Arts & Culture

Soapstone carvings celebrate human existence

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:31 PST, Tue February 4, 2020

Last Updated: 10:30 PDT, Tue March 17, 2020

Soapstone carving is an ancient art form, relatively accessible because of the stone’s softness and the lack of necessary tools. However, soapstone can also be a challenging medium to work with because of its unpredictability.

Artist Chrystal Johnson will display a collection of her soapstone carvings at the Richmond Cultural Centre as part of its 2020 Black History Month exhibition.

“The Richmond community has great spaces to showcase,” she says. “It is important to show a variety of art that is created to represent the human condition, far past the boundaries of ethnicity or culture.”

Johnson has been carving soapstone for more than 20 years. She currently lives in South Surrey, but has lived all over the Lower Mainland since 1988.

“I draw inspiration from everyday experiences, from the silence of the forest to the colours of crowded streets,” she says.

Johnson’s collection is titled ARE WE. She explains that her pieces depict vulnerable moments.

“Whether we thrive within community, family, or alone, ARE WE is the never-ending question to existence,” says Johnson, adding that soapstone is both strong and fragile—an ideal representation of the human condition.

Johnson works with several mediums, including acrylic paint, oil paint, clay and soapstone. 

“The most appealing aspect of stone is the fact that every piece is one of a kind,” she says.

Why does Johnson create art? 

“There are fleeting moments that fill my mind,” she says. “I can release the hauntings by taking on the challenge to express the moment and create some permanence outside of myself.” 

View Johnson’s carvings on the Richmond Cultural Centre’s upper rotunda during regular hours between Feb. 1 and Feb. 15.

For more information, visit their website at

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