch of days a little more relaxed, and a little less hectic, than when I am racing to and from Providence and keeping up with all that school and a large art room packed full of kids and supplies entails. I closed the door to that room on Friday night with a large sigh of relief, most things clean and put away, mostly organized for the Fall...and went immediately home to sleep for 12 hours.

This is typical.

The renewal started, quite magically,  this weekend.

Sunday morning found me and Steve out by the side of the highway cutting reeds from the drainage ditches where they flourish for all my summer Brigid Cross making.  Steve snapped these photos, and I just love them.  I am soaked in gorgeous green.

It was a perfect June morning, soft and cool. and, as we pulled away from the gathering spot, a big red-tail hawk swooped right in front of the car, delighting us with her power, offering a great show of her beautiful tail. It was like receiving a blessing. 
These reeds are actually called 'soft rushes' and are a smaller relative of bullrushes. They are an invasive species in southern Rhode Island. In a week or two, the highway grass cutter-types (in Ireland, the 'hedgers' would be out) will trim these reeds right down to nothing and I would have lost my chance to cut them with their dear little blossoms still intact.

 These particular plants get nice and fat in this sunny roadside location.

In Ireland, the rushes grow in all sorts of boggy areas nearly everywhere, are a bit stouter- and would have grown up and bloomed before now!  Traditionally they would be used for bedding, sometimes to thatch the old-style cottages, and of course for Brigid Crosses; the very first rushes up in the earliest stirring of Spring would be used to make them on Feb. 1. The only place I've seen soft rushes grow the same way is in some boggy spots out on Block Island.  Last March, out for a St. Patricks' Day ceili, Sorrel Devine and I cut some while on a morning walk on the west side of the island. The rushes were well grown, even that early in the Spring.

The little blossoms, usually trimmed away,  I include with my crosses, my own signature touch.  I'll be hosting a couple of walk-in classes in Brigid Cross making at the Catskills Irish Arts Week and at Goderich, Ontario's Celtic College this summer. You can find my Brigid Crosses at LauraTravisCarving on

soaking rushes in hot water to make Brigid Crosses

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Technology and Stone Carving

In my efforts to up my game these days, I have taken on a RISD CE certificate course in Digital Video and am wending my way through the second class of the trajectory- The Art of Making Movies.

It's an enthusiastic and younger teacher and group. I'm only worried I can't really drive back and forth to Providence to spend days and hours collaborating on projects. Fortunately, I have been given permission to use my own camera, a Canon ZR 800, as long as I can set it manually- possible, but only up to a point.  I'm bringing it to class tonight, but not after having to shoot the first assignment! It's a one minute story edited in camera.

I decided to shoot based on getting up in the morning and going to my studio.

Here's the rough take:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shaping the Summer

A couple hours of video yesterday for the upcoming Networks RI events. I am delighted to discover that there will be a showing November 6 at RISD's Metcalf Auditorium in Providence of all the artists' documentary videos.  Richard Goulis is shooting ALL of them this year. I marvel at his ability to remember things we said earlier, left off at, as we work out the remaining footage for him to edit into the finished piece about me. 

He filmed me whacking away at a larger slab and creating a rubbing on cloth. The hammer was too loud and drowned out my voice. 

I am looking forward to seeing the other artists' videos at least as much as my own! 

I updated all my on line stuff today, starting with my own web site, trying to be a good little internet-savvy art person. I've got all my summer classes lined up; one next weekend, May 21-22, at North Kingstown Rec Center, soapstone carving, pretty much all adults I guess, and a nice, small group. Only my second time with this organization, so very much looking forward to it- and it is nearly sold out already. 

The Blackstone River Theatre relief carving class is next up, June 25-26, with the newly reminted Blackstone River Theatre Summer Solstice Festival slated for the weekend before. (I'll be setting up a little spot there, but mostly will be helping around the stages.) I love working outdoors in The Grove, where I was able to install four figures and a slab sculpture over ten years ago now. There's always lively discussions and enjoyable personalities on hand for this class. Lots more on all their classes and activities at

I'll be trying to get lots of works done in the studio between the BRT class and the following road trip, which is always a real hum-dinger. The Catskills Irish Arts Week, July 10-16 is a huge undertaking involving over 300 students and 50 or so instructors, and I am going to do a relief carving class mornings, AND help out running the stage every night (!) It's a do- not -miss gathering for those devoted to Irish traditional music and dance, and I will greet many long-time friends there and have an intensely enjoyable if exhausting week.

A couple weeks later I am off to Canada to teach relief carving and Brigid Cross making at  the Celtic College and to show at the Celtic Roots Festival, to convene with my multiple friends, colleagues and fellow artifact-obsessed artist pals, hear some great music, enjoy some dedicated students and swim in Lake Huron!  Wanna go? Check it out here:
large work created by students and myself for The Celtic Roots Festival site

gathering limestone pebbles on the beach at the lake

Saturday, May 7, 2011

May Morning Dew

It was a beauty of a day in Middlebridge.  There were too many Saturday errands, and after that, I found myself trying to discuss two new robins nests being assembled in rather inadvisable locations in my yard with their overly industrious denizens. There were some great theatrics involving pretend-broken-wings and so forth, me talking in a soothing tone. Pretty entertaining for the neighbors I expect.

I left my bird pals alone...there is one brilliant blue egg in one of the nests...and headed into my studio.

I started with the regular materials for experimenting with rubbings taken from my original relief carvings- but this time using a very small carving and silk papers, and I liked the effect.

I have been making rubbings of some of my relief carvings on paper, but I had been to the recycling center recently and, having secured some likely grey upholstery fabric, I set to work, trying out the fabric crayons.
"New Moon"

Paper rubbings have been annoying me because of their fragility. Having to roll them carefully and keep them from crumpling is a real challenge, although I really enjoy the way the Caran D'Arches crayons I had been using looked, nice and dry, good color range, easy to manage and not at all greasy. I was hoping to find a similar workability with the fabric crayons I picked out.
Fat chance! the Pentel ones, designed to go right onto the fabric itself, and recommended for natural fibers, were VERY soft like oil pastels, but the colors were quite strong. I did up a sample size on my new fabric, using one of my favorite smaller sculptures, New Moon. Seemed like a good idea to start with that one, since I had just had a delightful view of the waxing sliver of the new moon the previous evening.

I also tried a Crayola fabric crayon, only 8 colors, designed to be colored in reverse on paper to create an iron-on transfer sheet, and recommended for synthetics. I just did the rubbing as usual with this oe. I liked the texture of working with them much more, but the colors were really different going on than when the ironing was done.

So then I ironed the samples, along with another sample I had made on fabric with the Arches crayons, ironing them into the fabric on high heat from the reverse.

Right now they are all in the washer!  the ultimate test. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Big Table

Here's Alan Bradbury delivering my new (old) table he helped me salvage from the trash at Hope High School. I've installed it in my studio and slapped some stone slabs on it, trying out new rubbings on cloth, and just generally kicking it into gear....and high time too...only a few weeks until the summer season rocks into play!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Networks RI

I'm spring cleaning around here! Richard Goulis, longtime AS220 denizen,  performance- and- other- forms art guy, and gallery director back when I had a studio at AS220, is coming Wednesday to film me in my studio here in Middlebridge. I'm also psyched for the arrival this week of a huge oak table that Alan Bradbury is helping me salvage- it was a throw-away with a broken leg from Hope High School, and was covered in PINK LATEX.  Restored to its former semi-glory after a date with the stripper, it's going into my studio shed sometime this week. It's going to really help me make those large stone rubbings I have been interested in lately.

I've been so fortunate to have been selected to be one of the Networks RI artists for 2011.  The program was started by Dr. Joseph Chazan, and pioneered at AS220. Each Rhode Island artist selected has a video and a portrait made, and is invited to participate in a range of shows around the state, most especially a Museum show. Last year the artists had a phenomenal show at the Newport Art Museum.  Here's a link for that show-  and info from Malcolm Grear's blog on the topic:

Wish me luck with the mess! I will have it all sorted out by Wednesday AM....I hope!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Internet for Artists

Greetings everyone! After attending a Creative Capital seminar at RISD, Internet for Artists, I decided to start a blog. I'm hoping this will be a fun and easy way to stay in touch with my students, friends and other artists and a place to post my work in sculpture. I'm looking forward to posting more soon. Hope you'll be able to stop by!

Meanwhile head over to my regular web site, where you'll find some work, some classes and so on.

Thanks for reading!

Laura T.