La Center artist Richard Britschgi brings stone to life with animal artworks


Lapidary artist Richard Brtischgi can see life within stone, and gives the creatures he creates physical form through sculpture.

Following retirement, Britschgi opened his lapidary workshop in La Center in 2017. Self-taught, he started his venture into lapidary, which refers to a cutter, polisher or engraver of stones, by tumbling and polishing rocks.

He began cutting rock and found faces, eyes, wings and animal shapes he envisioned within, Britschg said. He gave the creatures he saw inside shape by cutting them from stone and creating sculptures.

Britschgi’s artwork has been around the world since beginning his work as a lapidary. His pieces have reached as far as Germany and France, Britschgi said. He has won multiple awards, including first place at the Mosaic Arts Alliance show at the Cave Art Gallery in Vancouver with his mosquito sculpture.

Brtischgi’s creative process begins with rock. His creations rely on the natural shape and patterning within the material.

“The rocks dictate what I can and cannot do,” Britschgi said.

Local rocks, like fiery-colored carnelian agate and petrified wood, are featured often in Britschgi’s work. For more color variety, he often needs rock from outside Washington.

“All of the Pacific Northwest rocks are beautiful, but they don’t have a lot of different colors in them,” Britschgi said. “It’s got the reds and yellows, and it has the very basic colors. But for artwork, sometimes it’s not enough. You look for color, and I get a lot of it from Mexico and Africa.”

Most rock within Britschgi’s studio goes through a five-week polishing process, Britschgi said. The first three weeks of the process involves tumbling the rock with increasingly finer abrasive grits. In the fourth week, the stone receives its first polish. The final week Britschgi polishes the stone with ivory soap to make a smooth and shiny surface, he said.

Once the materials are prepared and Britschgi is inspired, he studies the animal he is creating.

“Everytime I build an animal, I study them, their anatomy,” Britschgi said.

While creating his award-winning mosquito sculpture, Britschgi studied the coloration across the insect’s body. He noted its dotted coloration and used polkadot agate to mimic the spotted carapace, the mosquito’s hard, outer shell. He then painted the joints of the limbs white to match the natural coloration on a mosquito’s legs, Britschgi said.

Britschgi’s work frequently features birds, insects and mushrooms. In the future, he plans to expand to more animals and create a mouse, dungeness crab and praying mantis.

Britschgi’s next big piece will involve a sea turtle, made from fragile serpentine. The turtle will be mounted to a large piece of coral, provided by local fiber artist Connie Ford. The glass eyes are provided by Battle Ground glass artist, Jan Downs.

“This particular piece is actually five pieces of rock that I laminated together,” Britschgi said. “Sometimes I can’t get a rock to stay without cracking. Especially this, since it’s a softer rock.”

Rock cutting and polishing requires heavy machinery, but processing rocks creates waste, and some of it is toxic, Britschgi said. He recycles and adjusts his processing methods to make minimal waste.

Despite Britschgi’s artistic success, he still seeks collaboration with other artists, such as Ford and glass artist Downs. Britschgi also attends the monthly Art Chat, hosted at Battle Ground and Ridgefield libraries, where artists can meet and discuss collaboration and share techniques.

To learn more about Britschgi and inquire about his art, visit his profile on the Society of Washington Artists website, or email him at