Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Carving Stone in Tuscany

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I needed to get grounded again and get my hands on some stone. Two years ago, a friend and I went to Carrara, Italy, and brought some marble back to Tuscany. I am lucky because he has given me permission to use his tools and his home to get to work on carving one of those beautiful Carrara marble pieces. [My tools are still in storage in the US.]

I am having an exhibit at Brenau University in Georgia next February and March. I really try to have at least one new work in each new exhibit, and this one will feature only my sculptures (maybe a few drawings… we curate later this summer).

Because I am painting in Florence, Italy, six days of the week, I will not have a lot of time to carve in the countryside outside of Firenze. But … progress is progress. I first chose the stone and measured it against my hand. Once back in my flat in Firenze, I began to sculpt a very loose maquette of my idea. I will refrain from spelling this out for the moment, but it is a figurative work.

It has been a while since I carved something this small, but I am ok with that for the moment. It is odd using someone else’s tools. My otherwise generous mentor Vasily Fedorouk (whose work will be included in my exhibit at Brenau, per my request) always warned other carvers: “There are three things that I do not share: My guns, my wife, and my tools.” But seriously, most of my problem is that I have been a bit scatterbrained while trying to collect what I need to work and I get sidetracked easily as I am playing hostess. So, for example, I have never used the 4-inch (or European equivalent size) grinder with the safety guard in place. The guard really cuts down on access to the stone. Also, my favorite blades are mounted with a flange on the inside so that I may slice a flat surface (without the attachment nut getting in the way). After these shots were taken by my friend Olivia, I did go back to the studio and find the handle since that helps me get the control I need to feel safe with this tool.

Each time I visit here, I stop into the neighbors to say hello. Giuliana often wants to know what I am up to and how long I will stay. She is kind to me, like an Italian mamma, and often has something for me. That weekend, she brought me two extension cords before I found one here. This place is not intended to have stone dust and chips around (so clean-up takes a bit longer), but at least the neighbors I asked did not mind the sounds at all.

I think you can see the penciled-in circle on the top of the stone. That is the head of my figure. I did not get much done last weekend, but I did not expect to. [A midday sprinkling stopped the painters for a wee bit, as well.] However, I did what I could with that one tool, so it was a good stopping point. I have one shot at this and I needed to take some time to see what tools I have at my disposal. Now, I must research what I can buy in Tuscany to supplement these tools (arnesi, in Italian, in case you were dying to know) and then decide whether or not I should buy here or have sent over from the US what I am missing. Not knowing if I will be able to stay in Italy means that I am still living the life of limbo and I find that annoying. I think, though, that I should just start building my life here and let the future know that I am here to stay and will manage to do it!

So, I leave you with an image shot not far from my carving site. This is a typical Tuscan view and I have yet to tire of it. Enjoy the poppies!