There are some practices of art that refuse to be rushed. As I discovered last summer, stone carving is one of these. Embarking on an ambitious, complex project having never lifted a mallet, held a chisel or smitten stone before, I understood I was in for the long haul. Ten months on from the intensive five days spent in Cornwall under the expert tutelage of sculptor Peter Graham last August, I continue to progress my carving of the lapwing.
Over the winter, at every chance I buried myself away in various makeshift stone carving ‘studios’ – the bathtub provides a neatly, self-contained space easily protected, and cleaned afterwards. Access to a courtyard surrounded by working artist studios was also offered up, as a place to carve. Only good for the clement days and somewhat of an unsettling public experience. Professional artists peered inquisitively at my novice tap tap tapping of the mallet on chisel on stone. It’s a different relationship with the piece when working on it with onlookers.
As it happens, I made a wonderful friend on the course last summer, also a novice to stone carving, and we have continued to work on our respective pieces in her garden in Surrey, on several occasions. Students without a teacher, with nonetheless enough understanding of the process, and artistic ambition to support and encourage each other.
Yesterday, my lapwing made a day trip to Surrey. We set up shop, sharpened tools and got to work in the shade of my friend’s garden. She continued on her curvaceous organic spiral piece.
I worked on the lapwing feather tips, finding their shape, smoothing the rough edges. A simple and joyous job. As we get closer to a more finished piece, we notice all sorts of imperfections, and asymmetrical forms. Just when we thought that bit was done, another angle reveals, that it still needs work.
Three dimensional stone carving, our teacher Peter professed, is a case of looking at the piece from above, below, behind, in front – from every angle possible. That way we can see where the planes collide, shapes harmonise and forms own their beauty. I am in no rush to finish the abstract stone bird I started last year. Its beauty is as much in the carving process as the in end result.
For a look at The stone carving student – a day by day account of my training with Peter Graham in August 2014
To learn with Peter
© Amanda Yensa Manor 2015