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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Chiselled features

Virtual sculpture workshop

Streamed live at 2:00pm (AEST), Saturday 1st May 2021
Chiselled Features Virtual Sculpture Workshop
Video: 120 minutes

Join artist Ellis Hutch from wherever you are for a hands-on workshop with a nod to the ancient art of relief carving. Inspired by artworks in the collection, you’ll learn some simple carving techniques and skills to create our own relief portraits in soap. Starting with simple geometric forms to get you confident with tools and creating a 3D illusion, you’ll move on to facial features and create your own delightful miniature sculpture.

Ellis Hutch creates drawings, videos, installations and performances inspired by powerful stories, significant places, and the mechanisms of curiosity and wonder. She loves drawing people's attention to small things that go unnoticed and giving them the opportunity to take time out from their daily lives to be immersed in art that feeds the senses and provokes deep, reflective thought. In 2014 she was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create an ephemeral installation for the exhibition All that fall.

What to have on hand

Soap - unscented is best and any opaque soap from the supermarket works well. Plain white soap is a great beginners option to best see details. Transparent soaps can be sticky and tricky to work, only use if you are feeling up for the challenge! Have a few bars handy so you can practice different carving techniques!

Dust mask - while carving soap is non-toxic, the dust might irritate you if you have any allergies. A mask on standby may be helpful.

Carving tools – many tools you can find around the house! Grab your kitchen skewers, scissors, zesters and paint scrapers. Other useful tools include lino cutting, palette knives and clay working implements.

Some pictures for inspiration - this could be a photograph or drawing of someone's face, or an image of a sculpture you'd like to emulate (make sure this is a profile image for best results!) Don’t have any images handy? No problems! We will be showing some works from our collection as carving inspiration on the day.

Video transcript

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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