Sculptors make rock solid start on statue for downtown Baldwin City
When it comes to sawing limestone, Sheila Von Geyso said diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
Von Geyso, of Kansas City, Mo., wasn’t referring to jewels on rings or necklaces, but the gems that give the slicing edge to fellow sculptor Teresa Whelan’s grinder disks and oversized saw blades. Von Geyso and two other members of the Kansas Sculptors Association started work Saturday on a statue for Baldwin City. They happily gave Whelan the job of making the big cuts needed to trim the statue and its base down to size. The work is taking place at the Lumberyard Arts Center.
“I like to saw,” Whelan said. “I like roughing. I just love digging in there at the start, cutting off a lot of big stuff. Then when you get down to the final details, I freeze up.”
There was no detail work Saturday. That work will be done during Saturdays in August and September as KSA members work to complete the statue to be placed in front of City Hall at Eighth and High streets.
The Baldwin City Council approved $10,000 to purchase stones for the project and pay for the travel and meals of KSA carvers working on the statue, which is to be unveiled at this year’s Maple Leaf Festival.
In addition to the big cuts Whelan made Saturday with her large saw, the sculptors traced out on the stone the maple leaf design the city council chose for the statue.
“Laying out takes time,” said Mark Sampsel, a Gladstone, Mo., artist who was leading Saturday’s workday.
Rock was removed from both sides of the 3,800-pound block of limestone so that the maple leaves stand out 4 to 5 inches from a center core, Sampsel explained. Five sections of the leaf on the street-facing side will have scenes depicting events from the community’s history. Those interior elements weren’t sketched in Saturday because the sculptors have not yet seen plans for the historical scenes.
Limestone gets harder after being quarried and isn’t as susceptible to pollution as marble, Baldwin City sculptor Forrest Waltman said. It can also take a heavier hand on the chisel without cracking, the sculptors agreed.
“There’s several kinds of limestone, and they all work differently,” Von Geyso said. “Limestone is one of the state’s greatest treasures.”
Missing parts for the compressor made available Saturday for the sculptors, which was to power their pneumatic tools, prevented the removal of more rock. The sculptors also are requesting the two slabs be moved to the empty lot east of the Lumberyard so that they can work outside.
Standing in the alley behind the Lumberyard as Whelan filled the interior work space with dust with one of her final cuts of the day, Sampsel said he was pleased with the day’s progress.
“The main thing we had to do was get the layout for a monumental-sized piece and solve design problems as a team,” he said. “We did all that.
“Hopefully, it will be flipped over so next week we can rough the other side and start removing more stone.”