I’m back from my very memorable sculpture trip to China. For the first week, I was working with my Vancouver Sculpture Studio partner, Geemon Xin Meng, at a workshop in Quyang, about 200 km south of Beijing in Hebei province. This region is famous for its history of marble sculpture going back millennia, as well as for some of the worst air pollution in all of China.
I spent time prepping my maquettes that I had brought with me for enlargement into marble and I also tried my hand at sculpting directly into stone. Something new for me as up until now I had only sculpted directly in clay.
At work on my sculpture at the studio in Quyang. Lying all around are marble stones waiting to be made into sculptures. We were working in an open yard next to a busy road so I wore head, ear, eye and mouth protection all day! Gloves, too, usually if they didn’t get in the way of working on fine detail. (Quyang, China)
Working on my small, marble sculpture of a bear. It was the first time I’d worked on stone and I was being so careful not to take away too much. Stone is not like clay where you can simply add or remove clay at whim!
Discussing sculpture with Geemon at the Beiyue Temple in Quyang, China. The air quality was so bad we wore our respiratory masks around as a matter of course. These temples have been part of Beiyue culture since the feudal dynasty, Shun Zhi (1660), where they were an important place for the Emperors to make ritual offerings.
Cherry blossoms in full bloom at the Beiyue Temple
This is a nearby sculpture school in Yangping that we visited on the weekend which is why there were no students around. 15-18 year olds are being trained as sculpture assistants to copy traditional Chinese sculpture. There is a huge market within China for these sculptures.
These giant sculptures are made of marble imported from the south of China. The ubiquitous lion has a female and male form: the female has her left paw raised under which is a cub she’s protecting; the male has his right paw on top of a ball, because he’s always playing! As you can see, we did get some blue skies which the locals told us occurred only rarely.
This is how a stainless steel sculpture gets made. Individual sheets of stainless steel are bent by hand and fitted over the fibreglass mold. The pieces are then welded together. Afterwards the welds will be polished out and the whole sculpture will seen as a gleaming piece of steel.
This small temple is made from the local, orange-coloured marble.