40 Under 40 Reviewed in June issue of Sculpture, page 75. Click article for full review.
However, recently I have begun making pieces whose underlying concept speaks specifically to the plight of these iconic marble steps and generally to the loss of the beautiful historical architecture of this city and a part of its cultural identity along with it. You can read much more about these steps and my work with them in Susan Reimer’s article for the Baltimore Sun.
To put it simply, I want to at least attempt to take these neglected, forgotten and often broken pieces of stone and make them into something beautiful again. I want them to look and feel as comfortable as I am when I sit out on my own stoop with my family and neighbors and watch our neighborhood breathe.
This work started with the single piece New Construction and has since morphed into what is becoming a series of pieces I’m calling Soft Steps. In the interest of making these as metaphors for the comforts of home, this first Soft Step is based on the over stuffed cushions of our own family room couch–in which I sit right now as I type . . .
So I’ve been experimenting with digital video to try to better document some of the processes that I go through to make some of my sculptures. I am by no means an experienced video editor, but I have found the ability to speed up and slow down video very useful. Click the vids to watch.
Spring Sculpture 2013: The earliest stages of my next sculpture.
Even through the decibel-reducing headphones–that ringing is music to my ears.
Rockin Pitchin: A slapstick take on rock pithing filmed while reshaping a block to make a dedication stone.
So, I finally completed this second “Birthstone” based on the beloved former toy of a couple’s small child. The original “Piggy” was literally loved-to-death. The little tike pulled on Piggy’s music string so many times that the once cheerful tune morphed into a kind of “funeral dirge” according to her father. Since the original Piggy had been replaced with a new Piggy, this allowed me the opportunity to not only make a sculpture based on an object with personal significance , but one that actually incorporated artifacts from that object.
This piece presented a lot of structural and aesthetic challenges. The chance to make a stone sculpture that didn’t just toy with concept of the base, but completely removed it was just oo good to pass up. So while the process took far longer than anticipated, it is always pretty cool to do something experimental and and anytime spent developing new methods and techniques is well worth it.
It is probably obvious that my company, Atlantic Custom Carving, LLC, doesn’t only do carving work. Though, it is a lot of what I do, so the name stays.
However, occasionally I get a request from a client that calls for a look that is best achieved by means other than chisels. I am often asked if my sculptures are made by “lasers.” No. But, as in the piece of stone to the left here (yes, stone) the flat image was made by lasers. Click the image for a closer look!
The client, Richard Garey of Manhatta, NYC, was looking to create an interior piece that was photographic in aesthetic, but memorial in nature. So I was able to give him both.
I don’t always opt for laser etching, but when I do– I prefer Jenson Etching. They specialize in both hand and laser etching. Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of working with them on a few projects that required flat and highly detailed imagery. Generally this kind of work appears as vignettes of white on black granite. However I was able to have them do basically the opposite to create an image in stone that looked even more like a natural piece of artwork or photography. I got a tour of their newly expanded shop when I picked us this piece recently. They have quite a set up. They are extremely skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen.
The first full size piece I worked on with them was this tombstone below. The client was interested in having some very intricate imagery that was specific to the life of the deceased and his family, though they didn’t want the stone to be shiny, polished black. I was able to have Jenson etch the entire stone and leave just the imagery, which is the opposite of the usual way. All of the lettering was carved by hand. The etching process basically burns the surface of the stone–stunning the crystals and making them appear white. While additional color or tint can be added it is not necessary when working with very dark or black polished stones, where the contrast is sufficient. You can see more of their excellent work online.
As some may know, the Smithsonian’s film crew was at my studio earlier this summer to do some filming as part of a documentary about the Renwick Gallery’s 40 Under 40 show. The film’s premier is this Thursday, January 10, from 4 – 5 pm in the McEvoy Auditorium at the main building of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is open to the public. So check it out if you’re in the area. If not, it will be broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel on January 15th at 9 pm, January 16th at 12 am, and again on the 16th at 7 pm.
I had to carefully decapitate the head in order to remove the damaged portion of metal wire from the neck before re-pinning and adhering the head back to the neck. Then there was significant remodeling that needed to be done to the less severe surface damage. Finally the piece was re primed and painted in a more even deep burnished terra cotta color. I also refinished the uneven bottom of the piece for stability. Hopefully this piece will now sit, safely, in the family’s home for generations to come.
An interesting restoration/repair project came across my table recently. The above poor walrus was suffering from a hurt left flipper.
The soapstone sculpture was damaged during shipping, which is all too often the case in these kinds of repairs. What was interesting about the piece was that it was actually signed by the artist. This is not always the case with all sculptures sold as “traditional Inuit” artwork. If my spotty research is to be believed, the artist, Simanek, is from Lake Harbor (referred to as Kimmirut since 1996) on Baffin Island, which is so far North and West of Baltimore in Canada that even Goolge Maps can’t give you directions to it . . . Sounds like a place that an artist could get a lot of work done — it’s last reported population, which was in decline at the time in 2006, was 411 people.
Though I have done many similar repairs, I have never taken the time to document the process. Feel free to click through the images to see the restoration process.
. . . is the title of my most recently completed piece. I was extremely happy to be asked to include it in the recent House Show at Case[werks] and even happier to have finished it in time. More pictures on the Sculpture page.
This is the first of what I hope will be a series of pieces focusing on the disappearance of the iconic white marble steps of Baltimore and all that it implies. More to come soon . . .
(oh–to answer a couple of recurring questions: yes, this was once a marble stair step on a row house, and no, it was not ground up and cast into a mold, it was carved by hand)