There is a big hunk of red sandstone in my basement that has been bothering me. Years ago I started to carve a figure out of it, then realized that it was all wrong, and abandoned it.
But if you\’re a stone carver, you don\’t abandon a stone just because it\’s been badly carved. Stone is hard to find and heavy to carry, so sculptors try put to use even pieces that have been messed up. Michelangelo made the David from a block of marble that had been partially carved and then abandoned by two sculptors before him.
Sunday in a fit of insanity I went into the basement and hefted the piece of sandstone, which weighs around 70 lbs, onto the carving stand. I have not carved in the round for three years. It\’s highly physical work, and I wasn\’t sure that I was up to it. But I decided that if I could lift the stone, it would be a sign that I should carve it.
I looked at the stone from one side, and then the other, trying to figure out how I could salvage it. I don\’t have an abstract bone in my body, so my choices were considerably fewer than if I had just set out to make a nice shape. I looked at that stone for a long time.
Finally I picked up a mallet (I couldn\’t believe how heavy my old five-pound mallet felt in my hand) and started whaling away. This is what is known, in sculpture parlance, as \”direct carving,\” and I may, one of these days, if I have enough strength left in my hands, write here about why I do it.
I should mention that a local arts organization is putting on a juried show, and the deadline is next Wednesday. And I want to enter my piece of sandstone.
If there is one thing one should never do, when carving stone, and especially when carving stone by hand, it\’s be in a hurry. I may not be posting at my usual frequency in the coming days: I\’m carving with just a mallet and a chisel and my God-given muscles, and I\’m in a big hurry.