Stone carving – velvety black soapstone with Paula Haughney

Carving in stone and wood

Ref: S5D11141

Suitable for all

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1 place available

About this course

Make sculptures that are tactile and visual. Black soapstone is soft, dense and its velvety qualities are revealed when polished and oiled. Explore the surface finishes to either absorb light or be shiny and reflective.

Course Description

Focus on creating sculptures to be touched and felt as well as looked at, as you explore black soapstone. It is intriguing, relatively soft, dense in nature and when polished and oiled its velvety blackness is revealed. Discover the challenges and differences of working with a dark material, particularly surface finishes, which can be matt and absorb light or be shiny and reflective.

In this course the material is centre stage. You will be using only one type of stone – black soapstone. It is an intriguing substance, relatively soft, dense in nature and looks green, even the dust is green. Only when polished and oiled is its velvety blackness revealed.

On the first evening you will be introduced to the subject and material and start planning for the following day.

Usually carvings are produced using light coloured stones to emphasise the forms and contours created by shadows. It is a challenge to use a dark material, and the difference will be explored. It can be matt and absorb light or be very shiny and reflective. The feel is very silky, and the first project will focus on a sculpture to be touched and felt rather than looked at.

Then you will, after consultation with your tutor, embark on an individual project based on your own designs that bring the qualities of black soapstone to the fore, using the knowledge and experience gained from carving the first piece and seeing and sharing ideas and outcomes with the other students.

This stone can be carved by beginners and those with previous carving experience. During the course, techniques and demonstrations will be given at each stage in the process from rock to finished sculpture. Subject matter is up to you, but the stones come in boulder or flattish shapes and it's best to come with an open mind and see the rocks available first. You will be using the method of direct carving. Various source materials will be on hand to inspire you, and the College has a very good library. All tools and equipment are provided by the College for use on the course.

At the end of the course, you will have produced a sculpture in black soapstone and be equipped to explore this exciting material further in your own practice.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • Working clothes – as it's a dusty activity. Strong boots or shoes to protect feet. Fitting gloves to protect hands when using files and rasps (gardening, leather, riding gloves).
  • Before you come, think about in general what you might carve in black soapstone but be prepared to adjust your ideas to the available shapes presented by the stone. Also think about touch. Bring some examples of textures with you.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • The stone will be available in the workshop, weighed and paid for in the shop. Approx. £3-£5 per kilo.
  • Sketchbooks
  • Chinagraph pencils
  • Some tools
  • Available from tutor:
  • Some additional stone will be available from the tutor.
Please note: This course takes place in the Sculpture Courtyard which is a short walk away from the main college workshops. It is covered but the building is open on one side.


Paula Haughney

Paula Haughney,sculptor, stone-carver, maker and teacher studied at Portsmouth Polytechnic and Eastern Illinois university obtaining a BA and MA in Fine Art Sculpture. Stone carving came later, once found, she realised this was her chosen medium. Now having over 30 years experience and many monumental sculptures completed she has taught at all levels, exhibits regularly and is included in public collections worldwide.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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