stone sculptor

How Mildred Gil Parada chisels a stone’s hidden message

About Mildred, the Stone Sculptor

Mildred smiles in her outdoor studio

chisel tool for rock sculpting

Mildred Gil Parada is a stone sculptor originally from Merida, Venezuela. She makes refined and sophisticated sculptures of marble, granite, and limestone. In Merida, she studied architecture, then later moved to Puerto la Cruz in eastern Venezuela. It is a coastal city facing the Caribbean Sea, and Mildred became interested in the calcareous, limestone rocks she saw in her new surroundings. As a result, she studied sculpting and finally became a sculptor.

Mildred moved to Mesa, Arizona in 2013. I met her in a class for artists, and I was excited when she invited me to watch her sculpt in her outdoor studio space.

pink gloves rock sculptor

Mildred chisels rock

rock sculpting in mesa arizona

How Mildred works

Mildred says stones speak to her and she is a conduit for helping express their message. Every time she touches a stone, she learns more about it. She loves exposing the unique, one-of-a-kind patterns in each stone. As she works, she discovers how to create the end piece.

Besides tapping into the message of the stone, the physical work itself looks so challenging. Mildred uses a hammer and chisel, a saw to chip through the stone, and sandpaper to produce the incredibly soft and supple texture of her finished pieces. She wears heavy gloves, goggles, a mask, and work clothes. In our art class, she often wore feminine, delicate clothing but the day I observed her work process, she wore heavy jean overalls and a T-shirt. As I photographed her, I could see why she wore sensible work clothes, as little chips of stone hit me nonstop and stone dust filled the air.

outdoor studio and rock scraps

Saw time dusty sculpting

The dust was ingrained in her work clothes, gloves and hair and it mixed with the sweat on her face. it reminded me of the volcanic dust I experienced in Yogyakarta, Indonesia after Merapi’s volcanic eruptions. So, needless to say, after my visit to Mildred’s studio, I gave my camera a good dusting off.

Mildred spends 5-6 days a week working outside in her hot, Arizona studio space. Aside from that time, she also visits art shows and festivals to display and sell her stone work.

Sculpting in hot AZ weather

It’s hot and dusty work.

Using water to clean dust from goggles

stone sculptor prepares tools

Mildred works in her studio

Mesa AZ sculptor Mildred Gil Parada

A sculpture in progress

My thoughts after watching Mildred sculpt

It was great to see Mildred working. And, I loved watching her powerful hands. Also, I was impressed by the extreme level of dust that is part of the process. Mildred is inspiring for her willingness to move to a new culture and get to know people in the community, her intense work ethic, and her openness and willingness to explain how she does what she does. I hope you have a chance to visit with her at a show or buy one of her beautiful stone masterpieces.

stone sculptor mesa arizona

Sculpting in progress.

stone sculpture finished piece

One of Mildred’s finished sculptures


handcrafted sculpture by mildred gil parada

Another finished sculpture by Mildred

Interested in booking your own documentary photo session? Contact me for more information.

Other recent articles:

Where Community and Country Coalesce; Social Documentary Storytelling with Matt Eich

‘Criminal’ Illustrator Julienne Alexander on how variety keeps her creative