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The Polishing Stage

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

I have signed up to take a slate-carving workshop in early March, but because that seemed an eternity away, I have been working on a rough chunk of gray slate I picked up in the back yard. (For those of you unfamiliar with the geology of West Pawlet, Vermont–you can pick up chunks of red, green, gray, or blue slate in anybody\’s backyard, anytime.)

With my lovely new English mallets and chisels, I have carved a bas relief face on said chunk, and am reasonably pleased with it, and would like to go on to the next piece. But, alas, it is not finished. It has tiny scratches and pinpoint nicks in places. It does not have that satiny smooth finish that makes people say \”aaaaah!\” and, \”may I touch it?\” It needs polishing.

Thing is, while I love to carve a shape, I hate polishing. It\’s boring. It lacks that cheerful rhythm of mallet on chisel. It lacks suspense (if I strike here, will the nose fly off?). And it can take strength and definition from the original carving.

Here is what the great William Zorach said about polishing:

\”The one thing that fascinates the layman in sculpture is a polished surface. He feels that real accomplishment has gone into the work; it is finished. To the artist the real creative work and skill come before the polishing; yet even polishing should be done with great feeling and patience.\”

Can we detect the tiniest bit of contempt for the layman\’s love of polished surfaces here? Zorach continues, \”I find rainy days in the country ideal for polishing–where there is no rush and the element of time does not enter.\”

Rainy days in the country indeed. He was probably depressed by the low barometric pressure and thought he might as well do some polishing….

It\’s not exactly raining in my piece of country right now, though the barometric pressure is low. Guess I might as well do some polishing, and hope the universe sends me some \”great feeling and patience.\”

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