I don't know how I came by my first chunk of Mexican Leopardskin Jasper, but I know since I got it I was always impressed with it. It was such a beautiful, striking material, always bringing comment and requiring a second look. Of course, it was the perfect choice for a leopard carving. In fact, I kept telling people, "Someday I'm going to carve a leopard out of it", until I realized if I didn't get on it, I was just lying to people. Maybe it was a carving of a pig out of Leopardskin Jasper I had seen that became the catalyst. I looked on it with such disdain because the material seemed such an inappropriate choice for a pig. It was clear I must carve a leopard...
I looked the piece over. Leopardskin Jasper is entirely loaded with spots, but it also has the odd black and tan sheet going through it which shows on the surface as a stripe. I had to find an area free of that stripe. There seemed to be a pyramid-like shape in the piece that was just spots, so I cut the piece out as near as I could to the stripes, and got a nice chunk that would accommodate a leopard sitting on its haunches, looking back over its left shoulder. The tail could be wrapped around its rump. I started off looking for pictures of leopards in poses close to the position I was after. I found lots of material, but very few choices that would be of any help. It's easier today with the internet, but this was around 1991. The study of the leopard led to other things, like our company logo, jewelry (designed in the leopard motif), and my first silver casting of a leopard profile. Anyway, I managed to find one that was a help.
I drew outlines of the leopard onto the rock with permanent marker from all sides, then I clamped it into my 14" diamond chop saw. I put on a particulate mask and made successive cuts down to that contour, then with a flat screwdriver I broke off the rock still standing. This got rid of a lot of material right away. Then I took the piece to a 100 grit 8" diamond grinding wheel, and continued to grind down the shape. Further removal of the material in this way was done with diamond cutoff wheels and coarse diamond burrs in a clamped # 30 Foredom hand piece under a water drip. Soon, it was to the point where I could begin the smoothing with 220 grit 8"x 3" silicon carbide belt, and small pads made from 220 belts. Then 400 grit. Then 600 grit. Polishing was done with a 1200 mesh diamond compound and beefed up with extra 1200 powder, then 8000 mesh diamond on hard felt wheels, small sticks, and anything else that would hold the grit and get into small details.
The leopard now stood at about 3 ½ inches tall. My plan was to cut the eyes out of chrysoprase, and I was amazed at how small they had to be in order to be in proportion. I remember a carving of a house cat I had seen years before with chrysoprase eyes, and they looked like day-glow jelly beans. Recalling that fright I was determined the eyes should be exactly in proportion and the right shape. Nothing else would do!
I mounted the leopard on a highly polished slab of Mexican Peacock Obsidian, which had a strong green and purple sheen. I enjoyed doing it, and it drew a lot of attention. Years ago, at the show in Medicine Hat, Komarovich Originals Ltd. of Calgary thanked us for the amount of Leopardskin Jasper they had sold after people saw it.