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Materials & Processes

Materials,Processes and Handling

Soapstone

This is a unique stone found only in Takaba-Kisii Western part of Kenya. Soapstone can be found in a variety of natural colours such as White, Off-white, Grey, Black a mixture of grey and black (Malakite) and pink. Other colours can be obtained by dying the stone. The colour of the stone and its texture depends on the location where it is mined.

Mining and Processing

Soapstone is mined using tools such as chisel. The stone is found under a thick layer of soil which has to be moved aside before reaching the stone itself. On mining the stone one can never be sure about the exact size that will come out. The mined stone has to be tied in a piece of rope and pulled up by a group of between 4 – 10 people depending on the size. The stone is then cut into desired sizes using a hacksaw. It is curved into different products by the artisans.

Once carved into the desired product it is washed and sanded to give it a smooth texture. The product is them oiled and polished if natural or dyed into the desired colour, oiled and then polished for coloured products. The stone colour to be dyed should always be white.

Soapstone is a delicate stone and has therefore to be handled with care. The most delicate of the natural soapstone is black as it easily breaks. Apart from carving products soapstone is also ground and used to make ceramic product such as bath tabs, utensils and toilet seats and even chalk.

Wood

The maturity age of wood at which it can be cut down for carving depends on type of wood. Hard takes longer time to mature than the oft woods. Wood is cut down using a hack saw and thereafter is cut down into desired sizes for particular products. Products from wood are carved before the wood is completely dry. The carved product is then placed in a well ventilated room to dry. Direct heat from the sun or any other source is not advisable as this will make the carved item crack. A protometer can be used to measure the dryness of the carved piece after which the piece is sanded through different stages of sanding until it has a smooth texture. At this point it can now be oiled and polished for natural colours or dyed oiled and polished for dyed product to give it a glowing look.