The Indiana Limestone Symposium is “summer camp for
grownups,” says Bloomington resident Bill Holladay. He should know—he’s been
coming every year since he first showed up in 2003.
“I had taken a six-Saturday hand-carving class through the Bloomington Area Arts Council with Amy [Brier] in the 1990s,” Holladay says. “She and Frank Young had started the Symposium and she kept telling me I should come. And once I did, I was hooked.”
Brier and Young started the Indiana Limestone Symposium in 1996. The three-week outdoor event, held each year in June on the grounds of Bybee Stone Company in Ellettsville, has a festival atmosphere and a simple setup—just a few awnings, blocks of limestone, heavy equipment to move things around, and the tools needed for the artists to bring the stone to life. Creature comforts are few. There’s a tent with a refrigerator and other necessities, a covered picnic area, and, of course, port-a-potties.
Master carvers are on hand to help those who want guidance or inspiration, says board member Charlie Savage. “Carvers can come out for a week or a day, they can carve all alone or they can get as much help as they need,” Savage says. He adds that having people like Brier, director and resident master carver Sharon Fullingim, and visiting master carver John Fisher from California on hand adds something extra to the experience.
This year, Holladay is carving a sandhill crane on one side
of a limestone block that is 4 feet tall, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot deep.
Uncarved, Holladay says, the block weighed a little more than 1,200 pounds. “I
may have gotten it down to 800 pounds by now,” he reflects.
This isn’t the first time Holladay has worked on this
particular carving. He carved an identical crane on the other side of the block
at the 2005 and 2006 symposia. Then he took it home. “One of the instructors
took it to my house and set it down beside my garage where I told him to,” he
says. “Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough back them to realize it wasn’t
really in a good spot to continue working on it. So there it sat until last
That’s when he persuaded his friend Steven Tourney, who
operates a forklift for the symposium, and a group of carvers to come to his
house and load the sculpture into his truck and bring it back to the site. There
it sat over the winter. He’s finishing it during the symposium and then, he
says, the only question will be how to situate the (finally) finished piece on
his property when he brings it back home.
“I originally thought I would refine the first side, once
I’m done with Side B, but now I kind of like the idea of having the two sides
as representations of my skill level—then versus now,” Holladay says. “Sort of
a before and after piece.