paradise stone ocean sunset clouds valerie woods macro photography

No Stone Unturned: The Macro Photography of Valerie Woods

paradise stone ocean sunset clouds valerie woods macro photography

What looks like a scene from a tropical beach is the color and texture of stone, captured in macro photography by Richland artist, Valerie Woods.

“What do you see?”

Depending on which of the four words you emphasize, the meaning of the phrase changes. (Try it; I’ll wait).

For Valerie Woods, it’s a favorite question that she loves to ask, generally with emphasis on the word “you.” A photographer who specializes in images hidden in stone, Woods is fascinated by what individuals see when they take the time to look.

“Underneath the plain veneer of every stone is a hidden beauty carved out by nature and time,” the Richland, WA, artist says.

supernova stone macro photography explosion valerie woods

What looks like an explosion in deep outer space is an image dancing across the surface of stone. Macro photography by Valerie Woods

“In my art, I take a rock that people walk on — no one notices these little river rocks; they won’t delight — but when I look deeper there are entire worlds within them.

“They are full of depth and beauty, and they all have a story to tell.”

Individual and Unique

Just like humans, she adds. We’re all like that, from the homeless person holding the sign in the parking lot to the shopper standing next to us in line, from the neighbor raking leaves in the yard to the angry driver who just flipped us off in traffic.

“We all have depth and beauty and a story to tell. We just have to look under the surface, love each other, and open our eyes.

twlight blue gold sparkle valerie woods macro photography

The illusion of clouds and golden flecks of sunlight dance across the surface of stone in Valerie Woods macro photography image, Twilight.

“I think this is all so relevant in the world we are living in where everyone is so quick to hate anyone who is different. We are different because we are unique, one of a kind. Just like the rocks I photograph.”

Much of Woods’ work is macro photography, which involves taking close up images of tiny things, in this case, a vignette of a small surface area on a rock or stone. She does very little photo editing, so getting the shot right — the angle, the light, the perspective within a limited depth of field — makes or breaks the picture.

“When I first started doing macro photography, I took pictures of every little creature and flower I could find, even a few weeds, and I loved it! I enjoyed capturing the fine details of a dragonfly’s face or a bee’s fuzz.

“Eventually, I turned my lens onto stone when my husband built me a slate fountain. Poor man, he never imagined he would be living with rocks all over the house and yard for the rest of his days.”

Images Hidden in Stone

portrait stone red blue fire shadow valerie woods photography

Fire and shadow, flame and darkness — Valerie Woods’ Portrait in Stone captured the depth of personality.

What caught and grabbed Woods’ attention initially was a shape in one of the slate pieces on the fountain. Intrigued, she took the photo and upon later examination, discerned the image of an elephant.

“That was 12 years ago, and I have been enjoying what I call a ‘treasure hunt with God’ ever since.

“I believe that in His great love for us, he created these images in stone, ready for us to discover.

“Often, I don’t see an image before I start taking pictures. I pick up a rock that looks like it might have something in it, or I like the colors. And I just start looking with my lens and asking Him what is there.

“He shows me people and animals, sea creatures and sunsets, mountain ranges, volcanoes, oceans and forest. I’ve seen angels and celestial images.”

A Face Emerges

One image that struck her most personally she entitled Portrait in Stone. Emerging from the texture of rock is what appears to be a face, one with which Woods closely identifies:

“On one side she’s vibrant, fire and flame, but the other is her silent, deep side. It’s the one people don’t see.

“When I first found this image, I felt as though I was looking at myself. It was as if God created an image of me in stone.”

Woods’ studio is her backyard, kitchen counter, and a desk in her front room. Her subject matter she encounters in walks along the Columbia River, camping, hiking, or even at the grocery store, where she discovers treasures in the rock medians in the parking lot. She ascribes her faith in God as integral to her art, and seeks to impart that sense of love, discovery and acceptance into each of her works.

“I want to share that love,” Woods says, “That love for every single person who takes a breath.

“I want people to see beyond the surface.”

Wenaha GalleryValerie Woods is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from August 2 through August 29, 2022.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at



Rock and Stone — The Sculpture of Sandra Matthews-Sarve

perfect pair birds stone carving sandra sarve

A Perfect Pair, stone carving by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

We see them every day.

Most of the time we walk by them, ignore them, overlook their existence. There are so many of them; they are so common, so ordinary, so completely lacking in what we consider value, that we accord them little attention or respect.

They’re rocks.

carved rock by road mother child sarve carving

Rock by the Road, mother and child, by Sandra Matthews-Sarve.

“We live on a rock. This planet is a rock,” says Sandra Matthews-Sarve, a stone carver from Walla Walla. “But most people take rocks for granted. They ignore rocks.”

Not so Matthews-Sarve. Finding new life for unexpected or undervalued items has always been an interest for the artist, who has made wall decorations out of old frying pans and kitchen decor from discarded blocks of wood.  She turned her attention to rocks four years ago when she became curious about engraved stones. She made a few, found she liked working with stone, and eventually transitioned from engraving to sculpting.

The Value of Rock

“Years ago, part of the reason I gravitated initially toward discarded items was because they were cheap materials,” Matthews-Sarve explains.

“It was a time when I was single and very poor, but loved to make things.

“But I also realized my attraction to discarded items was making something considered useless into something useful — and maybe even beautiful again.

“I enjoyed looking beyond the expected uses of objects and finding their other uses. Rocks are just another item most people consider useless and ignore or toss aside.”

petal soapstone carved rock pot sarve

Petal Soapstone Pot by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

In the world of rocks, there are rocks, and there are rocks. Because humans like to classify, rocks, like other items, find themselves being described as valuable and worthless, essential and unnecessary. Matthews-Sarve sees worth beyond the labels, and works with rocks across the spectrum.

Of course many of us, when we hear of stone carving, immediately think of marble, alabaster, soapstone — the cream of the rock world. They are, indeed, a delight with which to work, Matthews-Sarve affirms. She likes their hidden unpredictability. Cracks and fissures, small pieces of gravel and other material hidden in the stone come into play as she is carving, chiseling or angle grinding.

And while she may enter into a project with a particular result in mind, the stone itself joins in the decision process with its natural shape and buried blemishes.

“One must always be ready to change direction and sculpting plans when working with stone,” Matthews-Sarve says.

She Does Not Limit Herself

Normal carving stones like marble, alabaster, and soapstone, however, can be hard to find, she adds, so as an artist, she does not limit herself.

“It isn’t laying around on the ground. It has to be mined. So it can get expensive to buy it.

“But your average everyday rock is just waiting by the side of the road, or in a river, on a hillside, most anywhere.”

dancer carved stone garden ornament sarve

Dancer, carved stone garden ornament by Sandra Matthews-Sarve

Like its more valuable cousins, ordinary rock also contains hidden unpredictabilities, cracks and fissures, surprises that the sculptor discovers through trial, error, practice, and work. Matthews-Sarve and her husband, Kevin, enjoy exploring the regional roads of the nearby hills, discovering  and picking up rocks along the way. Generally, she creates garden ornaments from these finds.

“Most of the ordinary rocks are basalt — we have a lot of that around here. But some of them seem a little softer and muddier than basalt, and I’m not sure what they are. So I just call them Blue Mountain Roadside Rocks.”

Matthews-Sarve’s studio is outside, alternating between her garage and driveway. Angle grinding, chisel and hammering are driveway projects. Work done with a dremel, file, riffler, and rasp locates itself in the garage or under a canopy. In bad weather, she brings small pieces, like refrigerator magnets, into the kitchen. Projects range from large garden sculptures to tiny little plant pots, and each spends time in her hands and under her eye. The challenge, and reward, lie in finding and shaping beauty, teasing it from the raw, often stubbornly difficult, materials, whether those materials are deemed “valuable” or not.

Intrinsic Value

It’s not a difficult metaphorical jump from rocks to other things, and from other things to people. Matthews-Sarve is especially conscious of this, having worked with and around a disability much of her life. She knows from experience that value judgments are just that, and true understanding takes a willingness to look beyond the surface to the depth beneath. And that’s why she’s willing to look.

“I enjoy making art out of beautiful stone, but I also enjoy making art out of common roadside rocks.

“Most things can be useful or beautiful.

“Sometimes we just need to look beyond the expected uses, and beyond the normal ideas of beauty.”

Wenaha GallerySandra Matthews-Sarve is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 26 through February 22, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at


The Incredibly Hardworking, and Beautiful, Lazy Susan — Granite Art by Terry Hoon

Black flecks and tan lines create a pattern across a white-based, granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon

Black flecks and tan lines create a pattern across a white-based, granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon

This is the story of a man, an aggregation of igneous rock, and a fictitious household servant who would have lived, if she existed, in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

The man’s name is Terry Hoon, a lifetime resident of Dayton who is presently retired from the seed processing department at Seneca. At one time, he wrangled as a steer wrestler for the Walla Walla Community College Rodeo Team.

A background of dark green is enhanced by lighter tones of tan and grey. Granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon.

A background of dark green is enhanced by lighter tones of tan and grey. Granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon.

The aggregation of rock is granite, what is called an “intrusive rock,” meaning that it is crystallized when molten material — magma — flows, cools, and solidifies underground. Many of us associate it with high-end kitchen counter tops, and we are drawn to its myriad colors, which the Minerals Education Coalition describes as pink or red (from feldspar), dark brown or black (from mica), clear pink, white, or black (from quartz).

And the servant? Her name is Susan, and despite being known for her indolence — Lazy Susan — she is surprisingly ubiquitous and useful: she is a revolving stand, made of wood, stone,  or other elements, that we set in the middle of the table (to hold condiments), next to the bathroom sink (to hold personal care items), inside a cupboard, or basically anyplace where we have a number of disparate items that we want to easily reach. Indeed, so serviceable is the Lazy Susan, that it seems unkind to denigrate her so.

And so, in this story, we don’t.

The man, Terry Hoon, was visiting his youngest daughter when he saw a Lazy Susan, crafted from granite, on the table. Inspired by its beauty, he went home and made one, and then, because he had a variety of granite available to him, he made another, and another. As useful as Lazy Susans are, however, one can only use so many of them, so he began to give his shaped, polished, and shining creations to friends and family. Eventually, they convinced him to get serious about selling his rock artwork.

With smooth polished edges, this black granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon is flecked with gold-colored highlights

With smooth polished edges, this black granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon is flecked with gold-colored highlights

“I got started with some rock given to me by a friend, and now I have a distributor that I work with,” Hoon says. “I choose the pieces that interest me and haul them home myself.”

From there, the rock’s final shape is determined by a chisel or a rock saw, depending upon whether Hoon wants a jagged, craggy edge or a smooth, polished one. Many times, the rock makes the final decision, splitting where it splits, and following a natural line that is not evident until pressure is applied. Each piece is as unique and beautiful as the granite itself, which, come to think of it, is a good way to view other human beings — like servants, for example, whether or not they live in the 17th century or today, and regardless of their appellation.

Almost coal black, this granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon is flecked with lighter highlights

Almost coal black, this granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon is flecked with lighter highlights

“It’s a great mystery,” where the name comes from, according to Sarah Coffin, head of product design and decorative arts department at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, in an interview with L.A. Times writer, Bettijane Levine.

Probably created as a replacement for diminishing household help, Lazy Susans may have found their permanent name through a 1917 Vanity Fair advertisement for Ovington’s, a no longer extant New York department store. The 16-inch, mahogany table top tray mounted on ball bearings is described as follows:

“$8.50 forever seems an impossibly low wage for a good servant; and yet here you are; Lazy Susan, the cleverest waitress in the world, at your service!”

And so she continues to be, in an age when familiarity with household servants, for most people, extends to characters in Masterpiece Theater’s Upstairs, Downstairs, or Downton Abbey. But all of us can own a Lazy Susan, and thanks to Hoon, she can be elegant, tough, classy, artistic, unique, serviceable, and extremely hardworking as well.

“I choose the pieces of rock that appeal to me,” Hoon says. “I just pick what I think is pretty.”

Pretty. That’s such a better  description than “lazy.”

Wenaha GalleryTerry Hoon is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, February 22 through Saturday, March 26.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.