Soapstone is a unique and beautiful metamorphic rock found in Kenya. It is mined in the Tabaka Hills, where it is known for being soft and easy to carve. It is sometimes referred to as Kisii stone. The Abagusii people of the Kisii district in Kenya originally used soapstone to carry pots. For many Abagusii families, soapstone carvings are the primary source of income. They sell their handicrafts in malls, galleries, markets, and shops.
How Soapstone Carvings are Created: Carving soapstone is a very time-consuming process with many steps. Often there are several people involved in carving individual pieces of art.
Step 1 - Mining: Kisii miners dig a large pit by hand, about 50-75 feet in diameter. They use picks and shovels to dig.
Step 2 - Selecting the Right Stone:
The miners sort out all the different stones they come across. They
select the highest quality materials for their carvings. Selected stones
are then immersed in water to make it easier for carving.
Step 3 - Carving: Carving is done by hand using a variety of tools like knives, machetes, chisels, and files.
Step 4 - Sanding: After the carving process is complete, the soapstone is washed and smoothed using sandpaper. Many grades of sandpaper are used to get just the right finish.
Step 5 - Decoration or Painting: Some artisans prefer to keep soapstone in its natural state, while others like to paint and embellish their creations.
Step 6 - Polishing: Soapstone artisans polish their pieces using oils which bring out a finish and shine that completes the work.
Where Can I Find Soapstone Artwork? Africa Imports carries a variety of soapstone pieces, including coasters and vases. Check out the entire soapstone collection here.