Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Week of Work

                 I arrived at my destination on Monday September 19th. It was a rainy arrival but Nick was quite hospitable. He gave me a tour, showed me where I could park my truck temporarily, and invited me over for dinner. His shop amazed me and  inside it included an office, a drafting room, a lunch room, a sculpting room, a metal working shop, some storage rooms, and a spacious carving studio. On the wall of his office hung huge collection of literature, clay molds, busts, sample carvings, and a great arsenal of tools, and It appeared like it could have been a library or art museum.

               Tuesday morning I woke up got ready for my first day of work and at 8:00A.M. met Nick and my new coworker Michael Romanin in the shop. He showed me the stones that we would be working on; traced a template on one of them; hooked up an air hammer and went right to work. I observed as he masterfully controlled and maneuvered the foreign tool. He demonstrated what I was to do and set me up with a stone of my own. Once he selected a suitable air hammer for he went back to his stone and left me to battle it with this clumsy. for the rest of the day I awkwardly worked the airhammer as best I could and gradually made slow progress.

Nick working with an air hammer.
Some pneumatic air hammers and chisels.

The pneumatic air hammer has relatively recently been adopted into the trade. It became popular in the late 1880's with introduction of steam powered air compressors. This hand tool can be difficult to master and takes as much or more concentration then the well known mallet and chisel. The benifit of the tool is its ability to remove stone very rapidly. I am still trying to get the hang of air hammers and can tell its going to be a long hard battle. My current incling is to drop this palpating beast of a tool and pick up the much friendly mallet and chiself that I used with Jean.
Hand chisels and Mallets

For the next few days I followed Nick's lead staying a few steps behind him in the removal of stone. and could slowly see the forms take shape. While carving we followed the Greek method of carving relief. This included cutting all of the backgrounds back to the desired depth and blocking out the shapes in the foreground.

Tracing the template

Cutting back to desire depth

Tracing the second level of carving

Cutting second layer back to depth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Journey Begins

September 16th 2011
My work with stone began three years ago under French stone carver Jean Pierre Jacquet. While working with Jean I was exposed to many aspects of the trade, and was given the opportunity to help with the drafting, cutting, carving, moving, and installing of many different projects. It is still unclear to me whether or not I will pursue stone carving as my career for the rest of my life. It’s a trade that promises hard heavy work, a humble lifestyle, inconsistent work periods, and little financial security. I am hesitant to jump headlong into such a future. And yet, I’ve somehow caught the bug as many before me and have decided to nurture this strange interest in stone a bit longer.
                           Jean and I working on a limestone fireplace in 2009

I came to the conclusion earlier this year that if I was to continue with stone I would need a more consistent and focused environment to work. I searched a bit online and asked around but couldn’t find much in stone carving (as far as formal education went). It was in this pursuit that my error was revealed. Stone carving is not a trade that is learned in the conventional classroom, or given openly by paid instructors, but rather, it is a trade the must be stolen from the master. Every move the master makes must be replicated, and an observant eye must always be ready to steal the tricks of the trade. Throughout history this burglary has been the work of apprentices and I hope to continue in this theft. In the words of Picasso Good artists borrow; great artists steal,”.

In 2009, While working for Jean, I had the opportunity of joining him at the Stone Carvers Guild annual meeting. While there I was able to build relationships with some carvers and join the guild as a general member. I was hoping this new resource would open doors to potential study and work opportunities in the future. This endeavor proved fruitful as Nicholas Fairplay, an English stone carver contacted me this summer and offered me a job. I jumped on this opportunity, bought a truck, packed my camper and began my journey.

             Gretschen (my truck) and I before leaving Roberts, WI. Sep. 6, 2011

Upon leaving home, my first destination was Sparkill, New York, where the Stone Carvers Guild annual meeting was held this year.
                                   Stone Carvers Guild Meeting 2011

The stone carvers guild began. To the untrained eye there may not have been anything particularly note worthy about the group of predominantly older men, but to me this curios crowd offered an extraordinary wealth of knowledge. Before me were master carvers of all persuasions; traditionally trained, Italian marble sculptors’; Indiana Limestone cutters; English carvers; professional masons; masterful artists; and the nicest group of Texan carvers you’d ever meet (not to mention a whole array of exceptional beards and mustaches.) The meeting was productive, enlightening, and jump started my excitement for the next step of my journey.  Next stop Fairplay stone carvers in Oberlin, Ohio.....

Fred Brownstein Giving Demonstration
This chicken became quite the celebrity to the stone carvers
Amy Brier Working on some Lettering

My brother Aaron was able to come down for the Guild meeting.

Malcolm with an air hammer
Me watching Malcolm
Fred Brownstein doing a demonstration with a pointing machine.