Laura Travis’ love affair with stone reads like a storybook. It began while visiting Ireland in the ‘80s, where she roamed amongst ruined abbeys to discover high crosses and stonework, “the really ancient stuff,” most of which sat in open fields or hillsides. Then came a stone carving class in West Virginia, where she attended a week full of classes in traditional Irish music, dance, and crafts. “I was totally hooked in no time,” Laura remembers.
The ancient art of stone is opposite than that of clay; the process, Laura explains, is reductive rather than additive, and the material is obviously more resistant. “Those puckish little figures, animals, and knotwork I had been inspired by on my travels quickly found their way into my carvings,” she says. After a course at RISD under artist Gail Whitsutt-Lynch, Laura went on to debut her work at an AS220 show in 1998 (where she also had a studio for eight years) and earn an MFA in sculpture/stone carving from Maryland Institute College of Art. Today, Laura continues to carve limestone, soapstone, and slate, exploring the boundaries between “fine” and “folk” art, and hosts classes on stone carving.
A typical relief stone carving class, Laura says, runs for two days – a weekend – where students get to feel what it’s like to hold and use a chisel, create a design suited to the piece of salvaged stone, and try out different carving techniques.
Says Laura, “It’s great to be retired from full-time teaching after 25 years and have this be my ‘job’!”
Find Laura during her annual Holiday Art Sale at 30 Cutler Street, Warren on November 30 and December 1, when you can also get info about upcoming classes at the Jamestown Arts Center, Blackstone River Theatre, RISD, and her studio at nearby Cutler Mills.