Studio Visit

The Sydney Sculptor Creating Striking Pieces From Centuries-Old Sandstone

When Onestone’s Tom Butterworth saw the inside of a piece of sandstone for the first time, he was instantly captivated by its natural beauty, and the unknown history behind its unique veins – that could be anywhere from centuries to thousands of years old!

It wasn’t long before Tom began playing around with ideas to put salvaged slabs of Australian sandstone to good use. What he landed on was a range of striking sculptures that double as functional furniture and vessels, which he crafts by hand at his outdoor studio in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Christina Karras

Sydney-based sculptor Tom Butterworth of Onestone. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

The emerging creative only started working with sandstone a few years ago, but has already turned his passion into a full-time business! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

Tom works from a cleverly converted shipping container studio on the Northern Beaches. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

Some of his Onestone works in process. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

His technique and designs showcase the rings and layers of sandstone that form over time, which almost look like timber grain! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

‘I fell in love with the idea of bringing functionality into the sculptures with vessels, lamps and tables,’ Tom says of how his practice has evolved. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

He says it takes about eight-day process to create one of his vessels! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

Tom beginning the carving process at his workbench. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

All the vessels are sealed so they can hold water, and have solid brass feet below. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

With nature as his main inspiration, it’s fitting that Tom gets to work outdoors just a few minutes away from the ocean! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

Tom works only with recycled sandstone. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

By using stone that is longer able to be used due to fault, or unwanted pieces that would end up crushed or landfill, he gives the local material a new life. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

‘Each vein of the stone I go through could be anywhere from thousands to millions of years old, and if I go too far through a vein and disrupted the natural flow of it the stone looks tampered with. So each move I make has to be spot [on]’, Tom adds. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

The resulting pieces have a beautiful diversity in texture, tone and colour. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

‘Through my 20s I started moving into ventures in the design world, but never thought that one day I’d be supporting my lifestyle through art,’ Tom says. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files

Christina Karras
6th of February 2023

Sandstone is a staple in some of Australia’s most famous heritage buildings and local architecture. But the commonplace, creamy bricks you might be familiar with don’t hero the material’s striking natural formations and layers quite like Tom Butterworth’s sculptures.

In his one-man business, Onestone, the Sydney maker up-cycles slabs of Australian sandstone into beautiful homewares and pieces of furniture.

Ranging from curvy stools to smooth vessels, Tom’s creations come in varying tones of pink, yellow and orange. They’ve been designed to showcase the ancient material’s magnificent inner details, and rippling textures that resemble famous sandstone landmarks like Uluru or Arizona’s Antelope Canyon!

You wouldn’t know it from looking at his meticulous craftsmanship, but Tom only started working with sandstone in 2020, after seeing a piece break open.

‘The beauty of the stone caught my eye, and the deep unknown history of the rock lit up my imagination,’ Tom says. He started crafting small sculptures every day after he finished work, before evolving to create functional pieces like candlesticks, coffee tables and even unique lamps that double as pieces of art. It was the perfect way to give discarded local sandstone – that would otherwise end up in landfill – a new life.

Unsurprisingly, Tom points to nature as his main source of inspiration. ‘Whether it’s walking through the national parks in the afternoons, or sitting out in the surf looking back towards the sandstone headlands that cove our beaches, the landscape we have here in Australia is something of pure beauty, and being able to create with a material so rich with age is a gift I’m so grateful for,’ he says.

Onestone has been Tom’s full-time job for the last eight months, and he’s been working from his shipping-container-turned-studio for the last year. It’s tucked up in the hills of the Northern Beaches, on a small paddock just minutes from the ocean, with an outdoor bench that backs onto a national park. Talk about serene!

‘Creating the vessels is an eight-day process, from the first initial cuts, to sealing the stone and setting the solid brass feet,’ he says.

‘But the lamps and tables… I couldn’t tell you how many hours have gone into them. It’s dusty, tough and a timely process but the end result makes it all worth it for sure.’

Shop Tom’s work through his website here.

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