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Working with the Hard Stuff - Hilary

As Radiate Arts Veterans Support Officer, I was fortunate to take part in the Veterans’ Stone carving workshops hosted by Andrew Worthington at the beautiful Mount Pleasant Gardens and Sculpture Trail in April and May 2023.

A novice stone carver, I was apprehensive about attending the workshop, unsure about what to expect and what I would be able to achieve. This was a feeling shared by the other 5 veterans, who joined me in Kelsall.

After discussing sculpting ideas and a demonstration on tools and sculpting techniques, we all started enthusiastically chipping away at our block of Maltese limestone.  Ideas put forward varied from animals to hobbies to commemorative pieces.

My first design was a Tree of Life, but it turned out to look unfortunately more and more like a mushroom as the sessions progressed! Thankfully, I had a chance to redeem myself during the second workshop. With a better understanding of the stone, I chose a more realistic design – a poppy.

Carving the stone was such a mindful and healing task. We all became so absorbed that we didn’t notice the time passing us by. As the stone crumbled, we started to feel comfortable reminiscing about our military experiences, laughing at the hilarious actions to quietly listening to the tragedies and the mental scars left by combat. 

Andrew provided guidance and support throughout the workshops and, with his advice and artistic eye, we were proudly able to take home our limestone masterpieces!

When not chiselling away, we took the time to explore the lavish gardens, taking in the colourful sights, floral scents and natural sounds. Hosting the Stone Carving workshops at the Mount Pleasant Gardens was an overwhelmingly positive sensory experience and we left Kelsall with a huge smile and a sense of achievement.

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