Sculpting an unusual medium

By Nancy Tannler

 When you are driving down lower Stark St., a bold sign bearing the name of Carole Murphy might catch your eye. It is a sign for Murphy’s studio and classroom where she sculpts and teaches using a very unique material and application process in her works of art.

Coming from a family of lawyers who were slightly unenthusiastic about her passion for art, Murphy tried several eclectic paths in both her career and personal life.

The middle child of six and the daughter of the first woman judge in Vermont, Murphy had the natural proclivity to do things differently. She lived in a commune, built her own log cabin, raised three kids on her own, ran several small businesses, returned to school for a philosophy degree and worked with autistic and differently-challenged children.

At the age of forty, she ceded to the calling of her art form, sculpting, and has devoted herself to its muses ever since. The call of the northwest brought Murphy here to Portland eight years ago.

In her process of discovery, the media she uses has changed from bronze to glass and ending up with the aerated cement she predominantly sculpts and teaches with today.

Aerated cement was first discovered in Europe in 1910 and brought to this country fifteen years ago. It is light and durable and can be used both indoors and out.

Murphy demonstrated how the dampened cement block is easily carved into. It is worked layer by layer providing more accuracy and less chipping accidents than occur with other dense surfaces. It is  especially good for novice sculptors as is evidenced by the carvings made by her students.

Using this medium allows Murphy to create very fluid, sensuous works of art that belie the rough surface of the material she uses.

Another process she has incorporated into her sculptures is the use of a metallizing gun that she sprays on the cement to give it a metallic cast. For color on statues, she uses mineral dyes that don’t fade. Murphy also uses a welding torch to incorporate found objects from nature and random pieces of discarded metal into totemic-looking sculptures.

Murphy’s work is displayed in many different galleries throughout the northwest and  is prominently featured at the Portland Airport.

Along with her own sculpting, she is passionate about teaching and has a gift for eliciting the best from a person’s imagination, helping them carve the vision they see. Many of her students have never carved before and the results of the class makes their sculpting look professional. Her students range in age from 13 to 77 years old and her classes are in six week segments.

When Murphy talks about teaching it is obvious this is and a highlight of her life.

From the sound of things, the students are just as excited. Murphy’s enthusiasm and pride in her students work have inspired her to create a book compilation of her student’s work, The Amazing Students of Carole Murphy. It will be published in May and available at Powell’s, the library and at

Carole Murphy has also published a book detailing some of her prolific body of work. It is a good representation of all that she has done. That book can be seen and purchased on her website.

The President of Pacific Northwest Sculptors, she can be found in galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest.

For more information see or call 503.235.7233.

“The Eggs Sisters”, in aerated cement by Carole Murphy

Sculpting an unusual medium

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