Katherine McManus doesn’t have a studio. She lives in a lovely King countryside bungalow and makes do with a small, well-used table beside her shed. A garden umbrella stands at the ready for those overly hot days. “That’s my little table. That’s where I carve,” points Katherine.
At every corner of her yard stand handcrafted birdhouses, perched on fence posts or dedicated poles.
Katherine started carving soapstone animals ten years ago when her friend Patrick Tucker handed her a little chunk of it and said: “Here. You’re artistic. Do something with it.” So she took it home and carved a little polar bear, “and I was just enthralled with this stone. When I started sanding it, and the beauty of this stone started showing up, I just thought: ‘I love this!’ So then I went out and got 100 pounds of soapstone, and I started carving.” Katherine learned everything she knows about carving on the internet, and “mostly just learned by trial and error, just by doing things.”
Soapstone is a very dense stone, really hard on the hands. A few years ago she had surgery on her right hand to fix the damage and still hasn’t recovered full use of it but, that did little to slow her down. She simply adjusted and kept going.
“I love carving bears. Their shape lends itself well to stone carving but, I do lots of other shapes. I started out doing Inuit figures but, it evolved into more of what interests me, which is wildlife animals: bears.” She doesn’t know why bears. “They’re not necessarily my favourite animal. I just like carving bears.”
Before retiring, Katherine was a teacher and her love of sharing has never gone away. Occasionally, people approach her for carving lessons. She doesn’t accept payment, just tells them to come learn for the afternoon. She does sell her sculptures but, prefers to go through social media rather than her website. “I have a website that I don’t use because you don’t get the feedback that you do with Facebook. That’s how people find me.”
“I keep a journal of all of the pieces that I’ve sold. The other day I counted them all. I’ve sold about 200 pieces all over the world. I recently sold a sleeping arctic fox to Germany. I carve these little reading bears. I recently sent one to Austria, and I sell an awful lot to the United States. I keep a list of all the different states that I’ve sold to.”
Typically, pieces take Katherine 12 hours to complete. She sells them for $200 to $400. It has never been about the money. Katherine genuinely enjoys knowing that somebody appreciates her sculptures. “Selling them is a big bonus and mainly because I can’t keep all these pieces. I post because I love to share my work. Not because I want compliments.”