Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week Six

We have finally finished carving the Bowery bank panels, all that's left is crating, and then they will be shipped off to fend for themselves in New York. I can see how stone carvers must maintain an emotional disconnection from their work because once complete, they will always have to let it go. This doesn't ever seem to be a problem. It's not like the painful separation felt by a mother who sends her baby off to college. Rather, a job is like an expensive, high-risk, dysfunctional son whom the father can't wait to kick out of the house as soon as he turns 18. So, with a "good-riddens" we are sending the job away and beginning the next task.

For the last week and a half we have had to put our carving on hold to make some necessary preparations for fast encroaching winter months.  This includes framing, insulating and sealing the whole shop with plastic sheets. We are also setting up two wood burning stoves that will be used to heat the shop.

I hadn't any interesting photos of stone work to put up this week, so, I thought I would show and explain some of the many different chisels used.

An assortment of Nicks Chisels

These are flat chisels, they are composed of a single flat blade that adopt a variety of names and uses based on there size. For example a 3/4 in. Flat chisel is often called a drafting chisel and is used for making the initial outlines and edges of a carving. A 2 in. flat chisel is sometimes called a Drove and is used for making a flat consistent plane.

Toothed, (or Clawed) chisels are essentially scarier looking flat chisels. They are used for many of the same purposes as flat chisel but will bite deeper into the stone and remove material much faster then there corresponding flat chisels. In this photo you'll notice the chisel and the left have pointed teeth where as the chisels on the right have flat teeth. The pointed teeth are much more effective on harder dense stone such as marble, the small sharp points are all that is required to cleanly chip the desired stone off. The flattened teeth of the chisel to the right are used for softer more porous stones such as limestone. When a pointy tipped chisels is used on soft stone it has the tendency of digging deeply into the stone rather then popping the piece off. The flat teeth make stop the the teeth from poking to deep and make the cut more clean and consistent.
Points, are the real work horses of a carver when it comes to roughing out. Their sharp point efficiently focus all the energy of a mallet swing to a singe point. This causes a fracture in the stone. A few well placed strikes on a point are capable of removing a large chunk of stone with little time. The sharp tipped points are best used on a dense stone like marble
 Punches are basically tiny flat chisels, but perform the same function as point, only they are best on soft stone like limestone.

Bull-nosed chisels are basically flat chisel with a rounded end. Their round end diverts energy from the hammer blow in many direction rather then just straight forward as seen in flat chisels. Because of the wide radius of destruction these little babies are capable of, they aren't always best for planing or careful drafting but they do a mean job in removing mass quantities of stone. Bull-nosed chisels are also useful in carving the interior of curved cuts and can be an effective solution to some awkward carving angles.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week Five

Nick, Michael, and I
 I have finished carving the fox and the foliage and the last two panels are almost done. We are now adding the final touches on the pieces before they are crated and shipped to New York.
Awkward Angles

Putting the pieces together.

I had the pleasure of seeing a familiar face this weekend. My dad had driven from Chicago to pay me a  visit. He camped out with me in the topper and was able to see what my life was like in Ohio. (P.s. Thanks Mom for the care package, I ate the entire pan of bars this week)
Trixie, Dad, and Me

With the Bowery Bank job nearing completion, Nick has set me to work on the next project in the queue. Nick has been commissioned to carve two massive sandstone lions for the Dollar Bank in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Michael and Nick have already worked quite a bit on the Lions themselves, but I will be put to work carving the molding and the foliage for the bases that the lions are set on.  The first step in this process that I am involved in is making templates.

Sandstone Lion, Our next job.

Nick showing me how to us a beam compass.

Nick's Library in his drafting room.

Nick drawing molding for the template

Week Four

 This week Nick took Michael and I to the Oberlin College Library to see about repairing some damage. This little field trip was an opportunity to see some local sculpture. Inside the library were two beautiful marble statues. We marveled at the care put into carving of the chair, the carpet, and the woman’s gown and drapery. It’s in the seemingly insignificant parts of a piece that its quality is shown, and the skill of a carver is demonstrated in the fine details of a piece. 
I don't know whats the deal with the sock and shoe.

Fancy Pants Design/texture

Nice Lace

Check out them tassels


We are still working on the carved panels, and finally, they are nearing completion. There will be twelve panels in all, making up four columns of three panels each. We currently have ten complete and Michael and Nick will be finishing the carvings of the other two by next week.
Up until this week I have only carved the back the backgrounds and foliage, but I am now working on carving one of the characters, A fox holding a ball (The significance of the symbolism in this carving is unknown to me). The trick to carving the characters is really in being able to see the piece three dimensionally, and as in drawing, sculpting is not so much about the physical movement of the hand as it is  exercising the eyes in seeing. I am still having trouble “seeing” in three dimensions and need practice in order to gain confidence. Another aspect that makes carving the fox more difficult than the foliage is that with organic shapes such as leaves and vines you have some ability to mask a mistake (ah…..not that I have ever actually done this…) by changing the appearance of the leaf itself, but with faces and body parts there is less room for mistakes.. Apprehensively, and with some direction from Nick, I was slowly able to chip away the excess stone and Start seeing the fox.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week Three

My third week of work is underway, and I am beginning to get the hang of things. I am learning the lay of the workshop and am becoming more comfortable with the routine. Most importantly, I am finally remembering to put the tea kettle on at 10:00 every morning. Nick drinks tea religiously and I (as the new guy I'm assuming) must see to it that kettle is put on. This was the first responsibility I was given and Nick sees to it that I don't forget it. He never ceases to remind me of the morning Tea Break with a witty remark such as: "Hey Kyle what letter comes after 'S' again?" or "Hey Kyle, have you ever played golf? what are the sticks you put the ball on called?".

I was able to finish the foliage of my first stone last week, but have a lot of work left.
Stone Number 1.
Close up of foliage

Foliage: Berries
 After completing the foliage of my first stone, I started my second one. These stones will be stacked on one another to create four decorative columns that surround the doorway of the Bowery Bank in New York City. Restoration work of this nature make up a lot of a stonecarvers work.

Drawing the Template for my second piece
Cut back the first level
Cut back the second level
I have now drilled holes and began carving foliage of the second stone.
 I should have this second stone's foliage done by the end of the week and can then move on to the figures. Michael(coworker) and Nick are already working on the figures and I should be able to follow their lead and do some of them myself.

I am currently workng on some ideas and drawings for a small sculpture of my own. In the process I have been looking at other stonework for inspiration. One sculptor who's work I admired is a young carver and fellow Guild member named Sebastian Martorana. Sebastian does some pretty interesting things with texture and subject matter in marble as well as other varities of stone. I thought he did a really interesting piece entitled "Ode to Ice Cream". Check out his site at.