Workshops are typically for three days. The properties of the medium naturally sets the stages.
- Day 1 - We meet and have introductions. I give a short presentation of the medium and what to expect of the process. I suggest that everyone makes a small vertical planter or sculpture. This will be 12in. to 13in. high by 10in. to 11in. diameter. Vertical pieces work best because the material falls away while carving, as opposed to something flat which is more troublesome. If the sand is wet it needs to be dried. Sand is sifted through window screen. We prep our space with a cylindrical sheet metal form on a turntable. With a hoe and mortar box we dry mix our sand and cement together and set it aside in 5 gal. buckets. A digital image presentation of the work could be shown at this time.
- Day 2 - The very active day. First off we hand mix our sand/cement with water and put it into the form. Setting time is typically 3 to 4 hours depending on temperature. I bring enough tools for everyone to share. I also supply a set of hard to fabricate tools for $25 made from band saw blades. These basic tools are the most functional and would be difficult for someone to source if they wanted to pursue carving after the class is over. If there were no image presentation the day before they are shown at this time and I talk about carving technique. Lunch.
When the concrete has set sufficiently the form is removed and cleaned. Carving begins. For the duration the concrete gradually gets harder presenting progressive stages of workability. Everyone has ample time to complete a piece before it becomes unworkable. Maximum working time is 8 hours depending on temperature and stamina. Usually we carve for 5 or 6 hours. During the session I direct the carvers to complete certain stages before successive steps are undertaken. Near the end I encourage everyone to continue refining the surface and point out areas that could still use work. Most times when people feel that they are done and are physically wiped out they are surprised to find that they still have an hour or so left to obtain the best in the piece. There is no second opportunity when the piece is hard. Done, do not touch, walk away with very little clean up required.
- Day 3 - The casual day. We remove the piece from the workstation, trim the foot and sign the bottom. The piece is then vigorously hosed off to remove loose grains and either submerged in water or periodically hosed off. The piece is finished. We clean our stations and the work room.
For an extended workshop the materials for another piece, possibly a little larger and more ambitious, can be prepared after the work area is cleaned. Sketching a design or making a small model with modeling clay would be suggested. It would be interesting for me to see students make the second piece because numerous times after they have finished their first, they step back and say, “Now I know what I want to make.”
If the initial workshop was full a second workshop could be scheduled to start sometime after the finish on the third day of the first workshop.
- Day 4 - The same as day 2 and depending on the individual’s needs the mixing and carving times can be staggered.
- Day 5 - Final finishing. Clean up and critique. Packing up pieces for transport.
Materials: Portland cement, sand (the type of sand is the most important part of the procedure), plastic mortar boxes, hoes, trowels, hose and nozzle, dust masks, turntables, sheet metal forms, and window screen wire sifter's and carving tools.