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Guest Post: Stone Sculptor John Ploch

This is a guest blog post by sculptor John Ploch, whose sculpture Khaivani won Best in Show in the juried exhibit, “Gatherings.” We asked him why he is a sculptor.

Khaivani by John Ploch
Khaivani by John Ploch

Over 40 years ago I was watching the Winter Olympics and they showed a profile of a female American speed skater. She carved alabaster in her free time as an artistic outlet. I remember thinking at the time how interesting that was, but although I never pursued it at the time, the memory stayed with me.

Fast forward to the fall of 2002. My wife and I were walking through the Torpedo Factory and I got to talking to an artist who at that time had a studio there selling her stone sculptures. I relayed my speed skater story and said that it was something that I had thought would be interesting to do but I didn’t know how to go about it. I think her exact words were, “Why don’t you take the class through The Art League, that’s what I did!”

So I started taking the Wood & Stone Sculpture class in the Winter of 2003 and have taken it every term since then. I’ve been lucky enough to have three very good teachers, especially Nick Xhiku and currently George Tkabladze. The are both world-class artists in their own right, superb at teaching, and I feel blessed to call them my friends.

Khaivani in Studio
Khaivani in progress in The Art League’s sculpture studio. The carving was done at this point, but not the wet sanding and polishing. I was working on finding the right placement for the three pieces.

I really enjoy the process of finding the perfect line or curve in the finished sculpture. Working in three dimensions, you always need to be aware of how the piece looks and is progressing from all points of view. I constantly look at the piece to make sure that the surface or line on which I’m working speaks well and compliments adjacent lines and surfaces. It’s hard to define, but when it’s right, it’s right and is clearly seen. I don’t always get there, but it’s the journey that is so enjoyable.

I also love the class experience. There are others in my class, some who have been there almost as long as I and some who I’ve known for five or ten years and we’ve become a family. We know and care about each other and our wives, husbands, and children. I miss them as much as the creative process in the class during the between-term breaks.

I usually work in alabaster or else a Virginia soapstone called steatite. Alabaster comes in a variety of colors and the steatite finishes to a lustrous black color, so when I saw the green in the soapstone I thought of doing some trees.

Khaivani (detail) by John Ploch
Khaivani (detail) by John Ploch

My teacher, George is originally from the country of Georgia and “Khaivani” is the English phonetic spelling of the Georgian word for forest. The stone from which the three pieces came was originally twice as large. I first cut it in half and used the remaining half for a piece that I have submitted for annual the August “Taking Shape” sculpture show. The class that I take is called “Wood & Stone Sculpture” and this is first sculpture that I’ve done that incorporates both stone and wood, so I entitled it “Saturday Morning” in honor of the class.

The right way to go about creating a sculpture is to draw the sculpture on paper first, and/or to make a clay model from which to work. I don’t do things the right way. I can’t draw to save my life and never had much luck with clay. I am able to see what I want the finished piece to look like in my mind though. I only do abstracts which helps, since I can change my mind as I go along. That’s not something you can do if you’re going for a representational sculpture. If you start out to sculpt a dog, for instance, you’re pretty much committed to completing a dog. With abstracts, the mind can flow as the work flows.

— John Ploch

The Stones, alabaster, by John Ploch
The Stones, alabaster, by John Ploch

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