Road trip: Sculpture Supply Canada
It was with great anticipation that I visited Sculpture Supply Canada (SSC) in Etobicoke yesterday, along with some carving friends. I hoped to buy some carving stone, and maybe a few tools. The store is about a two hour drive from my studio/home on Lake Erie.
It was a perfect sunny day for a road trip. I car-pooled with a friend of mine in Oakville on the way to SSC. We were to meet up with Haddas GZ, the founder and admin of the Stone Carvers and Sculptors of Ontario Facebook group. If you haven’t checked out that Facebook group, you should. It’s an interesting and encouraging forum for carvers and sculptors. Haddas had posted to the group the day before our trip to say that all she wanted to get was a small piece of white Alabaster. I first met Haddas this past summer at the 2019 Canadian Stone Carving Festival.
I tried to talk sternly to myself before going - budget, current stone inventory, etc. I knew they had various colours of Alabaster, which I was interested in seeing. And tools. I set a shallow wooden box in my trunk, just in case. I had heard about this place for years; a friend who is a bronze sculptor used to talk about it. All the Toronto area carvers talk about it. People talked about it at the Canadian Stone Carving Festival in Ottawa this past summer.
If you visit SSC's website, you’ll see they started out as a bronze foundry (which is a continuing part of the business), but then expanded to carry a wide variety of sculpting supplies, including specialty items used by the film industry (not to mention cosplay!). When you go in, you see display cabinets with samples of masks (very entertaining), carvings, and tools. More tools are displayed along one side of the store.
Over a door on the right hand wall was a magical sign: “Carving Stones”, and on the way to the door, there were a few skids of smaller premium chunks of soapstone. At first when we went in the store, I thought that was all they had. And then staffer Chris, our go-to guy for the morning, opened the door, which led to their yard, and we went out. There were two beaten up shipping containers in the yard, a sight that strikes joy in the hearts of stone carvers. Outside the first shipping container were blocks of soapstone (some quite large), and a beautiful big chunk of orange Alabaster. That container had bins of Alabaster of different colours: whites, off-whites, striped pink and white, dark colours. Each had very specific names which I paid no attention to. It’s my personal opinion that various colours of Alabaster have been named randomly for marketing purposes.
Haddas and her parents arrived shortly after we did. Then we made our way down the narrow space between the shipping containers and the building to the OTHER shipping container, and also various skids of Brazilian soapstone that were outside.
The second shipping container had more chunks of stone. I went in to take a look: Brazilian soapstone. At the back of the yard was a skid with blocks of white Alabaster. Haddas wanted the 32lb blocks that were wedged right in at the front, so Chris fetched a crowbar and removed some strapping at the front so that he could get at the blocks for us. As he lifted blocks up to the top of the skid, I saw that the stone was actually very nice, and wanted a block, too. Fortunately for the sake of our friendship, Haddas and I wanted different blocks! Chris got us a cart and began loading stone. Eventually, the cart was full. In all fairness to Haddas, some of the stone in the cart was her Dad’s. As I went back in the store, I heard one of the staffers remark to the other, in wonderment (about the yard): “It’s a party out there.” They were right - we were having a great time. Next, I looked at the tools. It was nice to see tools in person - I have mostly ordered on-line from various places in the past. I looked at the pitching tools (also called hand sets - like the one I had seen at the Festival in July), but decided instead on a large Italian Riffler Rasp. As I purchased it, Haddas took a good look at it, and bought one too.
We could probably have done that all day, but fortunately for our budgets we both had other commitments. A great day with friends. And stone, and tools. Thanks, Haddas, for suggesting the road trip.
Cindy Presant, November 24, 2019
Cindy’s soapstone carvings are online and can be viewed on her website: www.longpointartstudio.ca. The Long Point Art Studio, located on the Long Point Causeway, Is within the Long Point UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, outside the historic fishing village of Port Rowan in Norfolk County, Ontario. All copyright reserved by Cindy Presant, 2019.