New Stone Relief Carving Courses with Simon Burns-Cox


Why don’t you try something new this year and learn an ancient craft ? Simon Burns-Cox is offering new Stone Relief Carving Courses in 2018 at The Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. The first course is on Saturday the 3rd, 10th and 24th February 2018 from 10.00 to 13.00. Course price £100 and stone and tools can be borrowed or purchased. The course is open to all levels with a maximum of five participants.
The course is designed as an Introduction to Stone Relief Carving using Limestone or Portland Stone with the aim of completing a simple project. You will first learn about the stone carving tools e.g the hammer, the claw and the chisel and important techniques such as chopping, chasing and levelling. Design will then be considered and you will learn how to draw and trace the design onto stone. The idea is to create a low to medium cut relief but those with more experience can attempt a more complicated design.
For further information, please contact Simon at or view his website at



So what is Stone Relief Carving? The word ‘relief’ comes from the Italian word ‘relievare’ meaning ‘to raise’. In sculpture, it is called ‘relievo’ where the figures are projected from the background base. Reliefs depend on the height of the figures projection. The low relief or bas relief or the ‘basso-relievo’ is when the design is projected slightly and there is little or no under-cutting of the outline.
The high relief or ‘alto relievo’, is when the sculpture projects at least half or more from its background and sometimes is completely disengaged from its base. The middle relief or ‘mezzo relievo’ falls between the two. There is also the Sunken Relief or Incised Relief which is when the carving is sunk below the level of the surrounding surface and is contained within a sharply incised contour line that frames it. ‘Intaglio’ is a sunken relief but it is carved as a negative image rather like a mold instead of a positive projecting form.
Reliefs were popular in Ancient Egypt and The Middle East and were common on walls of stone buildings while high reliefs were popular in the sculpture of the Ancient Greeks. In Rome, you can find Relief sculptures on the sarcophagi of the second and third century.
In the Italian Renaissance, Lorenzo Ghiberti created the magnificent bronze doors of the baptistry of the Cathedral in Firenze, Italy. There he used both high and low reliefs which illustrated the use of space and created illusion.  From then on, Italian Relief Sculpture began to be either delicate low reliefs in marble or terra-cotta or more robust sculptural reliefs which were later used by Michelangelo.