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Carving Softness From Stone With Carol Crawford

Creative People

Sculptor Carol Crawford’s practice is a personal and spiritual pursuit more than an artistic one. Her affinity with stone is almost transcendental.

From a light-filled studio in the middle of Surry Hills, she slowly but surely eases unearthly, curvaceous forms from unexpectedly robust materials. Working with hand tools, Carol chips patiently away at slabs of alabaster, marble and stone until her sculptures reveal themselves.

Hers is an artistic lifestyle built on touching and feeling.

17th May, 2021

A prehistoric slab waiting to be coaxed into its innate, refined form by Carol. Photo – Becca Crawford.

Carol works with hand tools to find the final shape of a piece; the first being a pneumatic hammer which she uses in the initial chipping stages. Photo – Becca Crawford.

Each sculpture can take anywhere between two weeks and five months to complete. Photo – Becca Crawford.

Carol works with alabaster, marble, bronze, stone and plaster. Photo – Becca Crawford.

The alabaster takes on a glowing, translucent quality. Photo – Becca Crawford.

‘I always try to preserve the characters of the raw stone as this is its innate personality,’ says Carol. ‘I do not try to inflict my opinion on it – rather, it is a soft and slow conversation, back and forth, until we are both happy with the finished form.’ Photo – Becca Crawford.

One of Carol’s twisted, spherical sculptures impossibly balanced on its tip. Photo – Becca Crawford.

‘I only know a sculpture is complete when my stomach feels settled – it’s quite a visceral feeling,’ says Carol. Photo – Becca Crawford.

Sasha Gattermayr
Monday 17th May 2021

‘Sharp edges and hard lines are abhorrent to me, as is measuring and exactness…. Nothing is geometric about my sculptures. They are flowering and imperfect.’ – Carol Crawford

‘I consider myself a late career artist,’ says Carol Crawford. This mature blooming hasn’t held Carol’s practice back at all. In fact, it’s ensured her style is confident and fluid – the perfect fusion of inspiration and intuition.

‘I always try to preserve the characters of the raw stone, as this is its innate personality,’ says Carol. ‘I do not try to inflict my opinion on it – rather, it is a soft and slow conversation, back and forth, until we are both happy with the finished form.’

Carol came to sculpting in the early 2000s, after she had children and after she had studied art history at university. The moment came to settle on stone sculpture when she enrolled in classes at renowned artist Tom Bass’s Erskenville atelier. More than a decade and a half after those initial lessons, she is the chair of the Tom Bass Sculpture Studio School, which now runs as a not-for-profit.

Working with solid, intractable materials such as alabaster, bronze, soapstone, marble and plaster, Carol creates spherical, feminine bodies. ‘Sharp edges and hard lines are abhorrent to me, as is measuring and exactness,’ she says. ‘Nothing is geometric about my sculptures. They are flowering and imperfect.’

To achieve her organic sculptural forms, Carol works patiently with her hand tools. Firstly, she wields a pneumatic hammer for the primary stages of chipping (which makes up 5% of the overall work), before moving on to hand files and rasps to slowly unearth her curved forms within the stone. That is the magic of her skill, that these opaque, elemental substances seem soft and fleshy by the end.

Working with hand tools and a close ear to the essence of the work, the sculptures can take anywhere between a week and four or five months to finish.

‘I only know a sculpture is complete when my stomach feels settled – it’s quite a visceral feeling,’ she describes. ‘My output is very low, that is why each and every sculpture is very important and personal to me.’

And who better to capture Carol’s pursuits than her daughter, photographer Becca Crawford, who took these incredible images? What a talented family!

See more of Carol’s work here.

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