New professor carves out niche in art department

By Katrina Torres


University of the Incarnate Word students taking sculpture this year have been working with “hibble stone,” a type of material used to build fortified homes in New Orleans.

Professor James D. Borders, a native Louisianan wrapping up his first year at UIW, makes trips to his home state periodically to bring back the hibble stone.

Borders has connections with Louisiana contractor Roney Brewer who builds the fortified homes in New Orleans that were previously destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Brewer generously provides large amounts of hibble stone to Borders for his sculpture classes.

James Borders at Sculpture
Art Professor James Borders, center, measures a work in progress being done by student Oscar Saenz outside the Fine Arts Building. (KATRINA TORRES/LOGOS STAFF)

Hibble stone homes are built to be soundproof and able to withstand hurricanes with 120-mph winds, Borders said. Unlike marble or cement, hibble stone can be carved with files instead of chisels or hammers. And though it may look extremely heavy, hibble stone is very light, and is in fact about 90 percent air and can float in water. Made from aluminum powder and different particles, the hibble stone is vacuumed-formed into large blocks.

Through his Sculpture I class and other art courses, Borders said, he is looking forward to building up the art department as well as finding areas for the students to work in. Most of the time, the work goes outside behind Semmes Art Gallery.

“The great thing about this class is that some students have never sculpted before in their entire lives,” Borders said. “Most have joined the class as an elective, but nonetheless, all students are out in the hot sun, sweating together while chiseling their art.”

To start, each student must first draw 10-30 sketches of what their ideas were for their project. An organic form is what the sculptor will base their outline on, biomorphic forms and rounded forms. This type of project is very tedious, taking fine detail work. The sculptor must be very meticulous, carving just a little off at a time. The sculptor knows the material they are working with is very unique, unlike clay or marble. Once the tiniest fragment is off, it’s irreplaceable. The sculptor applies part of his or her focus to not make mistakes, although when a stone does break in an unintentional way, the sculptor will then adapt and change the design.

Borders said he is extremely proud of his students and how the semester has turned out.

“To not be an art major, and you come out here in putting in all this effort, I think we’re setting a standard,” Borders said. “I think they have set a standard for other art students that come by and walk by and see them working. That’s what we’re trying to do in this sculpture department. Its new and we’re trying to build it and we trying to set a standard that we will not lower but will only get better from here on out I hope.”

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