Relief carving is very akin to drawing, contrasts in line, tone and texture allow the image to be read. For a carving to stand out from it's background, the stone has to be able to give contrasts. A soft, granular stone would be hardest to work with as the lines would be soft and 'fuzzy', and contrasts in texture harder to achieve, as soft stone does not polish very well at all.
The hard black Weardale limestone of the butterfly carving on the other hand is great for relief. The hardness of the stone gives a fine crisp line, the surfaces smooth down to a deep black tone which can be contrasted with a much lighter pecked background. Textural effects such as fine hairs can be created by scratching into the black polished sections. Also, the obvious weight and roughness of the block gives the carving a contrasting lightness and a feeling of flight. The gold leaf is admittedly, a bit of an indulgence
Perhaps the greatest pleasure for me in making these pieces, is walking through the quarry, observing the wealth of moths, butterflies and other invertebrates which love semi-abandoned industrial landscapes. Then selecting a block on which I can try to catch one of these wonderful creatures.