Blog ▸ Entry


Lift, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

“Lift” is a stone sculpture metaphor expressing my desire to fly away like a bird. Flying birds have always equaled freedom to me. Sometimes the chaos of our culture overwhelms me, and I want to escape to a free place 30 feet up in the air.


I was thinking about the physics equation for Lift, the upward force that defeats gravity and allows something to leave the earth’s surface. This led me to thinking metaphorically about an equation to lift my spirits.

As there are elements and constants in physics that are used to figure out the force called Lift, so are there elements in life that I can use to cope with chaos and maintain a positive frame of mind.

The Equation

Lift for airplanes is figured out using a complicated physics equation:

L = 1/2pVsquared x S x CL

L is lift.   1/2pVsquared is air density times true air speed. S is wing area. CL is the lift coefficient, which is a separate equation based in part on the shape of the wing.

Bird flight has a similar equation for Lift based on the bird’s weight, size and angles of wings, feathers, and tail.

Metaphorically Speaking

An equation by definition is a mathematical sentence that says the two expressions on either side of the equal sign are equal. Let’s say the physical force called Lift metaphorically translates to the emotional state called Joy, or Happiness, or Relief.

Place Joy on one side of the equation. What is Joy equal to? What are the expressions (components) of Joy? How does one create one’s personal Joy/Happiness?

Personal Answers

I wanted to make a sculpture that brings me happiness, so I tried to make a list of all the things that make me happy, that bring me joy:



Baby Animals

All Animals

Plants and Flowers



Fresh Air

Gentle Rain

Warm Sun (not hot)







Stone Sculpture and Stone

I discovered this is a never-ending list. All these expressions and more go on the RHS (right-hand side of the equation) and are equal to Joy on the LHS (left-hand side of the equation).

Some of these joyful ideas can be squared and multiplied by each other to make them even more positive. For example, if I multiply Plants and Flowers times Baby Animals I create extreme bliss!

Lift, back view sculpture by Ellen Woodbury
“Lift” back view. Photo by Mel Schockner.

Norwegian Rose Marble

Norwegian Rose Marble is exotic and rare. There was one quarry in the world, located in Norway 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which closed over 40 years ago. All that remains of this marble are blocks scattered around the world in people’s personal stone stashes. I bought several small blocks from a friend who liquidated his stash.

Norwegian Rose is a decorative marble–usually cut into slabs, polished by machine, and used in architecture. The color is beautiful and instantly recognizable. The degree of difficulty to achieve a successful figurative sculpture in Norwegian Rose Marble is very high. My reward in doing so is Joyful.  

Only Diamonds

The stone is both extremely hard and extremely soft; hardness varies with the color changes. I could use only diamond tools to carve and finish Lift because the stone contains billions of tiny inclusions of something terrifically hard like quartz. The stone also stripped some of the diamonds from my diamond tools.

Steel tools were completely ineffective in every way.  Filing with steel files is a major step in developing the perfection of the finished surface and comes after the brutal rasping process.  I had to improvise by finding combinations of diamond tools to use in place of steel files.  What a blow to be deprived of this tool!

During the finishing process I soaked my hands every evening in Epsom salts to ease the exhaustion in my hands and arms. This was necessary even with the use of tiny diamond jewelers’ files and diamond sanding pads.

Sweeter for the Effort

Success is even sweeter when one encounters difficulty and perseveres. This is a new stone for me, and the cascading solutions to endless challenges somehow led to the success of this sculpture.

Limitations dictate a new approach. Necessity leads to experimentation, which leads to a new technique. Experience hints at a hunch that a different method might work, and it does. Creative problem solving to the rescue!

More Equations

Vision x Passion x Perseverance = Time well spent  

Time = Life

Comment on


No comments yet. Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments/replies will be reviewed and moderated by Ellen. Comments with excessive embedded links to other websites may be flagged as spam. Please allow a couple of days to see comments posted. Thanks.