Pulling the animal from the rock 0
Joanne Paquette spends a lot of time looking at the rough soapstone before she starts to extract the art from within. She lets the rock sit in her workshop, just off to one side, while she works away on another piece.
There's no set time for the process but when the rock is ready, it lets Paquette know what is hiding inside.
Joanne Paquette is a sculptor and she loves working with soapstone.
"My hands make this more than my mind," she explains. "I feel it more than I see it."
Paquette says she always knew she had artistic ability but she never pursued it professionally. She was good at accounting and that paid the bills while she was raising her family.
Then she saw an ad for a sculptor's class and she fell in love with the technique that came so naturally to her.
"It just hit me and I learned the technique and even the instructor was impressed," Paquette remembers. "I had no idea about stone or anything. It was just something indescribable and I loved it."
The love is evident in the pieces that fill Paquette's home. They are light and airy. Mostly animals, and they all seem to be about to take a breath or to take their next step.
The pieces are solid and still but they give the impression of motion.
Paquette helps lift one up. The small bear is smooth and it weighs a ton. It does not look like it would be heavy at all. But it is.
Paquette spends hours at a time working away on the stone.
"I get swallowed up in it and I have to be there for six hours, feeling, not thinking," Paquette explains, smiling. "It's all in the stone and all I do is bring it out."
Paquette enjoys creating bears and other animals. She says when she lived out West she fell in love with bears. She sees them as majestic creatures. She loves watching bears and says they don't scare her at all.
What Paquette does find scary is the notion of marketing, promoting and selling her own art.
"I want to share it with the world," Paquette says. "But I just wish the world would come to me."
Paquette explains how hard it is to pour her heart and soul into a piece and then have to try to sell it.
"It's such a personal, personal thing," she says. "You have to remain neutral and accept what you get and I just really want these pieces to go to a good home."
Paquette laughs and admits that she has given away many pieces over the years. After 20 years of working on this craft, pieces can still take the sculptor up to 40 hours to complete.
Her process is precise.
Once the rock is ready to start communicating with her she tests it for colour by spraying it with some WD-40. Then she begins.
"Working with stone is unforgiving, as any piece that is removed can never be recovered," she explains as she works with a piece that is resting on rubber tubes full of sand.
Her technique involves using special tools, around the same size as a small knife. These are called riflers and they gently scrape away bits of the stone in a powder form. She uses steel wool and she uses sand paper.
Purchasing Brazilian soapstone by the ton, it arrives in a variety of colours that are a greyish white until oil is applied.
When Paquette has a sculpture finished she applies 24 separate coats of oil.
"The stone just stops absorbing the oil by the 24th coat," Paquette says.
Then she coats the whole piece with a hot wax.
Her workshop is tucked away on her property off of Lower Faraday Road. There are acres of woods and there are some of the most beautiful German shepherd dogs running around. Polish chickens and roosters fuss in the dirt and turkeys call out for some attention.
Here, surrounded by nature, Paquette loses herself in her art.
The work takes its toil. Her hands are well worn and workplace ergonomics don't apply to artists.
She does wear a mask to ensure she doesn't breathe in the soft dust that constantly swirls around the shop.
"In the summer months I love working outside," she says.
The animals on the property would distract some but when Paquette starts working, the rest of the world is shut out until she steps away from her creation.
Each of her pieces is unique and Paquette says she's happy to take commissions.
Now that she's established this great workspace outside of Coe Hill she's ready to start teaching others how to pull animals from the stone.
Joanne Paquette can be reached through her website at reachfortherock.ca.