A beginner’s introduction to this fascinating material…
Soapstone is already a popular choice among sculptor due to its easily workable softness, and beautiful appearance. The stones themselves are found in Brazil, India, China, Canada and even Australia and the first traces date back over a thousand years.
It is a good alternative to marble, sandstone or granite, as it is 10 to 20 times cheaper. Its ability to be shaped by filing also means that anyone can give it a try, and there is less waste and potential for ruining your work when working with a hammer and chisel.
Every stone presents the artist unique possibilities with vast variations in colour and pattern and can create beautiful works of art. There is potential for creating large sculptures and also handmade gifts such as tableware, garden statues and chess pieces. Remember to keep small off cuts or splinters as these can be used to make pendants for jewellery.
It also makes a great educational tool to be used in workshops and schools. Everyone can work individually with a common theme in mind or come together to create a group project such as a zoo of soapstone animals or even Noah’s ark!
If you’ve never tried sculpting before soapstone is the perfect material for your first attempts as small mistakes are easily corrected and the wonderful colours look wonderful on the simplest of shapes.
The tools required for working with soapstone are very simple, essentials include the saw, the file and the rasp and an assortment or rifflers. For finishing your work you will also need sanding pads or sandpaper. Whilst the tools are very simple and require only a sawing, filing motion alot of them do have sharp points or edges that can cause injury, so be sure to take care and any work with children should be supervised by an adult.
Before starting on a large piece it is best to familiarize yourself with the nature of the material, make small shapes and get used to the tools and their limitations. Work without too many expectations on the final product and you will be surprised at what you come up with on a first attempt by letting the project evolve on its own.
Why not give it a try?