Pebble Zoo

Some of Karen Sharp’s friends claim she has rocks in her head. After all, a look into her room reveals rocks everywhere. Boxes filled with sorted stones are neatly laid across the floor. More rocks are sitting on a paint-splattered table. Some of these are glued together, and close observation reveals distinct shapes beginning to form. Some resemble bears, lions, and hippopotamuses. Others take a shape almost human in nature—bishops, missionaries, skiers, doctors, golfers.

A 19-year-old member of the Bountiful [Utah] 21st Ward, Karen first began painting rocks a little over three years ago. She experimented gluing together different shapes and sizes of rocks and came up with some unique ducks and fish, which won her a Best of Show award in Bountiful’s Handcart Days craft contest. People came next, so for Christmas Karen put together a “portrait in stone” of her family, including the dog. A pebble zoo and a small village full of shops followed next. Karen’s stony craft is now selling in stores and shops throughout her home region and as far away as North Dakota and Seattle.

She has also taught art to children in her home. Taking over a bedroom as a studio and classroom, Karen organized her course into eight lessons on different artistic skills. Her miniature artists liked the lesson on rocks best of all. Rock art has proven so popular, in fact, that Karen is writing a book she hopes will be published.

To make her rock figures, Karen selects stones of just the right sizes and shapes. These are sorted into “heads,” “trunks,” “shoes,” whatever she happens to need. From there she glues them together and adds ski poles, golf clubs, or whatever, with a fast-drying epoxy. When the glue is dry, she paints the solid colors, then adds eyes, mouth, and perhaps a tuft of hair out of colored yarn.

Rock art is fun, imaginative, and not too complicated for you to try. With if you can capture your dad’s big feet, brother’s big grin, and sister’s freckles—and they’ll love it too.

[photos] Photos by Bill Hess