The Sculpture Process

Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture – the basic sculpture process

The process of creating a sculpture from hard serpentine stone requires not only technical skill but also the artistic talent to create genuine and original art. The sculptors are inspired by the form, colour and texture of the raw stone, and say that they wait patiently for it to speak to them…

sketching with charcoal onto raw stone

When inspiration strikes, the artist will sketch out the rough shape with charcoal


shaping the raw stone with a punch

and then use a punch to strip away the extraneous rock and reveal the sculpture within


smoothing the surface with a chasing hammer

A chasing hammer with a row of little teeth removes more of the rough texture


grinding the surface smooth

Smooth surfaces are created using a grinder (when there’s power)…


grinding the sculpture smooth

…or a file when there isn’t! A chisel is the tool for the job for any bits that the grinder can’t access.


a rasp works into a tight corner

Fine details are worked with smaller files, punch hammers and other specialised tools


washing the sculpture with sandpaper

Once the shaping is complete, the sculpture is washed smooth with wet and dry sandpaper, from coarse grades to very fine


applying wax with a blowtorch

Polishing is the final touch: first the stone is heated using a paraffin blowtorch or an open fire, then layers of clear wax are applied


shining the wax

When the stone has cooled, the artist buffs up the waxed area with a soft cloth to create the shine and give depth of colour


Guruve have worked closely with sculptors in Zimbabwe for well over a decade and we are experts in the techniques and materials used in Shona sculpture.

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Related links:

Shona sculpture movement – Zimbabwe’s art history

Shona spirit beliefs and how they inspire Zimbabwean sculpture

Types of stone commonly used by the best Zimbabwean artists

Common themes in Zimbabwean sculpture

Life as a sculptor – comments and insight from Zimbabwean artists

Young sculptors at an arts centre for aspiring artists in Zimbabwe

Care and repair – helpful guidance on looking after your sculpture