||This closeup of the eel's left side shows the lovely veining pattern in the stone. There is also a long streak (that helped me design the sculpture) that runs the length of the body on the top, starting at the nose and travelling along the edge of the dorsal fin.
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Let the Carving Begin:
by Kelly Borsheim © 1999
The following are photos of a 200-pound piece of Colorado white alabaster that I bought in May 1998. The following April I started to carve on this rock--just after returning from Hawaii with my husband John (our 10th anniversary vacation). When we weren't hiking up the mountains, we were in the water snorkeling (or boogie boarding) or on the water doing some whale and dolphin watching. Again, just as in the sailboat sculpture, I had had a vague idea of a sculpture for this stone before my trip. I saw lovely curves in the rock and saw a sweeping shape with an undercut. After snorkeling in Hawaii, though, the rock looked more like a moray eel jutting out of some coral. I like to leave some of the natural stone in my works and I could see that this new vision of the sculpture would allow me to indulge that tendency. This piece was completed in late May 1999, but I thought you might be interested to watch it develop.
Alabaster Stone As It Came From The Colorado Quarry:
Beginning the Stone Sculpture:
This screech owl's presence is what caused me to move my stone sculpting stand from my deck out to my backyard in the dirt. My studio was built in 1995 and that's when we first noticed the owls. Screech owls have nested in this hole in our oak tree every year (at least) since that year. Each year's pair resides in the tree January through June; squirrels occupy the space the remainder of the time. (Before 1999, I was not working in stone during the time of the owls' occupation.) My adopted stone carving area works better than the deck, plus it allows me to keep my photo area cleaner--I use every inch of my studio!
||I continued by sketching on the rock and chiseling and grinding. Since I tend to sketch or darken the parts of the stone that need to be taken off, every time I made the changes based on my notes, my notes disappeared. Time to brush off the dust, resketch, and recut. (I apologize for the horrible shadows. I should have used a flash.)
||I was thrilled to see the natural brown spot right where I had planned the eye of the moray eel to be! I could not believe my luck. Unfortunately in this case, "if it's too good to be true, . . . " The brown area was not very deep and, as I shaped the eye (cutting deeper into the rock), it disappeared altogether. Here you can also see it was time to commit and carve out a jawline for the beast.
|Kelly plays dentist (right). My husband John took this photo. In order to reach the deep recessed areas, I used a Dremel tool with the extension arm attachment so that the body of the tool would not be in the way or mark the stone. I left the teeth large until the very end since I was concerned that they might break off while I was shaping the inside of the mouth. Morays have more (and smaller) teeth than I portrayed in my sculpture. However, I was not as interested in portraying reality as much as I was in giving the impression of what it is like to see one of these animals while underwater. Note the use of eye and lung protectors.
Sculpture is all about light, shadows, shape, and texture. I chose to cut into the mouth a little deeper than necessary because I needed a darker shadow than a shallow cut would've created. The same is true about the opening of the eel's "cave". The top of the cave, especially, needed to be dark enough to contrast with the beautiful translucency of the dorsal fin (see below). (This translucency is one of the main reasons I like to carve alabaster.) The shadow also helped to separate the eel from his hiding place.
Once the basic shaping is completed, the stone must be finished, including polishing the stone in the desired areas. It took me a good, solid week just to do the teeth (I filed each one) and the finish--hand sanding starting with coarse sandpaper and working my way up to 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper, sanding wet. I am pleased with this work and with the stone. I hope you enjoy it, too.
One final observation: While researching moray eels, I kept reading these strange stories about how frightening moray eels are. Morays inhabit the waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. All eels belong to the order Anguilliformes, which contains 20 families. Morays are members of the family Muraenidae. Moray eels are night predators, who eat fish, shellfish, and sometimes octopus and even other eels. The moray eel can reach 10 feet in length and weigh up to 75 pounds.
Many eels have beautiful patterns which help them camouflage themselves among the reefs. The inside of the mouth of the moray eel is also camouflaged, since its mouth is often open. Moray eels have small gills, which means they have to take in more water than other underwater creatures in order to get enough oxygen to breathe. They open and close their mouths constantly to pump water to the gills. This behavior is part of what gives them their frightful reputation.
Some people have reported getting bitten by morays; however, it appears their stories also include how they were sticking a hand into a hole in the reef, looking for lobsters or such. I like to think that I am a kind person, but if someone came uninvited into my home--while I was resting I might add--and either got in my face or expected me to perform or something, that person would be taking his chances on whether or not I will be charming! We need to show respect for other creatures and ourselves and be considerate enough to think about situations outside of our own. Isn't that the responsibility of a species with the gift of reason?
Thanks for reading!
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Copyright © 1999-2003: Kelly Borsheim
Most recent revision: 23 December 2005