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Quiet, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

“Quiet” is an avian stone sculpture tribute to finding the quiet place within yourself.  This has been a busy year for me, and I am glad I found a mental place to relax and refresh.


My good friend Helen gave me a book for my birthday titled Humankind, by Rutger Bregman, a contemporary Dutch sociologist.  Bregman proposes that people are fundamentally kind and want to help each other.  He presents documented evidence that refutes social philosophers who convinced us in the past that humans are inherently selfish and cruel.  He gives detailed accounts of people being helpful and kind in desperate situations.  Bregman’s arguments are much more complicated than I have described here and include people’s motivations for tribalism and cruelty as well as kindness. Bregman explains his ideas in Humankind far better than I can.

The book is enlightening and gave me much to think about.  I was able to climb out of my own trench of confining negative philosophies and see hope in other people, and hope in our future.  We are innovative problem-solvers.  Positive thoughts quiet the inner noise and lead to positive actions. 

The Irony of Quiet

I find curving forms soothing and thought-provoking.  This bird’s gesture curves inward and takes me to a quiet place where I can ponder and reflect.  It is ironic that the process of creating this calm gesture was a wall of noise. 

Stone sculpting with power tools is the quintessential noisy creative process.  I work in a sound-proofed studio, and I wear noise-reducing earmuffs to protect my hearing.  My compressor runs all day long if I am grinding with die-grinder and burrs.  The air filtration system runs all day long at a constant muffled roar.  The angle-grinder and diamond saw blade are the most powerful tools and also the noisiest.  How odd to make a quiet sculpture from all that noise.

Quiet view 2, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury
“Quiet” back view.

Thinking in All Directions

Sculpting stone is an inward adventure that requires thinking and reflecting in all directions, the process is completely subtractive so one must be planning for the future while one is cutting and grinding in the present.  In my experience, the actual noise of the tools recedes, and thinking is the loudest activity in the studio.  Sometimes there are so many thoughts whirling around that I must stop and make notes so I don’t overlook something. 

Inner Quiet

There is a point in carving stone where feeling replaces thinking, like throwing a magical switch.  Forms come into focus, and I find myself in a very quiet place midst the roar of tools where there are no more thoughts–just going to the next form and the next.

I have answered all the questions and the sculpture shows me what needs to be done in order to call it finished.  The inner roar is over, and the sculpture comes calmly and quietly into existence.


The process of finishing (filing and sanding) a stone sculpture is comparatively quiet in the real sense of the word, and a time when I reflect on the thing I just created.  If I am lucky, I learn more about what I am expressing through the animal and the forms.  Sometimes I discover more meanings in a particular sculpture long after it is made than I had in mind when I first started planning the idea. 


There are as many interpretations of a work of art as there are people interested to look and reflect on it.  Often I discover more about my creations from showing and sharing my work and hearing the thoughts and interpretations of other people. 

I think it is this personal growth that inspires me to create stone sculpture.  The journey spirals both inward and outward, it is solitary in the making but communal in sharing and learning what it’s all about.

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