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  • Steve Hubbard

New sculpture ‘Carapace’

So, finally, ‘Carapace’ is finished. Most of the work was done on this in May 2015. While I was very pleased with the way it was coming together - I was uncertain of how to finish it, so took a hiatus from it for a couple of months. This then ended up dragging out to seven months before I clicked with it again, and came to a conclusion that I was pleased with.

This is the first time that I worked with Alabaster, which is a very soft stone. I found that it really didn’t hold hard edges very well (compared to Soapstone or Wonderstone). If I created a hard edge it would tend to crumble, even with comparatively gentle handling with diamond files or fine grit abrasive paper, so I tended to soften the edges. The Alabaster also tends to ‘stun’ really easily - that is, if you hit it at the wrong angle with a chisel, a bloom of tiny fractures will appear around the impact point, penetrating into the deeper layers of the stone. The problem is, these don’t tend to be apparent until the later stages of working, and are very difficult to remove. I was arguably overworking the piece in an attempt to erase these small imperfections, however I had a revelation looking at the Alabaster work of Jacob Epstein.

Epstein did a couple of monumental figurative sculptures in Alabaster (though a much darker variety than I was using), ‘Jacob and the Angel’ and ‘Adam’. Being so large, roughly two metres, they’re freestanding and you can get really close to study them. While they appear to be well finished, when you look closely there’s a myriad of tool marks left on the surface, but these don’t detract from the sculpture, they are simply part of what it is. Likewise the smaller works in Alabaster by George Kennethson, have clear texture from the making, and are not overly finished. So I decided that I wasn’t going to fuss too much, trying to achieve a ‘machine finish’ on something that’s explicitly handmade.

One of the specific reasons for choosing to work in Alabaster is that it’s translucent, and responds very well to backlighting. Just as I was finishing polishing it, the low winter sun burst through and I managed to get some good shots of it glowing in the sunlight.

I called it ‘Carapace’ because of the echoes of sea creatures such as Nautilus and Crustaceans in its form.

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