stone sculpture

See My Indiana Limestone Vessel Carved from Beginning to End by Mike McCarthy

Over the last few weeks, I have taken a little time away from a larger project to carve a smaller piece. I always have several pieces going at the same time, especially when I am working on a larger work. In the video below, I have recorded a time lapse of the carving of this sculpture from its start as a rough block, all the way to the finish process. You will see that the most time spent is the sanding. It is the part that makes this piece of limestone able to hold the gloss sheen that the sealer adds. I also used linseed oil on this piece to give it some color. Watch the video and let me know what you think.

“If The Spirit Is Willing” is Installed at Josephine Sculpture Park by Mike McCarthy

Mark Hendren loading my sculpture. 

Mark Hendren loading my sculpture. 

All things happen for a reason. Last year at the outdoor sculpture show at Hidden Hill Nursery and Sculpture Garden two of my three pieces sold. That is a great show, but I was a little disappointed because I thought the one that did not sell was the strongest piece. “If the Spirit is Willing” was the sculpture that did not sell. 

Fast forward a year. I decided to enter “If the Spirit is Willing” into a juried show at Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort, KY. There were minimum size requirements for this show so that limited the entries. However, of the 20 entries, my sculpture was one of eight selected. That is always a great feeling to get that notice that your work has been accepted.  

So on Thursday I met Karen Terhune over where my sculpture was, picked her up and brought her home  then my next door neighbor, Mark Hendren loaded it on his trailer and I drove it out to the park.

The steel piece sitting behind my sculpture will be moved. 

The steel piece sitting behind my sculpture will be moved. 

I met the owner of the park, Melanie VanHouten at about 8:45. We set a limestone base and then the real fun began. We got to play with a big crane! I think cranes are an amazing engineering feat. The operator was incredible. He boomed over and dropped the hook right where I needed it. He lifter and set the dry fit with the smoothest touch I have seen. Lifted so I could get the safety out and reset in no time. Even though he set it so fast, nothing seemed rushed. It was great. 

So, if you are in Frankfort, KY, come out and see “If the Spirit is Willing” and the rest of the sculpture at Josephine Sculpture Park.

More Progress on the Untitled Indiana Limestone Piece I am Carving by Mike McCarthy


I have made a lot of great progress on the Indiana Limestone piece I am currently working on. It is a pretty complicated piece to carve because of the turns and twists going on throughout the piece. Until it gets narrowed down in some areas, I have to put a lot of pressure on the stone where the gaps are tight. If I try to go too fast in narrowing to lessen the pressure, I can get rid of stone that I might need later on. 

Much of this guess work could be eliminated if I did a moquette first. However, I am not a fan of doing that for these free form pieces. I think the fun in creating this type of sculpture is to just start drilling, carving and grinding until you think you are finished. Now, at times that leads to pieces that get stuck and don't want to cooperate. You get going and realize that area that you just spent a ton of time on looks terrible. I have several pieces that are sitting on the side of the studio that are in that state. I will look at them every once in a while to see if I can figure something out to make them better. Sometimes, you have to get rid of a section before it ever gets where you want it.

With this piece, I thought I might have that problem with the lower section. Fortunately, it is moving in the right direction. I still have a little left to figure out at the bottom of the piece. Specifically, I have to figure out how it will tie into the bottom inch of the piece that I plan to leave a a mounting section. But, it is definitely moving along well and I think I have a pretty good plan. Ultimately, this piece will sit on top of another piece of Limestone that is 18" x 18" x 36". This will give the piece the height I want to get the lower section more viewable.

New Sculpture Completed by Mike McCarthy

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Over the past two months I have been frantically working on getting ideas out of my head and into stone. I have so many ideas that I was not able to get to while working on my Norton Hospital commission. I also had several ideas started before the commission and hadn't been able to get back to them to finish them. So finally, I have completed my first gallery small sculpture in months.

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This piece is untitled as yet, although I have had the suggestion that it looks like a sting ray. That sounds interesting, so that may end up as the title. Even though the title is not complete, the rest of the piece is. This was one of the pieces I started before the Norton commission. It was a very difficult stone to carve. All of the veining created some fragility. I spent a lot of time changing direction and pressure to keep pieces from breaking off. There is also a big difference in the density throughout the stone. I would be carving along on one of the harder areas and all of the sudden the grinder would dig in. It was tough to control the pace of the tools. All that bings said, those difficulties are caused by things that create such a beautiful stone! So, as soon as I finished this piece, I ordered some more pieces!

New Sculpture in the Works by Mike McCarthy


From June of 2017 to April of 2018, I really only worked on my largest commission, “Cor Liberum”, a sculptural experience for Norton Hospital, Audubon campus. While I enjoyed working on that piece, because of the scale and timeframe, I did not work on anything else. I have so many ideas in my head that need to get out. This is the only time I wish I were a painter. They can move a lot faster. 


So, once I finished the Norton piece, I have been scatter brained. I started carving so many pieces I can’t keep them strait. Slowly I am narrowing down the work. I finished two pieces which helped. I have set two others aside. I work on one just on the weekends and the final one, the largest of them, is also closing in on being done. This is good as I have two new commissions to get started on.  

A Change in Direction Continued by Mike McCarthy

in. Recent post, I talked about how sometimes you think you know where you are goi with a piece and then the stone says “nope”. Then there are times when, after you and the stone have agreed on a direction, friends give you ideas to consider for a different direction. On this piece, both occurred. 

This piece started its life as a part of the leg of my Norton commissions large figure. When standing the figure up, it broke off. After I stopped crying and really took a look at this piece, I liked the shap of the piece. With a little refinement, I thought I had something, but the stone disagreed.

In the first photo, you can see the original idea starting to take shape  however, the stone just kept fighting me. As I worked around the stone, certain views worked, then others would work, but the stone wouldn’t cooperate to look right as a whole. So, I finally listened.

the second photo shows where i got to after listening to the stone. By freeing up part of the front, it started to feel right. I moved on and finished carving and sanding. I decided to stain it and was contemplating how to base it.

I posted the third photo on Facebook and got an interesting suggestion. One of my friends suggested hanging the piece rather than basing it. I haven’t totally decided, but am leaning towards that. 

Check back and see how it turns out.  


Using Wood Stain on Indiana Limestone by Mike McCarthy

I have started experimenting with some of my limestone pieces. I have used wood stains to add a different feeling to the work. This is my second attempt. I don’t have a title for this one yet, and it is still in progress. I have to figure out how to base it. I have had many suggestions to hang it. But, that is beside the point. As you can see, this piece is not the standard color of Indiana limestone. I used a blue universal wood dye to add color. I think it is pretty cool. What I don’t know is how it will hold the color if it becomes an outdoor sculpture. That is one of the fun parts of being an artist is that you get to experiment to see what happens. 


Ever Wanted To Learn To Carve Stone? Now's Your Chance! by Mike McCarthy

The Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea shared this post on their facebook page. I will be teaching a beginning carving class at the center this summer. If you ever wanted to learn to carve stone, now's your chance. We will be carving an abstract bird. Does it look a little familiar? it is the model for the birds from "Cor Liberum". Don't wait, sign up!

Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea

April 13 at 10:10am · 

We will be holding Learnshops here at the Kentucky Artisan Center from July 13- 26. Berea Tourism's website for the Festival of Learnshops is now open for registering for an amazing array of creative opportunities. 
Mike McCarthy will be teaching a stone carving workshop - carving a bird from limestone like shown here. His workshop will be held at the Center on July 14. Go to and look for "Festival of Learnshops" - and go to the "wood, metal, stone" section.