Canyon Carvers Perfect Their Chips

Joe Sovella introduces Barbara Milot and Dan Haspert to sculpting after the two wandered into the work area. “It was so inviting,” said Milot, and art teacher from Framingham University, in Framingham, Mass.

Photos by Ted Reckas

Expert and novice alike take advantage of the long-running stone carving class taught by master stone carvers and longtime college instructors Marvin Johnson and Joseph Sovella.


At the Saturday sessions, held at Laguna College of Art & Design, 2222 Laguna Canyon Rd., students learn techniques using a variety of tools to wrest shapes from blocks of alabaster, soapstone and marble. They work outside amid the shade of sycamore trees and hillsides of Laguna Canyon.


The current course wraps up Nov. 12 while a new one begins Dec. 3. Cost for the three-week workshop is $105 and includes basic tools and a practice stone. Additional resources to purchase specialty stone are available. To register or receive additional information, visit

No prior experience is necessary.

David Leiby of Orange, sculpting for 12 years, works on a depiction of two friends sitting on a bench, in three quarter size. The marble weighs two tons and typically costs $2-3 per pound.


“Laguna is where my artistic energy is constantly stimulated,” says Sovella, whose interest has taken him to the far corners of the world, including Pietra Santa, Italy, where he has worked

Randy Hunt, long time Laguna resident and co-founder of Quiksilver, a marble owl for his daughter, Evelyn. Hunt enrolled six years ago and keeps returning. “I’m here at 7:30 a.m. Class starts at 9,” he said.

with some of the great sculptors of the world.


Johnson’s career job descriptions include pattern maker for Barbie doll parts, sculpting civil war soldiers for a Gettysburg’s diorama, clay modeler for General Motors and a tropical hardwood jewelry line.

Abstract painter Dennis Ekstrom, who died earlier this month, started sculpting earlier this year at the urging of his wife, sculptor Cheryl Ekstrom.


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  1. Thank you for publishing my late husband’s photo. He loved his stone carving class and couldn’t wait to get out the door on Saturday’s at 9:00. He adored the people, loved the class and discovered what I always knew…he was one great sculptor!


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