Page 1

J o u r n e y f r o m t h e

D e p t h s

o f

Z i m b a b w e T h e

S to n e

Scu l p tu res



Dudzai Mushawepwere “Widows Lament”

Copyright © 2004 Zimsculpt Photographs Copyright © 2004 Athol Rheeder atholrheeder@ All rights reserved. No por tion of this book may be reproduced – mechanically, electronically, or by any other means – without the written permission of the publisher. Published in South Africa by Handmade Communications, Block A, Hurlingham Office Park, cnr William Nicol and Republic Roads, Sandton, 2146. +27 11 285 0146. Photo reproduction: Silver tone International Print: Multiprint Litho

Luxon Gutsa “Fish”

Journey fro m the Depths of Zimbabwe A Z IM S CU LPT PRODU CTION Photographs by Athol Rheeder Te x t b y C a r o W i l l i a m s


Zimsculpt offers thanks to the sculptors who spoke with us in kindness and candour. Gregor y Mutasa Jonathan Mhondorohuma Letwin Mugavasi Dudzai Mushawepwere Lincon Muteta Godfrey Mtenga A l b e r t Wa c h i Patrick Sephani Jim Sephani

C o n t e n t s

Savi Chirwa “Sisters�

I n trod u cti on


Ex tracti on


I n s p i rati on


Se l e cti on


Tran s p or tati on


Ex h i b i ti on


Ap p re ci ati on



Edward Chiwawa “Ancestor�

This book is not a guide to Zimbabwe, a collection of biographies or an academic review. Those books have already been written. Zimsculpt asks you to look differently at the stone sculpture.

Do not be schooled. Be passionate.


I didn’t set out to become this . . . this exper t . . .  This is not my formal schooling. But I became interested and then passionate about it. I learned ever ything I could because I felt compelled to. Vivienne Prince, Zimsculpt Founder

Sculptor Norbert Shamuyarira and family


Witness Bonjisi “Beauty Queen” 4

I n t r o d u c t i o n S t o n e

s c u l p t u r e

is a relatively new ar t form to Zimbabwe and has challenged common

is disadvantaged and relatively traditional in comparison to Western

perceptions of African Ar t. In the past, there has been a tendency to

continents, hand crafted objects are inevitably utilitarian, animistic or

contrast African Ar t to the ar t of the West, which has come to represent

vehicles for invocation. One might see Western Ar t represented by

innovation and modernity. Alternately, African Ar t has been appreciated

paintings, tapestry and other purely ornamental works, whereas African

not for its aesthetic value but, instead, to form sociological conclusions

Ar t is associated with “applied ar t� and has been represented by cooking

about the continent. There has been an assumption that because Africa

and eating utensils, stools, masks and ceremonial jewellery.

African Art has been considered primitive and the point from which true art -art for the sake of artevolves

I n

t h e

2 0 t h

C e n t u r y,

painting had been a popular ar t form in Zimbabwe but both ar tists and

begun to express their creativity through stone sculpture. Similarly to

consumers were predominantly of European descent. Many aspiring

painting, sculpture had no conceivable purpose except aesthetic. In this

indigenous ar tists felt that they would be unable to compete. By the

way, Zimbabwean ar tists threw into question many of the long-standing

1950s, however, these ar tists had found an alternative medium and had

assumptions about African Ar t.


N e w l y


r e c o g n i s e d as creators of Pure Ar t, African

promising ar tists to be featured overseas, providing for their travel and

Ar t forms began to be seen as inf luences in the work of European

lodging to enable them to attend events in which their sculpture is

painters, who determined what was considered modern and contem-

featured and to meet with admirers of their work. Other sculptors are

porary. Zimbabwean sculpture has since been featured internationally at

featured on the Zimsculpt web site, where viewers can find examples of

such renowned institutions as the Museum of Modern Ar t in New York

their work, as well as their biographies. In fact, the site boasts one of the

and the MusĂŠe Rodin in Paris.

most extensive biography data bases in the industry.

Founded in 2000, Zimsculpt is unique in its respect for both the ar t

Zimsculpt profits are reinvested in new ar t works, used to bring ar tists

it promotes and the people of Zimbabwe. Each piece is selected,

overseas and to market Zimbabwean talent, internationally. In addition,

personally, and each sculptor deals directly with the company. These

five per cent of all internet sales are donated to Inter-Country People’s

relationships are valued and honed. Every year, Zimsculpt selects several

Aid, a commmunity-based charity in Zimbabwe.

Sculptor Learnmore Zhuwakiyi with Vivienne

The Zimsculpt galler y in Zimbabwe

Sculptor Joe Mutasa



E x t r a c t i o n



Jonathan explains that the quarry is about 120 kilometres away and that he must hire a lorry, in order to transpor t it. But annual inflation rates upward of 500 per cent have affected both the cost of the lorry and the cost of the stone, itself. To justify the expense, the lorry must be full . . . but the cost of the raw Sculptor Jonathan Mhondorohuma

stone makes this diff icult. Ar tists have had to become businessmen, negotiating with others and sharing costs.

I t

i s

t h e

j o u r n e y

that matters. It is also the end that matters. But the journey of the stone that may now sit among your personal treasures is more tedious than you probably realised when you said, “I’ll take it.” The route is not direct. A t

t h e

m i n e s,

there is no Caterpillar. There is no dynamite. Young men sit on large masses of rock, pick-pick-picking for hours, slowly breaking off large pieces, which are then ex tracted with nothing but a bit of chain on a pulley and a lot of human initiative. When a lorry comes to collect it, it will be rolled down a hill and raised – manually – onto it. 11

I n

Z i m b a b w e

Opal Stone and Springstone are the colloquial names for the most commonly used variations of Serpentine. There are also many sculptures made of Fruit Serpentine, Black Serpentine, Lapidolite, Leopard Stone, Lemon Opal, Golden Opal and Cobalt Stone.


Ty p e


Opal Stone


Lemon Opal



Guruve & Mvurwi

Golden Opal


Fruit Serpentine




Leopard Stone

Shamva & Nyanga





Cobalt Stone

Guruve & Chiweshe

Black Serpentine


S c u l p t u r e is more than an art form. It is more than a job to these sculptors.

It is their livelihood, feeding their families and also their minds.

The sculptors’ tools are few and simple: H a m m e r, c h i s e l , f i l e , w a t e r a n d s a n d p a p e r. Among other factors, the value of a sculpture is largely determined by the hardness of the stone that is used. Harder stones take more time to sculpt and are more expensive in their raw form. Their durability might be considered in relation to this continuum:

Soft Soapstone



Opal Stone



Hard Leopard Stone

When the sculpture is complete, it is heated in a fire. A clear polish is then applied, melting into the stone and enhancing its natural colour and lustre.



Sculptor Sam Mabeu

I n s p i r a t i o n

Brian Watyoka “Feeding my Baby”


Although they are often concerned with financial burden, they are not

In college, Letwin studied computers and was offered a very respectable

deterred from their calling. Most of these sculptors live simply. Humbly.

job at IBM. She refused it. “I asked myself: Do I want to do this? Ar t

They know that theirs is an existence of passion, courage and faith.

was in me.”

Explains Letwin: Letwin’s parents were separated for much of her childhood. They have “You have faith that somebody, somewhere is coming to buy

since reconciled but, in essence, she was raised by a single – female

your pieces.”

– parent. She is not bitter. Instead, she smiles as she describes “the hard side of being a lady” and the respect she has developed for women as

The challenge is not always economic but is often social. Letwin has

a result.

confronted the perception that sculpting was a masculine profession. Her own family, who are sculptors themselves, had difficulty accepting

She is, quite possibly,

her choice. There is also a perception, she says, that A catalyst for social change. “Artists are dirty. They dress queerly and wear braids and are uneducated.”

I asked myself do I want to do this? Art was in me.


Joe Mutasa “African Queen”


Patrick says, “We must tr y by all means to ref lect what society cannot talk about , to carr y the message of those who are not able to speak.” Patrick ’s brother, Jim, looks into the distance. “Times have changed. People do not try to have many children.” They try to have few and to lessen the burden on those who will care for them, should they die early in their lives. Abor tion is often considered or: “If she gives birth to the baby, some women will just put their babies into the bin. It’s not good . . . what if my mother had done that to me ? ” Patrick and Jim are both adamant when discussing the impor tance of social roles – par ticularly those of women. Their sculptures represent mothers protecting children

Jim Sephani “Grace”

and aunties instructing young brides on their new responsibilities: “You have to make sure about this and that ! Get up early in the morning ! Give your mother-in-law respect ! ” Each ar tist faces his or her own unique challenges. Jonathan is a leading and internationally featured sculptor but asks, “Would you believe that I don’t have a house? ”


Jim and Patrick Sephani’s house and studio

D u d z a i is surrounded by children in his small garden. It is, therefore, surprising when he says of the baby in his wife’s arms, “That is my first born.” The situation explains itself when he refers to his brother, who has died of AIDS and the children that he left behind. Dudzai considers himself a messenger and speaks, at length, of the impor tance of practising safe sex. “I can deliver the message to people through ar t .” His sculptures, he explains, represent “inherited problems and love.” So does his life. Dudzai Mushawepwere “HIV/AIDS Virus”


Jim Sephani and family

I n f l a t i o n also means that the cost of sculptures has risen significantly and


a m

G o d.

buyers are not always sympathetic. Unfamiliar with the country’s economic situation,

In that God creates man, Dudzai asser ts, man, creates ar t. They are the same in that

tourists often underestimate the value of raw materials. To some ar tists, reluctance

each is the creator of a unique being.

to purchase is perceived as a personal insult. To others, it is blatant exploitation: “An ar tist may be offered a price that is ten times lower than what it has cost him. But if

J i m

he is desperate, if he has not eaten, he may be forced to accept it.”

explain the anomaly and he is f lustered. “I don’t know why I did it . . . it is about

has sculpted a piece that is unlike any of his others. He is asked to

generations . . . people coming together . . . the races . . . different stones…” A l b e r t creates his own challenges. He uses mixed media simply because, he

“Are you making this up? ” he is teased.

explains, there are few sculptors who do so. He creates long and lean stone snakes

“Yes,” he admits, smirking and seeming relieved.

that are both seductively eccentric and fragile in appearance. But they are not,

“It looks very good,” a potential customer says.

he winks, because he has thoughtfully drilled a hole through the centre, carefully

“It looks very good? ” he asks, and suddenly displays a childlike joy. “Thank you,” he

avoiding the sides of the sculpture and inser ting a fine metal pipe in order to avoid

says. He is at once as lovely as his creation.

breakage. 20

Albert Wachi “Calling”


“O n e

e v e n i n g ,

David got up from his bed and walked around on

the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful and David sent someone to find out about her.” (2 Samuel 11:2 and 3, New International Version) The Bible is Gregor y’s inspiration for a seductive sculpture he calls The Bathing Sheba. He likes the stor y, he says. But the reason the sculpture has become a trademark is because, quite frankly, people like to look at women. Actually, he admits, he would prefer to sculpt male figures.

Male musculature is more interesting. Women are simple.


Gregor y Mutasa “Seated Bather”

Gregor y Mutasa “Bathing Sheba”


Manuel Mutizwa “Little Girl”


A l m o s t

e v e r y

a r t i s t will describe his mentor

ability. But his former apprentices pass quickly over this fact and are

and speak fondly of the period in which they were an apprentice to

more interested in his character. “He is friendly. He speaks to us of

someone else, obser ving and learning . . . and per forming the more

things in life and counsels us.”

monotonous tasks of sculpting. The hands that sculpt are not sophisticated in the traditional sense. It is a rite of passage, however. They are the same hands that will be used instead of utensils at Some have been apprentices for as many as three years and, in time,

meal time. They will caress the soft skin of a lover. They will work

will become mentor to other aspiring young sculptors.

in agricultural fields. They will bathe children and they will sand the surface of the roughest stones. They are perpetually rough and

In one suburb, ar tists describe their own mentors. Several of them have

calloused and

named the same man, Tapfuma Gutsa. He is revered for his sculpting

t h e y

a r e

b e a u t i f u l l y

h u m a n .


26 Norbert Shamuyarira “One More Step Into the Future”

S e l e c t i o n

George Mubayi “Reaching Out”


V i v i e n n e is the founder of Zimsculpt. She lives in Harare but visits sculptors in

“I know someone who knows where he lives.”

their rural villages, almost daily. They are scattered throughout the country. Some are in ar tisan communities, but many work alone and in

The man jumps into the back seat. They drive for about half an hour, to

remote areas. She often drives for hours to see just one sculptor.

a house, about ten kilometres off the main road. The man goes into the house and comes back minutes later. They drive for another half hour

Off paved roads, to places with no address apar t from “beyond the

through the bush and then through a small river, eventually to arrive at

large rock and after the two entwined trees”. If she cannot find a cer tain

Ephraim’s farm and studio.

ar tist, she will pull over to the side of the road. “Do you know where Ephraim lives? ” she calls to a passer-by.


She is told, “He is not here now, but you can wait until the evening.”

Godfrey Kutuwa’s studio



Sam Mabeu “Family”

Z i m s c u l p t

does not collect any stone sculpture. In fact, the

company collects relatively few. Apar t from strict aesthetic criteria, quality is never compromised. Vivienne selecting pieces

Even the smallest f law could hasten deterioration of the stone. The smallest crack could lead to weakness and eventual breakage. Each piece is, therefore, scrutinised and experienced hands slide over every inch.

Driving, down a dusty road, surrounded by nothing but long golden grass, Vivienne compares her surroundings to London, where she will

Yet, ultimately, the selection of one piece over another is not decidedly

soon be showing the pieces she finds. She pauses, squints, the corner of

objective: Who can explain why the eye may be drawn to one par ticular

her mouth turned up ever so slightly:

figure, one par ticular curve, one par ticular glimmer of colour? “Vastness. I can see the horizon . . . 360 degrees. For Vivienne and her international counterpar ts, the engagement is

There are no buildings, no barriers. And the people have no

neither a bir thright nor necessarily a choice. Perhaps it is an accidental

barriers either. You can just start talking about anything to

love affair.

anybody and they don’t look at you like you’re mad ! ”



T r a n s p o r t a t i o n


T h e

s h e e r

w e i g h t

of a large rock means that lifting and transpor ting is a physical challenge. In spite of the weight, however, the rock is also delicate.

It must not be chipped, broken or cracked or its value will be spoiled.


Garrison Machinjili “Looking On�



M o v i n g the sculptures from the ar tists’ studios to the gallery in

that they do not touch one another. This is probably the simplest par t

Harare is painstaking.

of the journey.

It may take f ive men to lift a large piece into the Zimsculpt pick-up.

The ar tists, themselves, are happy to assist in the packing process as

The truck has little remaining shock absorption and so the sculptures

sculptures are prepared for shipping overseas. They take pride in their

are carefully wrapped in layers of carpeting and strategically placed so

work and also want to be confident that the sculptures will arrive safely.

Once they are packed, the pieces are transported from the Zimsculpt Gallery in Harare to Durban in South Africa, by lorry. In Durban, the pieces are transferred onto ships to Europe, the Middle East, and North and Central America. From the ports of their arrival, they are brought to storage areas, where they may be safely stored and protected from damage, until they are shown in various exhibitions and galleries. When they are purchased, the sculptures are packed, once again, for their final voyage.

Of all mediums, it seems that stone is the most inconvenient. Awkward, heavy, expensive and subject to damage in an instant, one wonders why these artists continue. Almost invariably, they answer quite simply:

“ I was born to do this�



Lincon Muteta “Women in Solidarity”

E x h i b i t i o n

Garrison Machingili “Dancing Torso�


E v e r y

y e a r Vivienne invites different ar tists to England to

This, however, is a perception that Zimsculpt does not wish to per-

attend the exhibitions of their work so that they can demonstrate their

petuate. Instead, our philosophy is that ar t is a means of communica-

talent. “They live with me as guests in my house for six months.”

tion and exchange.

Athol, the photographer, who has followed Vivienne and many of the sculptors featured in this book for several months laughs, “It’s like a circus! ” But this is an impor tant element of the exhibit. Where ar tists are absent, there remains an element of mystique. Their work may be

Artist and viewer transcend the land of their origin to find common ground

perceived as more foreign and more exotic if viewers are told only that he or she is “still in Africa.” As in colonial times, the piece naturally

Because Zimsculpt is committed to this principle, enabling ar tists to

assumes a cer tain status, as though it is a trophy, extracted from the

attend international exhibits of their work is a priority.

darkest Hear t of Africa.


Sculptors (from left) Joe Mutasa, Sylvester Mubayi, Norbert Shamuyarira, Perlagia Mutyavaviri, Sam Mabeu

Dudzai Mushawepwere “Beauty Contest”

Because stone sculpture is naturally clean in appearance, it may be adapted to suit almost any décor. It shares an obvious symbiosis with very modern or minimal design but is also complementary to more eclectic environments, cleansing the visual palate. Beside traditional pieces, sculpture serves as an interesting and sometimes eccentric juxtaposition.

Sculptors (from left) Dudzai Mushawepwere, Godfrey Kennedy, John Type


Joe Mutasa “Brothers”


Lincon Muteta “Plant Formation”



Lincon Muteta “Bird”

A p p r e c i a t i o n

Jonathan Mhondorohuma “Tired Drummer�



Richard Rosani “Lovers”

e-m a i l

s e n t

t o

Z i m s c u l p t

never receives an automatic reply because each letter is read, personally, and receives a personal response. As a result, we have had the pleasure of reading many kind words from customers, wishing to share their appreciation with us.

Cloudius Muhome “Climbing Lizards�



Square Chikwanda “Fashion Show”

The month of December is generally viewed as a month of paradox: blended with the joy, celebration, and hope of the festive season is mixed a generous ser ving of stress. It is the month that propels us into the New Year with best wishes for prosperity; the month whereby dreams, happiness, love and tenderness all seem so close. Each December, Toronto hosts an impor tant exhibition that brings together and promotes Canadian ar tists and ar tisans and their creations. Every year my wife and our two daughters attend this show. In previous years, they would always invite my son and I to join them, but without success. We would always find a pretext – albeit a weak one – such as, “Ar ts and crafts are for ar tists”, to justify our refusal. In response, my wife would retor t, “You don’t know what you are missing! There might even be a piece that you fall in love with.” To which I would respond, “I am already in love, therefore the chance of falling in love a second time is unlikely.” I had a change of hear t last December, when my wife asked if I would like to go with her. Whether it was because this time the children would not be accompanying my wife, I felt a cer tain obligation to keep her company or whether curiosity had finally gotten to me, I cannot say for cer tain. What I can say is that my initiation to this exhibition has born in me a new passion – that of the Shona stone sculptures of Zimbabwe. Not long after our arrival, we came upon a booth that displayed a variety of sculptures by Canadian ar tists. However, it was the centrepiece that immediately captured my attention. It was a sculpture of a young woman, bent over with her long hair cascading forward, forming a sor t of cur tain over her feet. Her body was made of highly polished Springstone, while her hair, left unpolished, created a contrast with it. I was told that the ar tist’s name was Gregory Mutasa and the title of this piece was Bending Bather. She was captivating. Her form was smooth and fluid. It fascinated me that an element as hard and cold as a rock could be transformed into this sublime form that radiated soft warmth. After deliberating only for a moment, I purchased it. To this original piece, I soon added three more Shona stone sculptures. Since then, my knowledge of Shona stone sculpture has grown and with it my appreciation of this ar t form. I am inspired by its beauty and am grateful for the new passion that it has awakened. Belaïd Nabbali, Canada 49

Our first three encounters with Zimbabwean stone sculpture all

“Zimbabwean Sculpture Exhibition”. And there in a barn adjoining the

occurred by accident (or was it fate?). The f irst was in 1990 when we

farmhouse were pieces by Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Bernard Matemera,

were travelling Nor th on the M1 and we saw a sign for The Yorkshire

Jack Jonas, Richard Mteki and many others. This third encounter marked

Sculpture Park near Wakefield. The exhibition on at the time happened

our move from admirers to collectors and we cer tainly star ted in style as

to be Contemporary Stone Carving from Zimbabwe featuring over thir ty

we bought a Nicholas.

sculptors, including Joseph Ndandarika, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Henry Munyaradzi, Bernard Matemera and Sylvester Mubayi to name but five.

Our current total stands at thir ty. To choose a favourite from the ones we own would be as impossible as the old adage of choosing a favourite child.

The exhibition as a whole had a great affect on us, both emotionally

However, there is a group of small Fanizani Akuda’s that smile and whistle

and, for lack of a better word, spiritually. Above all, the pieces looked

at me from my bedside cabinet every morning when I put the light on and

both alien and yet totally at home within the Yorkshire landscape. The

have to get up for work – and I just can’t resist smiling back.

pieces spoke of the human condition and were not intrinsically ‘African’. Our favourite piece at the exhibition and perhaps our favourite piece

Martyn Whitwood, England

ever would have to be Farmer Resting by Joseph Ndandarika. How easy it would be to sit alongside him and wait for him to awake. Another sculptor who had an immediate and profound affect on us was Bernard Matemera, for his ability to merge man, beast and spirit into his wonderful pieces.

We have been to South Africa twice, and Zimbabwe once. We fell in love with African ar t and we brought home a stone sculpture of a stork. We love natural ar ts and materials such as wood and stone, and to know

The second occasion occurred in July 1991 when we went to see the

that most of these have been carved by hand, are unique and have their

swimming at Sheff ield’s Ponds Forge Pool during the World Students

own special features. We have displayed our sculpture in our hall as you

Games. There in the foyer was an exhibition of Zimbabwean sculpture

enter the house and in our sitting room. It is admired by all and each piece

arranged as par t of the associated cultural festival. This exhibition was

has a story to tell.

memorable as it contained a signif icant number of pieces by Joseph Ndandarika. The third was in 1995 when, while out on a bike ride, we saw a makeshift, hand painted sign pointing down to a farmhouse. The sign read


Zina Neagle, England

Sylvester Mubayi “Elder’s Discussion”



I also have an African background. My parents were married

Five years ago, we first met Vivienne Prince. Pieces we bought include

in Mombasa and their f irst home was in Moshi, on the slopes of

work of Vickson Kapambe, Garrison Machinjili and Wenceslous Marufu

Kilimanjaro. Though, unlike Flora, I was born in the UK. My father spent

who tunefully grace our garden. Vivienne injected new dynamism into

most of his life in different par ts of Africa. Sometimes mother was with

the Zimbabwe sculpture scene when she launched Zimsculpt. Vivienne

him. They were both taken by African sculpture and the family home

has been invaluable in bringing us to fascinating exhibitions, of ten

was full of it.

including some of the ar tists at work. From her, we have acquired several more sculptures, notably a nude by Celestino Mukavhi, and

My own first experience of Africa came when I worked briefly in Ghana

through these beautiful works we have introduced many friends to

and Nigeria. I came back with wooden sculptures, which are still par t of


our collection and I am fond of them. Last summer (2003), Zimsculpt displayed on Monkey Island, in the We were re-introduced to Zimbabwe stone sculpture by another

middle of the River Thames. It was a wonder ful place to see all the

Zimbabwean, who was at University of Cape Town with Flora, Inks

works under the trees and along the water’s edge. Sam Mabeu was

Baron. Both now live in the UK.

working steadily under a fine cedar tree. We were delighted to have one of his exciting works, Togetherness, which evoked much enthusiasm as

We had lost touch, but when we met up again ten years ago, the

we watched it being formed.

wonderful sculptures she has in her home enthused us. She had begun by buying them in Zimbabwe and impor ting them herself but, as she told

We are very much looking for ward to seeing Vivienne at Zimsculpt’s

us, she rapidly discovered that there were excellent sculptures available

2004 exhibitions.

in UK and it was no more expensive to buy them that way. Robin Pedler, England

Tafunga Bonjisi “Family Secrets”


I haven’t communicated with you in a while but am wondering whether Colleen’s Mother and Two Girls sculpture is still available. I am still enjoying the Fat Lady, but she was chipped in several places, a week ago, when I fell on some ice in the parking lot at my office. I had tried to protect her from damage, while changing offices, by taking her home with me . . . but I guess that neither she nor I was fully protected. She’s in one piece and perhaps only I would know that she’s changed. People love her and enjoy rubbing the smoothed areas. Thanks for helping me to purchase her! Marie Godfrey, United States


Colleen Madamombe “Welcome”


c o n t a c t E -ma il: i n fo@ z i ms cu l p t. com Websit e: w w w. z i ms cu l p t. com

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Journey from the Depths of Zimbabwe  

Photography by Athol Rheeder. Commissioned by Zimsculpt. Contact Zimsculpt at

Journey from the Depths of Zimbabwe  

Photography by Athol Rheeder. Commissioned by Zimsculpt. Contact Zimsculpt at

Profile for handmade