In Conversation: Carol Crawford

Exquisite is an apt word to describe Carol Crawford’s work. And ever since we came across her practice, we’ve been eager to find out more. Working from her studio in Sydney, Carol creates sculptures in materials such as alabaster, marble, soapstone, bronze and plaster. She works interpretively, and is recognised for her organic interlocking feminine forms.

These meticulously crafted sculptures appear to bulge and curve in unexpected directions and the way the light permeates the surface is magical. Ethereal and complex, there’s something to appreciate from every angle.

Read on to hear more from Carol about her fascinating and deeply personal process.

Working from her light filled studio in Sydney, Carol creates sculptures in materials such as alabaster, marble, soapstone, bronze and plaster.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice?

A common thread in all of my sculptures is the expression of my inner being. They are created as ‘stream of consciousness’ sculptures and are feminine in nature, evoking feelings of nurturing, soothing and love. They have no hard edges and nothing is measured or perfect. There is beauty in their imperfection, and their imperfections speak to what life is all about!

I see the whole process as a conversation between myself and the stone – I listen and react, and then I listen again.”
— Carol Crawford

My sculptures all have female names because they are like extended family to me – some of my sculptures have been created at times of great emotional turmoil, and these are named after close family members. Other than that, I usually come up with a name from one of my distant relatives, or some of our close family friends’ names. I came from a very small family, having grown up without any grandparents or extended family. So my sculptures are my family, and as such, they are very close to me. They are all unique in some way, and I need to feel they will be loved by whomever takes them into their home. They are not commodities – they are individuals.

She works interpretively, and is recognised for her organic interlocking feminine forms.
Carol likes to think of her work as a conversation between herself and the stone; remaining open minded is important to the end result.
Her stone of choice is Italian alabaster, which can be pure and translucent, spotted or veiny – each type has its own beauty.

What are the different types of materials you use?

The stone of choice that I carve is alabaster, which is a calcite or gypsum depending where it comes from. I use alabaster from many sources although most of the stone is sourced from Italy, near the city of Volterra in Tuscany. Italian alabaster can be pure and translucent, spotted or veiny – each type has its own beauty. I have also used orange and raspberry alabasters from the USA, blue mist alabaster, black chlorite, brown calcite from Spain, Carrara marble and onyx (a harder calcite type of alabaster). If the stone’s raw form attracts me, then I can carve it.

Carol works slowly using hand tools. After the initial chipping out, she creates the organic forms using files and rasps, and swaps between the two methods as needed.
Touch and feel are important parts of the process; this is how Carol discovers where refinements need to be made and when a piece is finished.

How do you work the material into such beautiful organic shapes?

I like to work very slowly using hand tools. I find after the initial chipping out with a hand tool, I am able to create the organic forms using files and rasps. I may go back and forth – reverting to the hand tool to remove more material, and then using the files to make sense of the forms. I use the sense of touch, not just sight, to feel where the refinements should occur. I see it as a conversation between myself and the stone – I listen and react, and then I listen again. I do not like imposing my opinion too strongly. Rather, I see it as a two-way conversation; being open minded is of utmost importance.

Pupik I (pictured) is created from the purest Italian scaglione alabaster. "She is a little gem; a woman of many different personalities and each different light of day illuminates these personalities," Carol says.
Carol's pieces are like an extended family. Their names, such as Simcha and Vera, are inspired by their individual personalities and characteristics.

Photography by Flore Vallery-Radot.

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