Mid-Western Sculptors' Guild members relish 'great big room with no beams'


Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

Mary Weisert chips away at a stone sculpture at Jay and Ingrid Alexander's studio north of Lawrence. Members of the Mid-Western Sculptors' Guild meet at the studio several times a week to create art. The studio is part of this year's Lawrence ArtWalk.

The views from this hill helped Jay and Ingrid Alexander decide where to build their studio. Those same views continue to inspire the couple and the half a dozen other members of the Mid-Western Sculptors' Guild who work here regularly.

"It's not the inside of the studio; it's the outside," Jay Alexander says, gesturing toward the east-facing windows in the 34-by-50 foot studio perched on an incline behind his home. "You can look out the window and see those shadows going across. We've seen some coyotes."

"The stars at night are incredible," Ingrid adds.

Otherwise, this large warehouse-style building with concrete floors on the northern edge of Douglas County is all about utility.

"We wanted a great big room with no beams in it," Jay says.

It's no wonder. These artists work with stones that can weight upwards of 2,000 pounds. A 10,000-pound capacity gantry near the studio's garage door helps the artists maneuver the heaviest pieces.

Smaller hunks of alabaster, limestone and marble line metal shelves, and a large tool box contains points, chisels, tooth chisels and pneumatic tools that help the artists mold the blocks into the shapes they envision.

"For the ArtWalk, we're not going to be packed," Jay says, "but we're going to have a lot of artwork here."

Sculptors' Guild members also will give demonstrations of their slow-going art. Jay says people might be surprised at the cost of some of the work, like the $2,200 goddess figure he's trying to finish.

But "I've spent five days a week for two months working on it," he says.

Jay keeps photos nearby to remind him what he's chipping out of the stone. He and Ingrid have a whole library of books in their house, but they keep a few in the studio for inspiration. Through a window at the south end of the stone studio, the sculptors can watch Ingrid in a smaller painting studio. She's working on a series of flower details on wood panels and slowly chipping away at two paintings inspired by her background in engineering.

Back in the sculpture studio, Jay talks about listening to music while he works.

"I used to listen to classical music, especially organ music. But she started this rap thing," he says, pointing toward guild member Mary Weisert, "and it's really conducive to sculpting."

Then, the artists stop chatting and concentrate on their work. The only sounds are the scratch of sandpaper, the ping of hammer against marble and the whir of an electric grinder against soft stone.


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