Sandpudding Studio

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I am now in my early 70's. I have continued doing a few workshops here and there but primarily I am doing garden and yard projects, some of which involve carving outdoor features, here at home in the western North Carolina mountains. The nice thing about large on site work is that you don't have to lift and transport it.
If the opportunity for a commission presented itself it would be given consideration as I do love to make new and challenging work. Recently, 2022, I became associated with a splendid local gallery and since the pandemic flat-lined my workshop activities I now have an impetus to get in the studio. .
Without going into a long discourse about my history, my philosophy, my art and the process that engages me I will just sum it up with “I like to make stuff. It is fun.” If you don't have that in the mix then everything is too serious and perhaps the joy and dance of the creative process is eluding you. “To go with the flow I must flow with the go.“ that makes me a Flower. Trust, release, express, screw up, breath, trust.

In the past few years I feel that I am hovering at the fullness of my capabilities with the technique of wet carved concrete. I have come to understand the limits that an individual, working alone, can accomplish. Weight and size of the work, the setting time of the concrete to the point where it can still be reasonably worked, the degree of detail and complexity, and the physical endurance of the carver are, in combination, the factors that define a carving session. Creatively there is more than enough room to operate within these parameters. Many of the simple pieces are done spontaneously and mostly because I have done this so many times. The majority of other pieces are done from pencil sketches. And the work that is more intricate and detailed is done from small clay models. This is primarily for a clear look at the projected piece in three dimensions so I can know where to make the all important initial major removals. I say projected piece because the clay model is only a general idea of what is being sought. Staying open to intuitive flashes allows the creative choices, details and qualities emerge during the carving process.

This whole process of wet carving is unique because it is chemistry driven. Chemistry doesn't give a hoot about what biology wants. The best I can explain it, in a big picture kind of way, is like this. Creativity stirs in biology (the carver) and the carver commits to express the impulse. The sandstone has been crushed and sifted, the limestone has been cooked to where the water molecules have been driven off. With water these two different types of rock are combined and by chemical reaction will reconstitute into new hybrid rock: concrete. In a few hours when the mixture is at a soft but stiff enough to hold its place the carver pulls off the form and stands before the chosen shape. The window of opportunity to express is open and because chemistry is steadily doing its thing the carver is obligated to submit to the process of chemistry that the carver committed to earlier. The process of wet carving concrete is governed by chemistry, desire and action.

Given the nature of the wet carved concrete process I have found that long and focused sessions are exhausting. I have come to realize that the mental concentration and physical exertion required leaves me spent. Carves of up to 4 or 5 hours approach my threshold of how worn out I can expect to be the next day. Carves over 5 hours and up to 8 hours can leave me totally wiped out for a number of days. I've had times when it has taken 5 days to recuperate. The usual limitation on an extended carve is the concrete having set to a point where you are no longer scraping away the mix but are beginning to scratch the surface and shatter the sand. Another limitation is muscle cramps. Because of this I try to do most of the rough out with my left hand and try to save my right hand for the detailed work. The "Finial" was an 8 hour carve. In the last hour I was so tired, the concrete kept getting harder to work, and my hand was beginning to cramp to the point where I had to pry my fingers apart to release the tool. I was facing a really awesome piece that had emerged from a round chunk of soft mix just hours before. To stop at that point I would have ended up with a “really cool piece with a large unfinished area” but I stretched it off and persisted because I wanted the “really cool finished piece”.

It is that last hour or two of concentration and finesse with the tools that gives that soft, uniform surface quality. I tell you this not to discourage you but to help you understand that there is typically a physical toll required to receive the reward. After a few hours into the carving session a subtle exhilaration builds that enhances my endurance. At the end of the carve I am usually all charged up from the creative activity. Then the crash is felt. Most often on the following day. For me this is what it takes to create an intricate detailed piece. The committed effort required enhances the appreciation and feeling of accomplishment in the much earned final result. So commit to the creative desire, then submit to the process and respect the wear and tear that it takes to express yourself in this fashion.

In the early eighties I was in graduate school and living out in the hills of Tennessee in an old cabin with no electricity or running water. My neighbors Jack B. Hastings and Arlyn Ende, both artists, had found their way to rural Tennessee in the mid-seventies via NYC, Boston, and Tucson. Through the Tennessee Arts Commission Jack had been selected to build a monumental concrete piece for the I-75 Welcome Center southeast of Chattanooga. Jack had been working with concrete for over a decade and was well aware that he would need and apprentice, i.e. laborer, for the mixing and form filling step of the process so he could save his strength for carving. So for $4.00 an hour I would hop in the truck and drive the mile or so and shovel sand into a big mixer, then help shovel the mix into the form. I was not needed for the carving stage. But on one day Jack said, “We have some left over do you want to make something.” The cylinder form was the obvious choice. That afternoon I made a 150lb. chunk of a planter. Another time I made a smaller pot. One day Jack said, “You know with carving concrete the materials are cheap and no one else is doing it. I started out with just a wheel barrow and a hoe.” I thought perfect, “I never have any money and I don't want any competition.” And so it began. Jack died in 2013. I consider him my mentor and I was his only apprentice. Once when we were hanging out I said, “You forgot to mention how hard the work was.” He raised his eyebrows cocked his head slightly to the side and proffered a sly grin. So it is only appropriate to honor the person who enticed me to pursue this creatively uplifting an physically challenging work by including a gallery of some of his works. Visit the Jack Hastings Gallery at this site.

In May 2010 I met Carol Jensen on the day of the first workshop of the season in Highlands, North Carolina. The story to date is that I have moved from my studio of twenty years in Readyville, Tennessee to my new studio in western North Carolina at the foot of Yellow Mountain.

My focus in the past few years has been on the Traveling Concrete Carving Workshops. Finally, an opportunity to camp and see the country while meeting wonderful people. Now in a new location I plan on carving elements around the garden and house. I'm in my early seventies here in 2022. There is only so much I have left for producing significant pieces and there are a few concepts I hope to bring into form. I occasionally produce to sell or accept commissions. Here I am grateful for good water, fresh air and quiet. I enjoy vegetable gardening and exploring nature.

Sculpture | Planters | Large Works | Steps
Artist Statement | Resumé | Wet Carved Concrete | Two Dimensional Gallery
Workshop ScheduleWorkshop ProcedurePast WorkshopsWorkshop Pictures

All images property of Elder G. Jones ©. Any commercial use of images beyond this site is by permission only. Copyright on the design and particular styles of all work herein is established at the stated time of creation. Individuals are free to recreate any of these pieces for personal use.