Lee’s Stories

Lee’s Stories

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posted on May 11, 2009 | Sculpture and Art
What a waste!

Red travewrtine waste from Red Recursion
paving a trail through the woods.  It
is buried now by several layers
of several kinds of stone.

Waste and photo
by Lee Gass.


I often admit that
carving rocks is a strange way
to make a living,
but I’ve never thought of
it as a waste of time, resources, or anything else.
does produce waste stone, though, and the question
is what to do with it.
A hundred pounds of finished sculpture
generates at least that much dust, mud, chips, and larger pieces.
Tailings piles might work for mines and slag heaps for smelters,
but I prefer more practical, more pleasing, environmentally friend-
lier ways to dispose of waste from the industrial zone of my stone
sculpting studio. 
Mud goes down drains to a settling tank,
where I recover it for the garden.  Outside,
dust layers
nearby surfaces, drifts into trees, and what I
can recover goes in buckets, sorted by type
for the garden.
Inside, I filter it from
the air or it falls on the floor
and I collect it.

Carbonaceous dust
and mud of marble, calcite, travertine,
and limestone are sweetening, alkalinizing soil
amendments for lime-loving plants like lilacs, peas,
and kale. 
Silicaceous dust and mud from granite and
many other stones enriches soil nutrients, if slowly,
and improves drainage. 
Sand and small chips
of both kinds also go to the garden, where
they provide colour accent in beds
while gravel and larger chips
pave paths in the forest.


Sometimes I wish I
made 10 times the sculptures
I do. The forest is large, the paths are
long, and it takes so much sculpting waste to
pave them,
even for a season, until they are
swallowed by the teeming life of the rainforest
and need another layer.
I dream of yellow
paths of calcite and limestone, red paths
of travertine and marble, and paths
of marble and granite as white
as snow.
Black granite paths.

The largest fragments are for walls and other
construction projects.
  Another use for waste from stone cutting
operations is as paving stone. 
Here I used red travertine
Madonna and Child or Reflections in a stone
stairway below our front steps.

And if I decide
not to carve a piece of
carving stone, like this brucite,
I can use it as building stone, here
fitted into the same stairway lower
down. If I change my mind I can take
it back out and carve it.  I made the
valentine in a piece of it.

Failed sculptures are another kind of waste, like this
Quadra Island limestone I tested to see what
abuse it could take,
and found
it couldn’t take it. 

First published in the Vancouver Observer.

Edited January 2019

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