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Teaching the art of stone carving

While some came to further hone their skills, others were holding a hand tool for the first time during the Indiana Limestone Symposium which is held annually in Ellettsville, IN

September 6, 2019
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Every June for the past 23 years, the Indiana Limestone Symposium has been held on Bybee Stone Co.’s property in Ellettsville, IN. From novice to advanced, the three-week event brings together carvers of all ages with varying degrees of skill set to participate in a casual and friendly learning environment. The workshops are guided by nationally recognized stone artists who are experienced in both sculptural and architectural carving.

Established in 1996 by master stone sculptors Amy Brier and Frank Young, the Indiana Limestone Symposium is founded on the Greek model of gathering for discussion and celebration and continues the tradition of sculpture symposia that is common in Europe and Asia. The Symposium’s instructors believe that anyone with the desire to carve can learn how. According to the founders, the atmosphere is relaxed, congenial and non-judgmental. Instructors are available at all times to guide participants through the process of carving from start to finish.

During each week-long full session, participants were educated in the art of carving limestone, including design, moving stone, splitting blocks, roughing out, and using hand and pneumatic tools, as well as additional tips. Instructors mold each session to each individual’s skills, needs and level of proficiency. Each session includes up to 8 cubic feet of limestone — weighing approximately 1,200 pounds — compressed air, electricity, water, forklift, snacks, beverages and an official Symposium t-shirt. Additionally, the Symposium offers hand carving by the half day, day or week for beginners or those who are purists in their tool use.

Stone World had the opportunity to stop by the Symposium during a visit to the Indiana Stone Belt. Brier gave a tour – explaining their mission and introducing several of the participants. “People come from all over,” she said. “I think we have more than last year.”

Abby is a glass artist who has attended the Symposium for the last four years, while Sheila is a retired music teacher who was looking to try something completely different. “The biggest challenge is learning to work with the tools,” said Sheila. “I have driven by here for years and last year stopped to take a tour and found out I could sign up. So this year I did.”

John is a wood carver who came to learn how to use his skills to carve stone. “There are some real advantages with movement of stone – learning the predictability of it,” he said. “It’s not layered. I’m loving it.”

The Symposium included sessions for both adults and children. Moreover, there was a session of lettering that was given by calligrapher and resident carver Janey Westin. Instruction in forming letters and composition of words was given on the first day at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington and then moved to the Symposium site for letter carving in stone during the rest of the week.

In addition to Bybee Stone Co., sponsors of the Symposium included B.G. Hoadley Quarries Inc., Indiana Limestone Co., Bloomingfoods, Cascades Inn, Ivy Tech, Izzy’s Rental, Quarryman Coffee, The Compleat Sculptor and Wonderlab.

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